Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Tales from the Soup Kitchen- Le Classique - French Onion Soup.

Ahhhhh.   Soup.  Comforting, rewarding and potentially healthy.  There is nothing quite as soothing on a chilly winter evening than wrapping up in a blanket, putting on a DVD and grasping hold of a big bowl of your favorite soup.  Requiring little effort to chew, and even less to cook it is also a great meal for those of us watching our bank balances or those of us watching our weight.  Those two criteria of course account for most of us, except Sumo wrestlers.  They're very well paid.

However even the Sumo wrestlers would find it tough to turn down this particular offering of French Onion Soup.

A gamechanger of a dish it is the type of meal that demonstrates that as long as you cook it well you can make anything taste good.  Even a bowl of Onions.  Of course it would take the arrogance of a Frenchman to come up with something so audacious.  A rich sweet soup topped with grilled bread covered in cheese.  It doesn't get much better than that.

People will turn their nose at the idea of eating onions however it is likely their turned snouts have never smelt a truly sweet, well caramelized onion soup.  The key to getting it good enough for Phillipe to stay for some fromage is to use as good a stock as you can afford (or make).  It is also essential to caramelize the onions so that the finished dish winds up sweet.  Caramelizing onions involves cooking them low and slow and stirring frequently to ensure they don't burn.  You will see your onions go through a change in colour from White-Translucent-Light Yellow-Light Brown.  Then, and only then, you are ready to add the stock and start cooking down your quick food ticket to gay paris

Onions 10 minutes in.  Translucent, but not enough color yet!

30 minutes in.  Notice the light brown colour without any actual black, which would cause bitterness.

French Onion Soup Recipe

Serves 3
Prep Time 10 min
Cooking Time 1 hr

750g Onions, about seven small or 4-5 Large.  White, Red or a mixture works well.
2 Garlic Cloves
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
3 sprigs Thyme, leaves removed
2 Tbsp Brandy
1 Tbsp Flour

500ml Beef Stock
250ml Water
2 Bay leaves
(for a lighter flavor replace the beef stock and water with 3 cups of chicken stock)

4 slices Inch thick French bread.
100-150g Gruyere Cheese


1. Chop your onions in half then into thin slices.  Wear swimming goggles if you want to avoid some tears.
2.  Place 2 Tbsp Olive Oil in a large cold pan and then add the onions.  Cook gently for 30-40 minutes, stirring frequently, until caramelized.
3.  Add the garlic.  Cook for a further 2 minutes.  Add the Brandy and Thyme.  Reduce the brandy right down.
4.  Add the flour, stir and cook for a further 2 minutes.
5.  Add the stock, water and bay leaves.  Stir to combine.
6.  Cook for a further 20 minutes on a gentle simmer.
7.  When the soup is almost ready place your sliced bread onto an oven tray and drizzle over some olive oil.  Place under a hot grill and toast both sides of the bread until golden.
8.  Drown the bread in a thick covering of Gruyere cheese and then put under the grill again to melt the cheese. (if you have oven proof soup bowls then divide the soup, place the bread and cheese on top, then put under the grill for that authentic look).
9.  Serve the soup with the toasted bread and cheese on top.  Sit down and savor that sweet caramel flavor from the onions, combined with that rich taste from the stock.

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