On Tuesday, July 14th it is the French national holiday, la Fête du 14 juillet.
It commemorates the storming of the Bastille prison in 1789, an open act of rebellion against the monarchy that is considered a turning point of the French Revolution. Two days after the storming of the Bastille, the king officially recognized the tricolor flag — the blue, white and red said to symbolize liberty, equality and brotherhood.
It also my son Jack’s first birthday, note the spelling Jack as opposed to Jacques!
So here’s the deal, during the reign of Louis XVI, France faced a major financial crisis, triggered by the cost of intervening in the American War of Independence, and exacerbated by an unequal system of taxation.
On May 5, 1789, the Estates-General of 1789 convened to deal with this issue, but was held back by archaic protocols and the conservatism of the Second Estate, consisting of the nobility and comprising 2% of France's population at the time.
On June 17, 1789, the Third Estate, with its representatives drawn from the middle class, or bourgeoisie, reconstituted themselves as the National Assembly, a body whose purpose was the creation of a French constitution. The king initially opposed this development, but was forced to acknowledge the authority of the assembly, which subsequently renamed itself the National Constituent Assembly on 9 July.
The storming of the Bastille and the subsequent Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen was the third event of this opening stage of the revolution. The first had been the revolt of the nobility, refusing to aid King Louis XVI through the payment of taxes. The second had been the formation of the National Assembly and the Tennis Court Oath.
The middle class had formed the National Guard, sporting tricolor rosettes of blue, white and red; soon to become the symbol of the revolution.
So, Vive la France! Allez les bleus, but instead of storming a Parisian prison, storm into that kitchen and get cooking.
We are going to make two soups, the classic French Onion and for warmer weather we are going to make a chilled Vichyssoise.
FRENCH ONION SOUP
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 large onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 (14 ounce) cans beef broth 1/2 cup white wine
1 1/2 cups water
2 bay leaves
6 slices French bread
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
In a large saucepan over low heat, melt butter with olive oil. Cook onions in mixture, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes, until very soft, translucent and brown on the edges.
Sprinkle the flour over the onions and stir to combine. Pour in beef broth, wine and water with bay leaves. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, 20 to 30 minutes.
Preheat oven broiler.
Toast the bread slices. Ladle the soup into 6 ovenproof bowls and place the bowls on a baking sheet. Place a toasted slice of bread over each bowl and top with Swiss cheese.
Place bowls under broiler until cheese is melted.
The finest of all cold soups - and the best thing is that it was invented in the U.S.A.!
This wonderful, smooth soup can be garnished with a very few finely chopped chives. The chef at the Algonquin (where the soup originated) now sprinkles a very little curry powder, and provided it is a VERY little this can be very pleasant. Enjoy.
2 leeks, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup thinly sliced potatoes 2 1/3 cups chicken stock
Salt to taste
Ground black pepper to taste
1 1/8 cups heavy whipping cream
Gently sweat the chopped leeks and the chopped onion in butter or margarine until soft, about 8 minutes. Do NOT let them brown.
Add potatoes and stock to the saucepan. Salt and pepper to taste; do not overdo them! Bring to the boil, and simmer very gently for 30 minutes.
Puree in a blender or food processor until very smooth. Cool. Gently stir in the cream before serving.