I have been waiting for this one.  One year we went to Paris for Christmas instead of our usual summer trip.  It was beautiful but snowy and cold and it was something that we southern Californians were certainly not used to.  We have a favorite little bistro around the corner from our hotel and every night on that trip we would pop around to the General Lafayette around 5:00 for a bowl of onion soup and an endive salad.  It sure did hit the spot and every time I have onion soup it conjures memories of that Christmas in Paris. 

Since soup is really nothing more than slowly simmered onions and beef stock it is of the utmost importance to use the absolute best quality ingredients you can find.  Since I knew I was going to be making this soup this month I have been stockpiling beef bones to make stock.  I can not stress the importance of getting to know your butcher (and your green grocer and fishmonger and any other purveyor you deal with on a regular basis.)  They will set you straight on what is fresh, in season, past it’s prime.  What you can get where for the best price.  I promise you, you won’t regret making this friendships.  My butcher saved me alot of bones and many had alot of meat scraps attached for great stock.  He just tossed them in with my regular order at no charge since he knew I was making this soup.  Nice holiday present.  I simmered up a beautiful beef stock from the bones and meat scrapes and was all set.  I have said before that it seemed like I never left the kitchen this whole month and stock and also the slowly simmered onions sat merrily on the back burner of the stove doing their magic without very much help from me and I was rewarded with this fabulous soup.  When my soup was finished and just before I ladled it up and topped it with it’s cheese and bread, I added the brandy and also a slosh of bourbon since it has been raining here all week and I felt it could use just a bit more of a bolt of flavor. The bourbon was a nice touch.

This salad is a bit of a departure from the endive salad at the General Lafayette but is certainly is a winner.  The smooth baby spinach is a perfect backdrop for the crisp and peppery Belgian endive and the rich and robust pears.  The simple and tart vinaigrette along with the shallot makes this salad a winner in winter as well as summer.  What a perfect lunch for that relaxing wind down day after Christmas when all you really want to do is cuddle up by the fire in those new Christmas PJs and relax with some uncomplicated and robust food.  This will certainly fill that bill.

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