Saturday, November 14, 2009

A crazy onion soup post...

When I was in high school, my mom and I had the opportunity to take a road trip to Montreal. Oh, my god...what an experience. As a teenage girl, I instantly fell in love with this romantic city. Everyone spoke French, the stores and restaurants were charming, and the guys...well, the guys were to die for. Cute guys AND they spoke French! What more could a girl want??

I swore I was going to apply to McGill University just so I could live in Montreal.

Well, that never happened, but I'll always remember my first trip to the most romantic city in North America.

What brings all of this up is that I had a craving for onion soup the other day. I went to Jason's Deli and had a bowl. Lame. My very first bowl of French Onion Soup was in Montreal. I LOVED it. But nothing in the United States compared with the soup I had in Montreal...

...until they started serving it at little cafe in a department store in St. Louis back in the 1970s. Famous-Barr was a large department store that had several locations throughout the suburbs of St. Louis. I googled it and found this picture of the one in Clayton. Clayton is a very upscale area of St. Louis where Washington University is located. My mom and I used to shop here after my piano lessons. According to the internet search I did, it's currently being used as a storage space for Washington University.

This was the Famous-Barr located close to where I lived as a child. It's all boarded up now and in an area where you would not want to live.

Here's the downtown store. Look at all that architectural detail. This is a more recent picture and you can see the "Macy" signs on the side. Famous-Barr was eventually bought out by Macy.

My mom and I used to shop here. I think it had about 12 levels, and as you got to the higher levels, the escalators changed to these...

Does anyone remember those narrow wooden escalators?? I can still remember the rickety sound they made.

Another memory of the downtown department stores is the absolutely wonderful Christmas displays in the windows. I remember the crowds of people that would stand in front of the windows in the cold just mesmorized by all the activity. And I was one of them.

So all of these memories come about when I think of French Onion Soup. And here's what it takes to make it. This is the recipe used by Famous-Barr and it is the absolutely best version of this soup I've ever had. It is not a quick deal and takes two days to make. My oldest and youngest sons do not like onions, but they love this soup, so that has to say something. Here are the ingredients...

Saute the onions in a stick of butter for 1-1/2 hours...

Add the paprika, bay leaf and pepper...

Then add the broth and simmer for another two hours.

Then it has to sit in the refrigerator overnight. One bad thing about this recipe is that unless you've tasted the original soup, you won't know how much to season it. When I make it, I add salt and pepper until I get to the exact taste I remember way back when.

Toast the French bread and lay a couple pieces on top.

Then top with a fair amount of Swiss cheese and pop it under the broiler until the cheese melts and starts to turn brown. Then enjoy.

6 comments:

Life's a Beach! said...

That looks so good Deb! I'm going to try it! My aunt and I always planned on going to Montreal when she lived in Burlington, Vermont, but we never made it. Even Burlington had a bit of a French flair in its downtown area. And the Famous Barr? Always heard about it, but never got there when we were in St. Louis.

Vee said...

I do so love soup in winter. We will try this, Deb. Thanks for the recipe. I've never made onion soup. But potato soup - well, I can make that about a bazillion different ways (okay, about three or four). But they're all good!

gil garcia said...

Love onion soup but I thought it was gruyere cheese or something like that. Looks like fun though.

Isla Deb said...

It's definitely a good recipe. The Swiss Cheese adds a zip as opposed to any other kind of cheese.

Jamqueen said...

Yum! Don't know how I missed this post over the weekend! Lots of great memories.

jeanie said...

Gruyere is a type of Swiss. Yours looks great Deb. I hate when they serve it with mozzarella.