March 24, 2006

Soupe à l’Oignon Gratinée

French Onion Soup just makes me smile. Spending a night slowly caramelizing onions lets me drift into a zen-like state of foodie happiness. How can a recipe this simple and pleasing to prepare taste so freaking good, too?!? To me, making French Onion Soup is cooking in its essence. Take a kilo of onions, cook them down until they melt, add delicious broth, a beautiful French baguette, and stinky cheese. I’m naked and trembling, and you have just offered me the cup of life and that cup is filled with onion soup gratinéed. I am reborn.

Seriously, though, this is quite possibly my favorite recipe to make. I do enjoy cooking, but the majority of what I do in the kitchen could still be filed under “chopping and combining.” To truly cook; to transform bare ingredients into something sublime is not a day-to-day occurrence for me. Caramelizing the onions takes patience, slowing you down for a minute to simply spy on a pot of butter and onions.

How are you doing in there, guys? I’m not worrying about anything else in my life right now because we have a goal. But,
we’re not in a hurry to get there, are we? Nope, we’re gonna take our sweet time. When you do get caramelized, I’ve got a surprise for you! A white wine bath, that’s what, and I saved a good bottle for you!

In addition to talking with onions, this recipe is actually geared towards lazy people like me. Once you get the onions where you want them, add in the liquid and simmer for another hour and a half. Et voila! Top with bread and cheese and you can be damn happy with yourself for the next week.

Better yet, delay your satisfaction and serve it the next day after the flavor develops a bit more. Serve it to your friends. Invite strangers in for a bowl. Serve it to republicans for all I care. Everyone in the world is entitled to the bare necessities and I think this qualifies. I’m all out of hyperbolae, so I’ll give you the recipe now.

Soupe à l’Oignon Gratinée
(adapted from Julia Child’s The Way to Cook)

3 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 ½ - 3 lbs white or yellow onions, thinly sliced
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. flour
8 cups beef broth, preferably homemade or quality store-bought stock
1 cup dry white wine, such as Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc
¼ cup Cognac or good brandy
Thick slices of baguette, toasted
1 – 1 ½ cups grated gruyère cheese

In a heavy dutch oven, melt butter and oil over medium low heat. Add onions and stir to coat with the butter. Cover and cook over low heat until translucent and wilted, around 10-15 minutes. Remove the cover and
turn heat up to medium high. Add the salt and sugar. Cook, stirring occasionally while onions begin to brown. Once onions start to brown, they will go fast, so stir more frequently to keep them from burning. Cook until onions are caramelized, a deep brown color, about 30-40 minutes.

Sprinkle flour over onions and cook for 3-4 minutes. Pour in 2-3 cups of beef broth, stirring constantly to incorporate the flour. Add the rest of the broth, cognac and white wine. Bring to a boil and turn heat down to low. Simmer for 1 ½ hours with a loose lid, adding a little water if liquid is evaporating too quickly. Stir occasionally.

Pour soup into oven-safe bowls. Place toasted bread slices on the soup and top with a large handful of cheese to completely cover the bread. The broth itself is quite rich and it's the contrast with the cheese that makes this meal interesting, so use a stongly flavored cheese. Place bowls on a baking sheet and broil until cheese is melted, about 5 minutes. Serve immediately, with some good, cheap red wine and maybe another entrée like half an avocado stuffed with crab or chicken salad, or an endive, walnut and roquefort salad. Serves 4-6.


emily said...

love this post!

Tea said...

Thanks for your comment on Tea and Cookies, Megan. I am happy to find your blog (I see we share the same taste in templates:-). This is a gorgeous soup photo! You've reminded me about French onion soup, which I haven't made in years (not since I was in high school). It's raining here in San Francisco, might be a good time to start caramelizing onions...

Thanks for visiting, I'll be back!

Anonymous said...

Salut. cela me fait plaisir de lire tes recettes. Dis-moi. Ton nom de jeune fille, c'est pas Seaver? Si c'est ca, je suis aussi de ta ville native! Bonne continuation dans la cuisine!

Anonymous said...

Hi, which restaurant would you higly reccomend for a good soupe à l'onion?