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French Onion Soup

I LOVE French Onion Soup. It was one of those dishes that I searched high and low for while in Paris. I even asked attendants at a store in the Louvre where I could find it, and you know what she said…..

“People don’t eat it so much anymore, but it is more for parties thrown when someone gets divorced”

I thought that was utterly stupid and was certain that was not the case. I finally did find it and it was fabulous, but I think I have seen more restaurants in Sydney offer it on their menu.

Since I was hosting the GPO Cheese Room Xmas Party at my house I though it was only fit that I use some of the cheeses we have, and what better opportunity than to use one of the favourites, Gruyere. A semi hard cooked cheese, it has a lovely smooth texture and nice fruity and nutty flavours. I used to dislike this cheese but it wasn’t until I started to learn more about ‘gruyere’ style cheeses that I began to develop a love of it and others like Comte, Swiss Appenzell or Fromage d’Alpage. I love them all!

Well enough about the cheese, that is the finishing touch, there is still a lot to do in the meantime like chopping the onions. I think I ended up dicing 3+kg of white onions and I tell you I did need quite a few tissues to wipe up those tears. You really do need to chop the onions quite fine otherwise your soup will be chunky and not as enjoyable.

Finally into the pan it was and then wait for the caramelization to start. Finally I was able to add the beef stock, boil then simmer, and simmer and simmer and simmer. The simmering itself takes over 2 hours, but by the end, the soup is delectable.

I served the soup in mini ramekins as they were meant to be an appetizer only, although I am sure we could have all eaten a whole bowl. The final touch is to toast baguette with gruyere melted on top and place in the soup so the bread soaks up all the lovely juices.

They went in a flash. Good. Job done. Take that Frenchies, I don’t need to be divorced to serve good soup!

French Onion Soup (taken from Gourmet Traveller)
serves 4

100 gm butter
2kg onions, very very thinly sliced
1L beef stock
4 thyme sprigs
3 parsley stalks
1 fresh bay leaf
8 x 1cm-thick slices of baguette cut on diagonal, lightly toasted
250 gm coarsely grated Gruyère

1. Sautee down the onions in the butter, with a lid on for 20 mins, then continue to cook until soft and caramelized (lid off) for 1 hour, at least.
2. Add 2 cups of stock, 1/2 cup at a time, and wait until it has been absorbed before adding the next lot.
3. Tie herbs in twine and add to onions. Add remaining 2 cups of stock, season.
4. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 40 mins (remember to scrape away the bottom and sides so it does not stick.
5. Ladle into ramekins. Sprinkle half the cheese on the soup, top with 1 or 2 baguettes and top with the remaining cheese. Bake in oven for 5 minutes so cheese melts.
6. Serve immediately.

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