Tuesday, November 15, 2011

French Onion Soup (Soupe à l’Oignon)

The weather is cold and what I need for tonight's dinner is a French onion soup - perfectly simple and not pretencious, but delicious and warming the heart and the body. Moreover, it is a calming recipe to prepare. That is because the classic French onion soup calls for good caramelized onion: the chemical reactions which occur during the process of caramelization bring up the flavor. Caramelization should take at least 30 minutes and the end result is a nutty and sweet taste and brown color of the onion. So if you want to achieve the required perfection, you should stay behind the stove and stir the onion regularly and observe the whole process. This will blow away the bad thoughts and will restore the soul. And the taste of the soup after that and the blissful faces of your table companions will do the rest to make you really happy.

  •  6 large onions
  • 50 g butter
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp flour
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 8 cups of beef stock (fresh or in cubes)
  • 3 Tbsp dry sherry or Cognac
  • 2 sprigs of fresh thyme, tied together with kitchen string
  • 1 small French baguette cut into 2cm slices
  • 2 cups of grated Gruyere cheese
  • Salt and pepper
Peel onions and slice them into consistent thicknesses to ensure they cook and caramelize evenly. Heat the butter and olive oil into a frying pan and put the onion. Sprinkle with salt. Sauté for 30-40 minutes on medium heat until it gets golden brown. Stir the onion occasionally to ensure it will be evenly browned. As it nears the end of cooking, add the flour, cook for additional 3 or 4 minute, stirring regularly to prevent burning. Add garlic for a minute to enhance the flavors and take off the heat. Deglaze pan with the sherry or Cognac (add the alcohol to dissolve and remove any remaining caramelized parts from the bottom and sides of the pan). Transfer onion to a pot, add the stock and reduce heat to low. Add the bay leaf and the thyme into the soup. Cover partially and simmer for 30 minutes until the flavors are well blended. Discard herbs. Season to taste with freshly ground pepper.
Cut the French baguette in slices and put them in single layer on a baking sheet in the oven, preheated to 200°C. Bake slices both sides until they get crisp and golden brown at edges (about 10 minutes). Ladle the soup into individual casserole dishes (about ¾ full). Cover every one with a toast and sprinkle with cheese. Put into the oven for 10 minutes at 200°C, or until the cheese melts, gets slightly brown and forms a crusted cap. Serve immediately.

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