Evident changes in Paris: skeletal magnolia trees are beginning to bust out their pink blooms; our cat, Violette, loves gawking at a sudden onset of birds through our windows; when I crawl out of bed I see that the sky is no longer black, but a swirl of pink and blue light rising behind chimneys and the egg-shaped rooftop by architect Renzo Piano.
Spring edges closer to Europe while the cold has yet to depart, and so warm and hearty dishes continue to emerge from our tiny kitchen. One such dish is French onion soup. Familiar with it? Then you know just how bold , satiating and comforting this dish is. Not familiar? Give it a go before summer hits, or, for southern hemisphere friends, as soon as autumn makes itself known. Then, ball yourself up under a thick blanket and thank me later.
French Onion Soup Recipe
I'm all for using what you already have. I think it's wonderful to honour classics, but not at the expense of potentially wasting what you already have on hand. So, by all means, adapt. If you don't have a particular type of herb, cheese or vegetable, but have something that could work as a substitute, then why not go for it?
- 600g yellow or white onions, sliced into thin, crescent moons
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1 litre beef stock
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 heaped tbsp of all-purpose flour
- rosemary (thyme also works, as well as no herbs at all)
- a baguette, sliced thick (like bread pudding, pain perdu and catalan bread, this recipe is a delicious way to use up yesterday's bread)
- salt and pepper
- gruyère, thinly sliced (or whatever cheese you might have. I know that it can sometimes be hard to find gruyère in countries like Australia, the States and Canada. I actually used Saint Nectaire for the soups in the pictures, simply because I wanted to use it up before it spoiled.)
- In a large, deep, non-stick pan, melt the butter and add the onion. Cook on low-medium heat (the thinner the pan, the lower the heat) for about 10 minutes. Rotate the onions with a wooden spoon, now and then.
- Add the sugar, distribute, and continue to cook for another 20 or so minutes. You are aiming to soften the onions, as well as develop a gold tinge.
- Add the garlic, salt, pepper and herbs. Cook for a few minutes, and then add the flour*.
- Add the wine, continue stirring, and then follow on by adding the beef stock. Stir the stock in and then let it all simmer, uncovered, for another 20 minutes or so.
- Preheat your oven to 180 celsius (350 fahrenheit).
- Remove the pan from heat, and then ladle the soup into oven proof bowls (large ramequins are great).
- Top each bowl with a baguette slice. If you're using old bread, you might want to gently press the slices into the soup, but just a little. The liquid that the bread absorbs will help the bread soften.
- Garnish with cheese. Let edges of cheese hang over the bowls' rims if you care for the rustic running cheese look (yeah you do).
- If you want, sprinkle on some extra herbs.
- Place the bowls on your oven's top shelf. Change the oven's setting so that all the heat is distributed from the top. Have a broiler? Use that instead.
- Leave the bowls in the oven for about 5 minutes. They're ready once the cheese has melted and has started to colour.
- Serve immediately with what's left of the baguette.
- Add the flour bit by bit, and stir frequently, so that you avoid forming any flour chunks.
- Make this soup up to three days in advance. Simply reheat and save the bread/cheese/oven steps til it's time to serve.
- The longer you caramelise the onions, the deeper the flavour. If you've time to spare, cook the onions for longer.
- If you like food with a kick, use a super strong beef stock to amp the whole dish up.