Sopa de Cebolla: Simple Slow Cooking at its Finest

Manny Pacquiao has done it again! Congratulations to the pambansang kamaó! Though I was unable to watch Pacquiao’s exciting fight with Antonio Margarito, I was still able to at least catch more memorable scenes of the fight in today’s evening news. You might be wondering then: Why wasn’t he watching the fight when almost the entire Philippines was glued to the fight?

Red onions all piled in Shopwise Araneta

Well, Mama decided to do the groceries exactly when everyone was watching. I decided to accompany her. We left the house after lunch, around 12:30 and boy, Shopwise was empty! It was so fun shopping. Well, I didn’t really spend much time in Shopwise because I did the other chores such as paying the bills and buying Christmas gifts and all. But when I did follow Mama at Shopwise, I was “inspired” to help cook dinner when Mama was in the vegetable section.

White onions are a bit less tastier than their red counterparts

ONION SOUP,” I thought to myself upon seeing the stacks of white and red onions. But that would mean using beef broth! And since we never buy canned broth, I had to purchase some of beef bones (buto-buto) easily and cheaply available at the said supermarket. I love buying those bones, by the way. They are fat-laden and the beef cartilage in the bones are simply seductive.

Make sure to remove the pungent scum that usually forms/floats

And so, even if GMA7’s commercial-over-kill Pacquiao coverage was still on, I chose to prepare the broth for our dinner’s sopa de cebolla. I boiled some of the beef bones (about ¼ kilo only since only Mama, Ana and I were having dinner that night) in salted water for a good two and a half hours in low heat. Every now and then, I also removed the scum that formed at the top of the pot. This is how heritage comes in. Slow cooking is as old as civilization and we have to credit our ancestors for this art of cooking. Today, in this age of fast food, microwaves and instant food, slow cooking may seem like a bane to the modern family. But slow cooking is an art, and it is also something that should never be disposed of. Cooking beef bones is far more difficult than dropping a couple of broth cubes but it is far healthier and far tastier. One can really savor the flavors of beef in this process of slowly boiling beef bones laden with fat and rich in marrow. This is how our grandparents knew and did cooking. With much love, patience and dedication, cooking is truly an extension of the human mystery and slow cooking is the best way to understand these adjectives that define authentic cooking.

Separate the bones and cartilage from the broth when it's ready

GMA’s coverage, for your information, was as long as the boiling of the bones! TERRIBLE! Buti na lang I was minding the beef!

Olive oil, toasted garlic, the broth and some cheese for the bread

When the broth was ready, I removed the beef bones and transferred the broth to a bowl for it to cool. From here, I began the process of making the onion soup.

INGREDIENTS for the ONION SOUP

4 Cups of Beef Broth
2 Cups of good White Wine
6 Red Onions, peeled and sliced
5 Cloves of Garlic, crushed
3 Canadian Bacon strips, sliced
2 Tbsp. of Butter
3 Tbsp. of Olive Oil
1 Tbsp. of All-purpose Flour
2 Tsp. of Sugar
2 Tsp. of Dry Thyme
3 Tsp. of Toasted Garlic
Salt and Pepper to taste

Onions with the butter, garlic, thyme and olive oil

The first thing one must do in cooking this soup after obtaining the broth is to caramelize the onions. Caramelizing onions is again a feature of slow cooking. I coated the pan with olive oil and butter then added the peeled and sliced onions. The stove should be on low heat when caramelizing. It took me around 30 minutes caramelizing the onions on low heat. Also, add the sugar to facilitate in the caramelizing of the onions. The sugar also brings out the sweetness of the onions, and turns the onions to a brownish hue. You are not to burn the onions, by the way.

Just imagine the wonderful smell this beautiful mixture gives off

After this process, add the minced garlic and after a minute or so, add the white wine and let the mixture simmer. Then, add the thyme, flour, salt and pepper. Once everything simmers, add the broth and bring to a boil.

What I did yesterday was after adding the garlic, I also added sliced Canadian bacon and let the meat sweat. I also added the beef cartilage and marrow before adding the wine. When the soup boiled, I also added toasted garlic.

Boiling onion soup. Yum Yum Yum!

Though I didn’t have the time to take photos of how I served the soup (which went well with Mama’s arroz ala cubana), I’ll just describe it anyway. I poured generous servings of the soup in our individual soup bowls and covered these with slices of French bread that had butter, garlic shavings and Parmesan cheese on top. I placed these bowls in the oven for 5 minutes and as the bread turned crusty, I immediately served them piping hot.

BEFORE I FORGET: This was practically useless Thyme from Gourmet's. Good thing we still had some of another garden.

It was a lovely, slow cooked simple soup for a rainy night. I really felt the “Pacquiao vs Margarito” vibe because of our hot onion soup and arroz a la cubana dinner! It was, I don’t know, so Spanish-Latino! This slowly cooked but simple soup is testament to the mystery and beauty of humans’ capacity to cook. It is almost negligible in terms of the culinary expertise/talent needed in executing this soup. But its taste and preparation are reminders of the power of slowly cooking ingredients, letting their individual flavors surface and beautify the meal.

This recipe was and still is a common soup recipe and was most definitely hecho ayer.
o th

About hechoayer

Things made yesterday still influence us until today. Things made today will influence us tomorrow. Things of the essence such as faith, culture, food, music and values should never disappear nor eroded by the times. Instead, these must be recorded, lived and shared. Something made yesterday - hecho ayer - can be tomorrow's saving grace. Never ignore the past.
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