Friday, 25 April 2008

French Onion Soup

One (well, two) of my most recently watched Food Safari episodes were the ones on French cuisine. I've never really considered French food as a cuisine that I would be passionate (obsessive) about. Seeing that episode and all the French home cooking, however, might make me change my mind. I'm going to resist though - some of those recipes had a lot of butter! They also sound like pure comfort food to eat on chilly wintery nights.

That being said, I didn't immediately rush out to try the recipes like I did with the Waterfall Beef Salad from the Thai episode. In fact, the episode didn't come back to mind until I was asking DD if he liked soup, and he said that the only soup he liked was french onion soup made from onions rather than a packet. I've never had french onion soup, made from onions or otherwise - french onion soup was the packet mix you use to make dip! We were talking about meals for dinner this week and we decided to give this a try.

DD remembers french onion soup from a restaurant in America where it used to be served in a loaf of crusty bread in lieu of a bowl and that was how he wanted this soup to be served. I was going to buy a cob loaf to hollow out, but then saw in a magazine a soup that was served in crusty bread rolls. I wanted to do it that way instead, because if you served it in a cob roll it would look great, but you would still have to put it in a bowl to eat and meals at our house aren't table affairs. We couldn't find any crusty bread rolls though! So, in the end, we abandoned the whole thing and just served the soup in bowls with bread on the side.

It was a really easy soup to make, in my extremely limited experience of soup making. You cook the onions down in melted butter over a medium low even heat and stir in some flour, like an oniony roux. Add some water and wine and some gruyere cheese cut into chunks, season, and then let it bubble away for half an hour. I let it cook for longer, because DD wanted it to be thick.

I was a bit dubious when I tasted it for seasoning before it started simmering. There just didn't seem to be any flavour there. I had some stir-fry chicken pieces in the fridge and I had started thinking about what I could do with them at last minute if the soup turned out to be a failure.

The soup transformed during its half an hour simmer. The gruyere melted and thickened the soup and the liquid had reduced and the flavour had intensified so much. It was really good, I was very happy with it. DD also enjoyed it and since he is the connoisseur, his verdict was the most important. Unfortunately, he did say that it didn't taste at all like he remembered it. He said it still tasted yummy, so I'm calling it a success.

I used the entire 100g of gruyere in the soup and just used normal bread. I loved the flavour the gruyere added to the soup.

Soupe a L'oignon
from Food Safari France

60g unsalted butter
4-5 brown onions, peeled and thinly sliced (I used my mandoline)
50g flour
2L water
1 glass white wine
100g gruyere cheese, 1/2 cut into cubes and 1/2 grated
1 baguette
salt and pepper

Melt butter in a heavy saucepan, add onion then cook for 25 minutes until the onion is deep golden brown and beginning to caramelise. Stir from time to time.

Add flour and stir for two minutes.

Add water and wine and season with salt and pepper (I felt that it needed to be seasoned pretty liberally).

Add cubes of cheese and stir and bring to the boil.

Cover and simmer for 20 - 25 minutes. Check seasoning.

Slice the baguette, sprinkle with remaining cheese and grill until the cheese is melted.

Put the soup in a serving bowl and serve with the toasted baguette on top.

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