I’m a big fan of the director Baz Luhrmann. His first movie was the charming Strictly Ballroom, which overcame unbelievable odds just to be filmed, let alone to become a cult classic. I loved The Great Gatsby, and his version of La Boheme on Broadway was stunning. Add Romeo and Juliet to the mix, and you might say he has an aptitude for doomed love stories.
Moulin Rouge! fits that description perfectly. It tells the story of Sabine, the courtesan, and Christian, the penniless writer. Of course a wealthy duke tries to keep them apart; of course Sabine is terminally ill. The fact that (spoiler alert) we know they can never end up together doesn't detract from the beauty of the story.
Moulin Rouge! is a tragicomedy, lavishly produced and over-the-top romantic. Yes, you'll need to suspend disbelief when you watch it, but if you let the brilliant visuals and gorgeous music take over, it is stunning to watch. The film editing and choice of music were both very modern; the story was incredibly old-fashioned. The combination is sensational, and it's hard to watch this movie without your heart breaking just a little.
“Days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months. And then, one not-so-very special day, I went to my typewriter, I sat down, and I wrote our story. A story about a time, a story about a place, a story about the people. But above all things, a story about love. A love that will live forever, The End.”
- from Moulin Rouge!
A recipe inspired by Moulin Rouge! had to be as French as they come, and that’s why I chose this wonderful French Onion Soup. The soup is simple enough that Christian might have warmed himself by eating it on a wintry French evening; the Gruyere-coated crouton is rich enough that the wealthy Duke would have lingered over it.
Although it takes a while to prepare, it’s delicious and perfectly filling for a cool day. This version won such enormous acclaim from my family that I won’t wait long before making it again.
French Onion Soup
(from Around My French Table)
4 – 5 large Spanish onions (about 4 pounds)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup dry white wine
8 cups chicken broth
6 slices country bread
1 1/2 cups coarsely grate Gruyere or Emmenthal cheese (6 ounces)
Using a long chef’s knife, cut 1 onion in half from top to bottom. Lay it cut side down on the cutting board, cut it lengthwise in half again, leaving it intact at the root end, and then thinly slice crosswise. (Discard the root end.) Repeat with remaining onions.
Put the olive oil and butter in a large Dutch oven or soup pot and put the pot over low heat. When the butter is melted, add onions and garlic, season with salt, and stir with a wooden spoon. Reduce heat to the lowest setting and cook the onions, stirring frequently, until they are a deep caramel colour. Be patient: depending on the heat and the onions, this may take an hour or more. (Note: it took me about an hour and a quarter.) Don’t be tempted to speed things up, because if you burn the onions, your soup will taste bitter. On the other hand, if you don’t get the onions really brown, your soup will be pale in taste and looks.
Sprinkle the flour over the onions and stir for a minute or so to cook away the flour’s raw taste. Pour in 1/3 cup wine and stir to pick up any browned bits sticking to the bottom of the pot. Let the wine cook away, which will take a minute or two. Pour in the chicken broth and the remaining 2/3 cup wine, season with salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat so the liquid just simmers, partially cover the pot, and cook for 30 minutes. (You can set the soup aside for up to 2 hours, or refrigerate it for up to 3 days. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes before continuing.)
Preheat the broiler. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, and place 6 rounds of bread on it. Sprinkle the cheese over the bread and broil until the cheese is bubbly.
Ladle the soup into bowls and cover each bowl with a round of bread. Serve immediately.