Porcini French Onion Soup

The snows have changed. They've made the transition from the icy powder of winter to the trademark water-balloon flakes of springtime in the Rockies. The push-pull of spring here can be maddening - one day filled with blowing snow, the next by brilliant sun that melts any trace of accumulation before noon.

I'm desperate to feel warm rays of light on my skin, and seek out puddles of sun like a cat.

At the same time, I fear losing the intimate skies and chatting geese of winter.

I'm craving the appearance of the first green leaves of the year - dock, prickly lettuce, and allium.

Still, there are no shortage of soup days to be had.

Pocini French Onion Soup

2 c. dried porcini
6 c. water, boiled
2 Tbsp. butter
1 c. chopped wild allium, white portion only
1 large onion, sliced
1 tsp. crushed Monarda fistulosa
1 tsp. good salt
freshly cracked black pepper
additional water
bay leaf
soy sauce (to taste)
shredded gruyere

1. Begin by soaking the dried porcini in the boiled water in a large bowl. Set it aside.

2.  Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. When it starts to bubble, add the allium and onion, as well as the Monarda, salt, and pepper.

3. The process of cooking the onions for this soup is a slow one, and requires some patience. You don't want them sauteed, with crispy edges. Instead, you are looking to go low and slow, and end up with onions that are fat, and sticky with brown yumminess. Once the moisture has evaporate out of the onions, you need to stir them more regularly, and keep a close eye on them. As soon as you see a spot on the bottom of the pan turn deep brown, splash a bit of water onto it, and rub the brown bits up with a wooden spoon as the water bubbles away. Repeat this process over and over again until you achieve onions of a deep golden brown, or until you lose patience. Strike a balance between achieving the tastiest possible soup, and losing your mind.

4. Once your onions have gotten brown and sticky, dump in both the mushrooms and their soaking water, being careful to leave behind any grit that has fallen to the bottom of the bowl. Give the soup a quick stir, then add in the bay leaf. Let it bubble gently for 10 minutes.

5. Next, add in a bit of soy sauce. I'm not going to try to tell you how much, as the potency of soy sauce seems to vary so much between brands. I use about three tablespoons. Add the soy sauce a spoonful at a time, stir, and then taste. You are looking to enhance the savory quality of the soup and add pleasant salinity, without the soup ever tasting noticeably of soy sauce. You can also add more salt at this point.

6. Fill up oven-safe bowls with the porcini french onion soup, top each with a fat slice of toast and a hearty sprinkling of cheese and place the bowls under the broiler until the cheese starts to bubble and brown in spots. Serve immediately with a stern warning to your diners about the volcanic temperature of their soup.

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