One of the wonderful gifts I received at Christmas this year was a cookbook with recipes from all over France; D bought it for me in July, in Chenonceaux. I leafed through it this afternoon, looking for a recipe that I could make with ingredients that I already had on hand (what I call a “pantry dinner”).
Ah oui ― soupe à l’oignon – onion soup. So simple, so tasty! Start with a little olive oil… a few onions, some beef stock, a dash of sherry, some stale bread and a bit of cheese….
First, prepare the bread. Cut stale bread into slices about ½” thick. A baguette or other plain, firm bread works fine; don’t use anything too soft or doughy. I cut ten slices from a day-old baguette: six for the large soup bowl, and four for the medium bowl. Set the slices on a perforated baking sheet or grill rack, and dry them in a slow (200˚F) oven.; depending on the age of the bread, this could take a half hour or more. Dry it; don’t toast it.
Next, start the onions. In a large saucepan or medium-sized soup pot, heat equal parts butter and olive oil (about two tablespoons each) over medium heat. Cut four or five large onions into very thin slices and toss them into the pan with the butter and oil:
Cook them over medium heat just until they are translucent and beginning to soften:
Reduce the heat to very low, cover the pan, and let the onions cook for 30-45 minutes, until they are very soft and perhaps just beginning to caramelize.
Stir them around every ten minutes or so, to be sure they are not cooking too quickly. Do not allow them to scorch.
If you want the onions to be very brown, and if you have time and patience, you can continue to cook the onions very slowly for another half hour, until they are golden brown. This is a slow process which can only be achieved by long, slow cooking; it cannot be rushed by applying high heat.
Pre-heat the oven to 375˚F, and position a rack in the center of the oven.
When the onions are done, add 3-5 cups well-flavored beef stock. (I prefer beef stock, but some recipes call for chicken or vegetable; chacun á son goût.)
Simmer the soup over low heat for another ten minutes or so.
Toward the end of this time, add a generous splash of medium or dry sherry (I use Dry Sack) and plenty of freshly-ground black pepper. Taste before salting, as the stock and the cheese may contain enough salt that no extra is needed.
[Here, the French cookbook offers the following: “At this point, the soup is ready, but if you wish to serve it in the Lyons manner, that is, au gratin, five minutes before serving pour [the soup] into four ovenproof porcelain soup bowls, covering each with a slice of bread broken into two or three pieces which you should press lightly into the soup. Sprinkle with the grated [Gruyère] cheese and toast in the oven for 5 minutes.”]
Mai oui, à la Lyonnaise, s’il vous plaît.
Cut or shred some Gruyère or Jarlsberg cheese.
Arrange the dry bread on the top, and cover with the shredded cheese.
Bake the soup for ten minutes or so, or until the cheese is melted and starting to brown around the edges. Serve immediately.
Et voilà ― soupe à l’oignon!
All my recipes may be viewed here:
They are further organized as follows, with some overlap:
Main Dishes http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/search/label/Recipes%20Main%20Dishes
Soups and Stews http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/search/label/Recipes%20Soups