French Onion Soup
French onion soup, known in France as “Gratinée des Halles” is a rich and warming meal-in-itself. It makes and ideal lunch on a chilly day. Even people who do not normally eat soup or onions usually love the taste and textures of this wonderful dish. The ingredients may appear simple, but during the cooking process they are completely transformed. The onions are very gently fried in butter, which means they take on an almost sweet caramel flavour. The soup is then topped with crusty French bread sprinkled with cheese, and grilled until the cheese is bubbling and golden. The recipe originated in the soup kitchens around Les Halles marketplace in Paris. It became a classic, keeping the market traders warmed-up and satisfied, ready for a hard day’s work. To make this dish a little more special, you can serve the soup in individual bowls with their own lids.
- Onions (peeled and finely chopped) 450 g
- Butter 2 tbsp
- Olive oil 1 tbsp
- Sugar 1 tsp
- Flour 1 tbsp
- Beef stock 800 ml
- Dry white wine 300 ml
- Black pepper (freshly ground )
- Freshly crushed garlic 2 cloves
- Bay leaves 2
- Fresh thyme 1 sprig
- Gruyere or Emmenthal cheese (grated) 100 g
- Crusty French bread 8 slices
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- Heat the butter and olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan and when hot add the onions and crushed garlic cloves. Sprinkle on the sugar and gently fry for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions begin to turn golden. Now cook very gently for a further 30 minutes, stirring frequently. It is important that that the onions do not stick to the base of the pan or burn.
- When the onions are soft enough to turn mushy when crushed, add the flour and stir in well. Pour in half of the white wine and use a wooden spoon to scrape any deposits of onion off the bottom of the pan. Then add the rest of the wine, the bay leaves and thyme, the beef stock and season generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Cover and simmer very gently for 1 hour.
- When the soup is ready, slice the French bread and grill the slices on one side only. Remove the bay leaves and thyme from the soup. Pour the soup into heat-proof serving bowls and place 2 slices of toasted baguette on the surface of each serving with the toasted side facing down. Top with the grated Swiss cheese and grill until the cheese is golden and bubbling. Serve immediately.
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