Dahl researched the recipe for Famous-Barr’s Famous French Onion Soup. Now he’s sharing more than a soupçon with jewishinstlouis.org
Erich Dahl, 85, is privy to a much coveted recipe or two. The former Famous-Barr Food Services Director is responsible for bringing the department store’s famous onion soup to satiate the appetites of soup aficionados.
Dahl, who is retired and now lives in the NORC neighborhood, recounts how he traveled to New York and Paris to find the perfect soup mix. He culled several ideas while eating at a famous restaurant (Pied De Cochon) located near the food market in the heart of Paris. Dahl brought back his suggestions to then Famous’ Executive Chef Jan Verdonkschot who took his ideas, added a few ingredients of his own and voila! the results are shown below. This is one collaborative effort when too many cooks didn’t spoil the broth….but made it better.
Dahl has been in food service most of his life, even before he came to this country from his native Germany in the 1930s. After stints at the Jefferson Hotel and Park-Plaza, in 1948 he was hired to work in Famous’ then newly-built Clayton store. He moved up the food chain to head the department. During his 28 year tenure, Dahl traveled to Europe multiple times to find new ideas, recipes and talent. He tells about one humorous incident. “When I was in Rome one summer, I was supposed to find the famous Alfredo’s Restaurant and sample their fettuccini. But there were five restaurants called Alfredo’s. I went to all five and sampled the fettuccini at each. Let me tell you that after that, I had my fill of fettuccini. I’ve never eaten it again.”
Today, Dahl exercises more than he cooks, but this multi-gold medal Senior Olympian (who works out every day except Wednesdays) will occasionally whip up a meal or two for himself. Before “exercising” his cooking chops, Dahl lines up supplies and dons his “Frugal Gourmet” apron.
‘FAMOUS-BARR’ FRENCH ONION SOUP AU GRATIN
Slice Bermuda onions paper thin. Saute’ the onions until golden brown in approximately ¼ pound of dairy fresh sweet butter. (A copper lined saute’ pan will give the best results.) When onions are golden brown, add bay leaves, cloves, salt, glutamate, Burgundy wine (optional) and freshly crushed black peppercorns. Add 2 quarts of clear beef stock, au jus or strong beef broth (bouillon cubes may be used as a substitute). Simmer slowly for another thirty to thirty-five minutes. If soup appears too thin, add Beurre Manie which consists of 2 tablespoons of melted butter and 1 heaping teaspoon of all-purpose flour. Makes 2 quarts.
To serve: Ladle soup into earthenware cup or bowl. Place French bread croutons (cut about ¼ inch thick to cover surface). Top with generous portion of grated French or Swiss Gruyere cheese. Place under broiler approximately 5 minutes or until cheese melts. Remove and serve immediately. Serves 8.
Note: More than 17.5 million orders of onion soup were served in the first 20 years it was offered on the menu.
MAYFAIR DRESSING CIRCA 1960
When the Lennox Hotel closed its doors for good, there was much lamentation over what most thought would be the end of their famous Mayfair salad dressing. Not so. Eric Dahl salvaged the recipe for those who want a blast from the past. See below.
Grind pepper well in blender. Add remaining ingredients and mix well.
Yields approximately 1 quart.
Note: Recipe by Chef Angelo Rossini, Executive Chef, Lenox Hotel
These recipes appear in the Congregation Shaare Emeth cookbook, “Favorite Recipes: Share a Taste Collection 2002,” which is still on sale by calling 314-569-0010 and ask for sandy or email firstname.lastname@example.org.