Saturday, January 03, 2009

low-rent French Onion Soup & French Dip Sammies

Part of my 2009 goals is to cook more meals at home. Recently, we've been really enjoying French Onion Soup, which costs about $5 a bowl (plus tax, tip, drinks, etc.) at our local cafe, so I decided to try out a cheapie version at home. And to our surprise, it's pretty good! Ryan also 'discovered' that he likes french dip sandwiches (he's a finicky eater) and at the restaurant, the sandwich and fries costs about $10. So making it at home saves us pretty significant cash that we can spend on other stuff... like churros at Disneyland! Or Del Taco breakfast burritos (my favorite)!

This is a very low-rent version, because I don't stock stuff like shallots or cooking sherry or red wine. If you like/have that fancier stuff, there are a billion recipes online that you can test out.

This is for us simpletons:

Chop up one large white onion and 2 cloves of garlic and carmelize together in a large pot. When onions are translucent, add 3 cans of low-sodium beef broth (low-sodium is important otherwise it gets too salty) and one packet of onion soup mix. I used a beef flavored onion soup mix to kick up the beefiness. Once it's hot, it's ready to serve. The longer it simmers, the better it tastes -- a great one to toss in the crock pot and let sit all day.

Traditionally, french onion soup is served with grueyere melted over a toast (floating in the soup), which can be accomplished by serving the soup in a coffee mug, dropping in the bread, laying the cheese on top, and broiling in the oven. Since this is the cheapie version, I subbed provolone for gruyere. And since we're simple folks, we decided to forego the toasted cheese on the cup thing and instead sliced one of our french rolls and placed a piece of provolone on the top of each and stuck them in the toaster oven for a few minutes. We had cheese-toast dunkers, which were fantastic. I also shredded up some provolone and dropped it in my bowl, so that I could have the stringy melty cheese in my soup. Mmmmm!

For the accompanying sandwiches, we bought deli sliced roast beef and threw it on the grill for a minute or two, to heat it up (it also cooks it more, which makes it more like cheesesteak meat). Then tossed provolone on and shoved it all into a toasted french roll.

The recipe for au jus is basically the same as the soup. We bought a packet of au jus mix, but haven't used it yet, because it's been good enough to dunk the sammies in the soup.

Shopping list:

  • one large white onion (approx. 70 cents)
  • one head of garlic (50 cents)
  • 3 cans - 14 oz low-sodium beef broth (59 cents each)
  • beef flavored onion soup mix (double-packet was $1.79)
  • french rolls - 6 pack ($2.50)
  • 1/2 lb roast beef (approx. $3.50)
  • 1/2 lb sliced provolone (approx. $3.50)
  • aus jus mix (optional, approx. 99 cents)

The ingredients cost about $15 and it has made us at least 2 full meals, plus lunch time sandwiches and we still have left overs of garlic, roast beef, and cheese in the fridge (we used the extra rolls already). I also realized that I have beef bouillon cubes that I could maybe use instead of the broth, which would make it even cheaper (I think the box of cubes makes gallons of beef stock) or punch up the flavor, if needed.

Side note: we are garlic nuts, so I course chopped the garlic so that we could actually eat it in the soup (so creamy and delicious!). Also, we ate the onions, which we never do in the restaurant. We set out making a higher broth-to-onion ratio, because we just wanted the broth, but these onions turned out so delicious and soaked up all the soup flavor, we ate them all. I don't know if that has to do with caramelizing them or the garlic or what, but we licked those bowls clean!

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