Wednesday, October 2, 2013

French Onion Soup with Braised Short Ribs Recipe

Because I’m heavily into editing Days of Wine and Roquefort, the 5th in A Cheese Shop Mystery series, and Inherit the Word, the 2nd in the Cookbook Nook series, and because I’m also finishing up the 3rd in the Cookbook Nook series, I’m a little punch-drunk. Words, words, words. My head is flooded with words. My eyes are sore. [Let’s hear it for Systane eye drops.] And my dreams are wild!

Needless to say, the thought of slaving over a hot oven while working this hard is totally unappetizing.

However, my husband (so darling) found this recipe in one of our Food Network magazines and begged me to cook it. I figured what could be so hard? It’s soup. Good while editing…

Okay, silly me. This is a time-intensive soup. It is totally delicious and I’ll do it again, but I do have to warn you…time-intensive!!! (Psst: worth it!)

Anyway, while cooking this soup, I got rather silly with a scene that I was writing in Between a Book and a Hard Place, the 3rd in the Cookbook Nook series. Do you ever wonder how authors come up with ideas? Here’s how I do it. Sometimes I focus on a setting, a character, a joke, a clue, or even a name or a “letter.”

Remember, I warned you, I was punch-drunk from editing so many books at the same time...

I came up with this teensy bit about a dog missing. I loved the name Mrs. Hammerstead. I thought H.  Hmmm. Immediately, the woman owned a Havanese. I dubbed Mrs. H’s dog Ho-Ho. Of course, (now it gets even sillier) I went a step further. Helen’s maiden name was Hastings. She went to Hobart and majored in Home Economics. She married a man named Harold. Phew!  Luckily, it’s not a big scene, and it doesn’t matter in the overall picture of the book. But I have to warn you, Mrs. Hammerstead and her Havanese named Ho-Ho are staying. I giggled throughout the cooking process, and I read the scene the next day and laughed out loud. I hope you’re giggling, too.

Enjoy this soup. Do your best not to giggle while slurping.


[I made this version gluten-free. GZ's version used regular flour instead of potato starch and regular sourdough bread.]


2 pounds bone-in beef short ribs
2 tablespoons potato starch
Salt and ground pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 carrot, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 leek, chopped
4 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
1 head garlic, halved crosswise
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup dry red wine
6 cups beef stock
1 stick unsalted butter
3 large sweet Maui onions, thinly sliced
¾ cup dry sherry
1 tablespoon dried thyme leaves
12 slices gluten-free bread, toasted
12 slices high-quality Gruyère cheese
(about 6 ounces)


Toss the short ribs in a plastic bag with the potato starch and season with salt and pepper (about 2 teaspoons each). Heat the canola oil in a large Dutch oven-style pot, on medium. Add the short ribs and braise until browned on all sides, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Add the carrot, chopped onion, and leek to the pot and cook, stirring until browned, about 4 minutes.

 Return the short ribs to the pot and stir in the thyme sprigs, bay leaf, garlic and tomato paste. Add the wine and bring to a simmer, then cook until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add the stock and return to a simmer. Cover and cook on very very low, until the short ribs are falling off the bone. 2 hours 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, caramelize the onions: Melt the butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the sliced onions, reduce the heat to very low, and season with salt and pepper (about a teaspoon each.) Cook, stirring frequently, until golden brown, about 2 hours and 30 minutes. (If necessary, add a little water to scrape up browned bits that stick to the bottom of the pan.)

When the short ribs are done, remove them from the broth with a slotted spoon. Transfer to a plate and let cool slightly. Strain the broth (into a bowl). GZ says to discard the solids, but I have to say that these tasted yummy and would be good added to vegetables or another meat dish the next night. So I think: save!

Shred the meat, discarding the sinew and the bones, and toss the meat with 1 cup of the broth. Set aside.

Add the thyme leaves and sherry to the caramelized onions. Cook until the liquid is reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Add the rest of the broth and cook another 10 minutes. Skim the fat off the top (hard to do).

Preheat the oven to 425 degree F. Divide the soup among 6 ovenproof bowls; spoon 1/6 of the meat into each bowl. Top with two slices of toast and 2 slices of cheese, letting the cheese hang over the edge of the bowl.

Transfer to the oven and bake until golden and bubbly, about 10 minutes.

This soup is very hot!!! Let cool slightly in order to enjoy fully.


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  1. I'm glad your synapses have held on! Keep up the good work.
    Love the alliteration! Nicely done.
    This sounds really good! Short ribs are so unctuous, aren't they?

    1. Hi, Libby, I'm not sure they're unctuous (if you mean oily). They cook down great.