Monday, March 9, 2009

French Onion Soup - With Cheesy Toast Rafts

I think this delicious soup has to be one of my favourites. Living in France it would be a shame not to be able to create a satisfying and flavour packed dish from the superb quality onions grown around us.

I have labelled this French Onion Soup recipe as a starter but quite often I enjoy it as a wholesome lunch served with a few chunks of locally made, fresh baguette and a crisp white Chardonnay.

Serves: 4-6
Preparation & cooking time: About an hour

  • 1lb of medium sized onions (30-40mm diameter at the widest point)
  • Olive oil
  • Butter
  • 2 cloves garlic - finely chopped
  • 2 or 3 sprigs of dried thyme
  • 1 bouquet garni (the tea bag type are fine)
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • 2 litres beef stock (vegetable stock can be substituted)
  • 175ml white wine (A large glass - feel free to have a secondary one yourself)
  • Salt & pepper
  • French bread baguette
  • Grated cheese (If you can get it, Cantal is ideal. Otherwise, a mature cheddar)
  • Large saucepan with lid
  • Chopping board and sharp kitchen knife
  • Wooden spoon

1. Peel the onions and slice them into very fine, whole rings. Slice them as thinly as you can manage safely.

2. Heat the olive oil in the pan, add a 'generous' knob of butter and allow it to melt. As the butter begins to bubble, add the sliced onions.

3. Toss the onions around in the pan, coating them in the oil and butter. Add the sprigs of thyme and the bouquet garni.

4. Place the pan on your smallest hob and turn the heat to the lowest setting. Cover the pan allowing the onions to gently simmer and gradually begin to caramelise. Do not be tempted to rush this stage, the slower the onions cook, the sweeter the flavour they impart to the finished soup.

5. When the onions are sufficiently caramelised (a nice golden brown colour) add a splash of the Balsamic vinegar and stir the onions until the vinegar has evaporated off. Add the stock and the white wine, re-cover the pan, then turn up the heat bringing the soup to the boil.

6. Lower the heat once again, season to taste with salt and pepper, then allow your soup to simmer for at least half an hour. The longer you simmer the soup, the more flavoursome it becomes, if you have a slow-cooker feel free to use it.

7. Cut the baguette into approx 25mm (1 inch) slices allowing two per portion and grill both sides.

8. Sprinkle each toasted baguette slice with cheese and season with a little salt and pepper if you wish.

9. When the time comes to serve the soup put the cheesy baguette slices back under the grill to melt the cheese. While the cheese is melting, you can begin to serve the soup into your bowls.

10. Add two grilled cheese floats to each bowl and serve immediately.


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