Brrr…. anyone else cold?
Paris can get so damp and miserable this time of year. What better way to keep warm than with a bowl of steaming homemade French onion soup, complete with the requisite heaps of melted gruyère? I’d been promising my Man this very treat for over a year now (in my defence, you can really only make it in the colder months…) so he was thrilled when I busted out my traditional French lion-head bowls and got down to business.
I’m a big fan of onion soup and have tried recipes from a number of cookbooks over the years. I remember in 2008 when Emily came over to help me prepare a batch in the teeny tiny Parisian kitchen I had back then. The soup was tasteless and I was lucky she was there to rescue the meal. In the end, one of my French guests said it was “une vraie soupe à l’onion Parisienne” (a real Parisian onion soup) so we did well – thank you Emi!
Now, after much trial and error, I present to you my favorite recipe for French onion soup. It is a modified version of the French Onion Soup with Gruyère Croutes recipe in the 400 Best-Ever Soups cookbook (my go-to soup cookbook).
Ingredients (Makes 4-6 portions)
- 1/8 cup of butter
- 1.5 tbsp olive oil
- 8 large yellow onions
- 1.5 tsp dried thyme (best to get the dried thyme still on the branches)
- 1 tsp caster sugar
- 1 tbsp Sherry Vinegar (FYI – this is vinaigre de Xeres in French)
- 1.5 litres stock – some people prefer chicken but you can use beef for a stronger taste and darker soup. I’ve tried it with veggie stock and it was great too. You choose!
- 1.5 tbsp plain flour
- 2/3 cup dry white wine (a little extra for the chef…)
- 6 slices day-old thick bread, like sourdough (Don’t have day-old? Toast the bread, dice it and let it sit out while you prepare the soup)
- 1 cup grated gruyère
- 1/2 cup grated emmental
Slice the onions very finely. This will make you cry – it’s perfectly normal. I’ve stopped wearing mascara when making onion soup. Consider using a mandoline if you’ve got one, it really does speed up the process. Watch your fingers though… I didn’t 😦
Melt the butter with the oil in a large pot before adding your onions. Stir occasionally over medium heat until the onions begin to soften.
Add the thyme (remove the branches if using the good stuff). Hmmm… that smells good.
Reduce the heat to low, cover your pan and cook the onions for a good 30 minutes (mind you, the originally recipe indicates this could take as little as 20 minutes). Stir your onions often until they are beautifully soft and yellow.
Uncover the pan and crank up the heat a little. Add your sugar, stir and cook until your onions start to brown (about 10 minutes). Add the vinegar and don’t breathe in too deep when you do! Increase the heat a little more and cook for an additional 20 minutes until the onions get nice and brown. Stir frequently and don’t get too worried if your onions aren’t super brown. Mine never seem to get as dark as the one pictured in the cookbook and they’re still delicious.
Plop the flour into your onions and stir. Cook for a couple of minutes, then gradually add the stock and wine. Season with salt and pepper.
While your soup simmers (10-15 minutes), get the grill going in your oven and get your oven-proof bowls out. Divvy up the diced bread amongst the bowls.
Mix the gruyère and the emmental. Sprinkle a bit of the mix over the diced bread (maybe about 1/3 of the total cheese mix at most) and reserve the rest.
Ladle the soup on top of the bread in the bowls and sprinkle the rest of the cheese mix on top. Place under the grill and let the cheese get nice and “gratiné”.
Keep an eye on the soup and take the bowls out when the cheese starts to brown and get deliciously crispy on top. This should take about 5 minutes but could be more or less depending on your grill.
Carefully remove the bowls from the oven and serve immediately!