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From Chef/Owner Anthony Susi at Sage Restaurant, Boston, Massachusetts.
This is a hearty and traditional French soup, a more rustic and original version of the notorious "French Onion Soup" and also much more flavorful. The time it takes to make this properly is a little over an hour and it requires fresh ingredients, but it is definitely worth the effort and can stay for about a week with proper refrigeration. An ideal pot to cook this in would be a large cast-iron soup pot or Dutch oven.
Take the beef shanks and cut the meat off the bone, removing any excess fat and silver skin. Cut the meat into approximately 1/4-inch cubes and season with salt. Set the bones aside. Preheat the soup pot on high heat with the olive oil. When the oil is hot and just starting to smoke, add the beef shanks to the pot and sear the meat on all sides. When the meat is seared, remove the shank meat from the pot and set aside on a dry paper towel, leaving the oil in the pot.
Turn the heat of the pot down to a medium flame and melt the butter in with the oil. Add the onions and the garlic and stir occasionally to prevent sticking. The onions and garlic need to caramelize slowly, so this process will take approximately 20 minutes or so. When the onions are caramelized, deglaze them with the white wine and simmer until the wine is almost evaporated. Return the shank meat to the pot and add the chicken or beef broth. Turn the heat to high and bring the pot to a boil.
As the soup comes up to temperature, unfold the cheesecloth so you can place parsley, rosemary, bay leaves, ginger, and black peppercorns and tie it tight enough to make a sachet and hold the items without falling out. When the pot comes to a boil, add the sachet and turn the heat to low. Simmer the liquid slowly for approximately 1 hour.
Take the marrowbones and, using a teaspoon or demitasse spoon, scoop out the marrow from the center of the bone and spread the marrow on the slices of bread. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese over the marrow. Set the bread aside; just before serving the soup, toast the slices until they are dark brown.
After an hour, the soup should take on a thicker consistency and have a deep flavor of beef and onions. You may taste a slight hint of ginger; it works well to give the soup a little bit of brightness.
Sage Restaurant has received rave reviews by Boston Magazine, The Boston Globe, The Boston Herald, Stuff@Night, and The Improper Bostonian. It was named "Best of Boston 2000" by Boston Magazine for Best New Restaurant
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