(aahh …aahh) French onion (aahh) soup (choo)

Ab you can tell fromb the title I hab a cold…sniff…

We have avoided the worst of the dreaded lergy this winter, but the one by one the house has succumbed to a head cold this week. So as head cook with a head cold, I decide to make a nice hot restorative broth that would help to clear our heads, fight off the colds, and warm our hearts.

Historically light soups were considered to be a part of medicine, easily digestible preparations employed in feeding the sick. French onion soup has long held a reputation as a tonic, enjoyed by ancient Roman and Greeks. Onion soup enjoyed a resurgence of popularity in the 1960s perhaps because of its legendary cure for sore heads, of the self inflicted kind. Interestingly, this French onion soup recipe is served to newlyweds on their wedding night in France, a traditional joke on the new couple perhaps?

Armed with  some onions and a recipe from The Food of France by Kay Halsey and Lulu Grimes, I started the process…

There is not much, to French onion soup, just 3 main ingredients; onions, stock, and patience. The third ingredient is the key to the sweetness of the soup. Long, slow cooking brings out the onions’ natural sweetness, and you need to be prepared to stir the onions regularly to ensure they don’t burn.

I am not a kitchen gadget man but I do like my V-Slicer for these kinds of jobs. Really it is just a modern mandolin.

The onions will slowly become soft and start to caramelise, stirring occasionally will stop them getting too brown.

Just before adding the stock, garlic and flour is added and cooked for 2 minutes stirring constantly. The flour of course is a thickener and can be left out for making a clearer soup like consommé. The garlic is added now so that it doesn’t overcook and become bitter.

I used homemade chicken stock, but beef stock can be used instead, making a rich meatier broth (you can of course use store bought stock and I will keep it a secret from the food police)

Onion soup belongs to a genre of bread soups—also broth-based soups—in which broth is poured over bread; the starch from the bread thickens the soup and makes a meal out of it. Traditionally Bread soups are typically poor man’s food and are likely to be made with water rather than stock.

Toast the baguette slices sprinkled with grated cheese. If you can use Gruyere cheese it will make a big difference to the flavor.  Swiss cheese is a good substitute or plain cheddar works as well.

Add the toasted baguette slices to the broth.  According to the Encyclopedia of Food and Culture by William Woys Weaver, the piece of bread placed into the bowl is called the soupe. In English this piece of bread was once referred to as the sops, and it was universal practice down to the nineteenth century for country people to put bread in soup before eating it.

Mmmmm I feel a bit better already!

Ingredients

50 gm          butter, coarsely chopped

750gms       onions, thinly sliced

1 litre (4 cups)    chicken or beef stock

1cup           white wine

4            thyme sprigs

2           garlic cloves finely chopped

1           fresh bay leaf

4         1cm-thick slices of baguette cut on diagonal, lightly toasted

80 gm          coarsely grated Gruyère

Method

Melt butter in a large, wide heavy-based saucepan over medium heat, add onions, cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes or until onions are soft and starting to caramelise.

Add garlic and flour and stir constantly for 2 minutes.

Gradually blend in the wine and stock, ½ a cup at a time, and simmer.

Add the bay and thyme, season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer, for 40 minutes or until thick.

Toast the baguette slices sprinkled with grated cheese, ladle soup into bowls and top each with toasted baguette slices

Serve immediately.

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