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French Onion Soup

December 7, 2010
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Blogging about this book is so cliché that they made a mediocre movie about it. Given that, it’s a wonder that it took me so long to own the book. I think I was trying to avoid the cliché, trying to be a unique little snowflake. Some things, however, are cliché for a reason.

Even after having read countless foodies slobbering all over this book, it’s hard to get over how cleverly written it is. It’s very informative, but still expects the reader to do some actual, you know, reading, since “all too often a learner cook will start enthusiastically on a new dish without ever reading the recipe first.” The recipes are also laid out as master recipes followed by variations, encouraging the reader to both learn from the experts and experiment. “You may be slow and clumsy at first, but with practice you will pick up speed and style.”

Here is one of the classics from Julia Child’s first tome (along with partners Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle): Soupe à l’Oignon (or Onion Soup). Like a lot of her recipes, it’s not necessarily difficult, just time consuming, but so very worth it. The final product is hearty, but not heavy – basically the perfect antidote to a winter full of buttery sweets.

If you do choose to make this, you’ll be slicing onions for a while – I recommend having some entertainment.

Melted butter and olive oil. (Ok, so it’s not exactly a health-food.)

Cook the onions in the butter/oil mixture for about 15 minutes, covered on low heat. Then add some salt and sugar (to help them caramelize.)

Stir in, then turn the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are dark brown. The recipe says 30-40 minutes; it took me about an hour. Eat a forkful of this stuff: heaven.

Add flour and cook for 3 minutes.

Add hot stock and some dry white wine. I had lamb stock in the freezer, a time-investment that has totally paid off. I’m admittedly a wine-noob, but some inexpensive sauvignon blanc seemed to work just fine.

Let this simmer for about 40 minutes. Now is a good time to make your croûte. (That’s a fancy word for toast.)

Pop these in a 325°F oven for 15 minutes on each side. Brush each side with olive oil half-way through its 15 minutes.

When the bread is lightly browned, rub each side with the cut-side of a clove of garlic. Next time I make bruschetta, it’s going on this.

Put a slice or two of the bread in each bowl and pour the soup on top.

Sprinkle the top with cheese. I used Leerdammer, which is kind of like Emmental. (i.e. Swiss)

I don’t have little soup tureens or ramekins, so I didn’t do the full-on gratinée method, which you might be used to seeing. I just put my not-oven safe bowls under the grill for a few minutes to melt the cheese a bit.

If you want to see this baked with a cheese crust, and just generally have a good time, here’s a video of Julia and Jacques Pepin making onion soup gratinée with a slightly different recipe. (And if you want a delightful way to lose an afternoon, look for more Julia and Jacques videos. 🙂

Bon Appetit, everyone!

Soupe à l’Oignon (French Onion Soup)

From Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume I by Simone Beck, Louisette Bertholle and Julia Child
Serves 6 as a first course or 3 as a main course.

1 Tablespoon oil (I used extra virgin olive oil)
1 ½ oz butter (3 Tablespoons)
1 ½ lb onions, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon sugar
1 ½ oz flour ( ¼ cup + 1 heaping Tblsp)
7 cups stock (homemade is best, store-bought will work), boiling
½ cup dry white wine (I used Sauvignon blanc)
salt and pepper to taste
1 or 2 croûte per person (see recipe below)
Handful of swiss cheese per person (Other cheese options include Gruyere and Parmesan)

1. Melt the butter in oil on a low heat in a covered pot. Add the onions and cook, covered for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft but not brown.
2. Stir in salt and sugar and turn the heat up to medium-high. Cook for 40 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are dark brown.
3. Add flour and stir for 3 minutes on high heat.
4. Remove from the heat to stir in hot stock and wine. Add salt and pepper to taste.
5. Return to the burner on low-heat. Simmer for 30-40 minutes. Soup will reduce slightly and thicken. Taste and correct the seasoning.
6. Put 1-2 croûte in each individual bowl and pour soup on top. Sprinkle cheese on top and serve immediately or bake with the cheese on top for a crunchy crust.

Note: In the original recipe, 3 Tablespoons cognac are added to the pot just before serving. I skipped this.

Garlic Croûte

6 thick slices of baguette
2-3 Tablespoons olive oil (or beef drippings)
1 garlic clove, cut in half

1. Place bread slices on a baking sheet in the oven at 325°F /162°C for 15 minutes each side.
2. Half-way through cooking each side, brush the bread with oil.
3. Once each side is lightly brown, rub the hot toast with the cut-side of the garlic clove.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 7, 2010 6:22 pm

    Yum, yum! I’ve been meaning to make a veggie version of this, you may have just inspired me to do so.

  2. Aunt Chrissy permalink
    December 8, 2010 2:49 am

    oooh Hanah! Just what I needed! (have a cold, feeling whiny and wimpy). Now the house smells ‘fancy’, I have you and Julia in my head and a smile on my face. (onions are awesome immune boosters, so this is a medicinal relief, as well as a gastronomical treat.) Thank you and Happy freezin season.

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