December 19, 2013 by caitlinvaclark
Since Chris and I are spending Christmas and New Years here in London, we thought that before the holidays we’d sneak away for a quick weekend in the south of France. We arrived in Nice late on Friday night, after a weather delay (clearly from the London end of the flight). We stayed at Hotel La Villa Victor Hugo which was the perfect centrally located hotel. Plus, since it’s the off-season and they had space, the hotel upgraded us to this gorgeous corner room with two balconies! Woohoo! Things were looking up.
Wasn’t this the most gorgeous view to wake up to?! Do you see how sunny it is? I had forgotten how blue a sky can be.
After sleeping until noon and indulging in a lunch that included foie gras and beef stew and a carafe of wine, we hiked up to the top of Castle Hill for sweeping views of Nice.
Going to Nice in the off season, we weren’t expecting too much but surprisingly this beach town was bustling with it’s own Christmas market.
We were able to try the local delicacy, Socca, which is a chickpea pancake-y/crepe like dish.
Chris likened it to a creamy fried up polenta cake. I just liked it.
The crowning moment to end our trip was watching the sunset on the beach with a glass of wine. And complementary onion tarts to boot! We really hit the jackpot on this little weekend adventure.
It was the ideal getaway before all the hustle and bustle of the holidays.
The weather was so nice in Nice that we dined outside for almost every meal, granted under heat lamps, but still. In my opinion, the perfect meal for those situations happens to be a French dish – French Onion Soup! What a wonderful coincidence.
As is usually the case when I return from France, I couldn’t kick the craving for the cheesy brothy concoction. But I decided to beef it up (literally). I started by braising some beef stew meat until it was tender enough to shred. Then reserve the beef along with the braising liquid and the garlic to create a ridiculously rich base for an otherwise classic French Onion Soup.
Don’t even clean the pot. Just add a bit of olive oil and cook the onions until they are toasty and tender.
As with my classic French Onion Soup, I deglaze with a splash of sherry and then simmer with a base of red wine and beef broth. After the soup has cooked for about 10 minutes, add the beef and reserved liquid to the onions to make the richest, beefiest, most delicious soup base ever!
Then in typical French onion form, top with bread and cheese and toast up to perfection.
Whether you’re out for last minute gifts or building snowmen, this soup is the perfect way to warm up after a long day of being out in the cold.
It would also make a great starter, served in small ramekins, for a holiday meal.
Beefy French Onion Soup
2 Tbs olive oil
1 lb beef, cubed or stew meat
7 cup beef stock, divided
6 sprigs fresh thyme, divided
1 bay leaf
2 garlic cloves
2/3 cup red wine, divided
2 medium red onions
3 medium yellow onions
12 slices baguette
1 cup shredded gruyere cheese
½ cup grated parmesan
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a Dutch oven. Season beef with salt and pepper and add to the pot to brown. Once browned on all sides, about 5 minutes, deglaze the pan with 1/3 cup of red wine. Cook for 2 minutes then add 1 cup beef broth and bring to a simmer over low heat. Cover and cook for 90 minutes.
While the beef cooks, thinly slice all the onions.
Once the beef is tender enough to shred with little resistance, remove the bay leaf and thyme sprigs from the mixture. Pour broth and beef into a bowl and reserve. Do not clean the pot.
Add remaining tablespoon of olive oil and the onions to the pot. Cook, stirring every minute or so, over medium heat until they begin to soften and start to become translucent, about 5 minutes. Then reduce the heat to medium low, and stir every minute. After 10 minutes, add the remaining thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook until the onions are very softened, some almost gooey, and brown bits have formed on the bottom of the pan, about 30 minutes altogether.
Add the sherry and begin to deglaze. Once it is dissolved, add the wine and repeat. Cook down for 2 minutes.
Add beef broth and simmer the soup for 15 minutes. Stir in the reserved beef and broth and cook for 5 minutes.
Heat the broiler of your oven. If your bread is fresh, toast lightly on each side. Fill four larger ramekins or soup bowls with the soup. Top with three bread slices and then 1/4 of the cheese each.
Place under the broiler until the cheese melts and begins to brown. This should take about 3 minutes, but depends on your oven, so watch closely.
Remove bowls using hot pads and place onto a plate (or I like to nest in a cereal bowl) and serve, making sure not to touch the hot bowls!