French Cuisine – Soupe à l’Oignon Gratinée

Here is the story of my first foray into the world of cooking the French way.  Where better to begin than with French Onion soup.  Not, as I first thought, made with French Onions, whatever they may be, but with ordinary onions cooked in a specific way.  A friend of mine made some French Onion soup a few months ago and reported that although it was labour intensive, the taste was well worth the effort.

Here is the recipe (serves 6-8):

½ oz butter

2 tbsp olive oil

4 large onions, thinly sliced

2-4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 tsp sugar

½ tsp dried thyme

2 tbsp plain flour

4 fl oz dry white wine (we used dry vermouth instead)

3 1/3 pints stock

2 tbsp brandy (optional)

6-8 thick slices French bread, toasted

1 garlic clove

12oz Gruyère or Emmenthal cheese, grated

  1. Heat the butter and oil in a large heavy pan.  Add onions and cook for 10-12 minutes. Add the garlic, sugar and thyme and cook for 30-35 minutes until the onions are well browned, stirring frequently.
  2. Sprinkle over the flour and blend well.  Sir in white wine and stock and bring to the boil.  Skim off any foam which rises.  Reduce heat and simmer gently for 45 minutes.  Stir in the brandy, if using.
  3. Preheat the grill.  Rub each slice of toasted French bread with the garlic clove.  Fill soup bowls about three-quarters full with the onion soup.  Float a piece of toast in each bowl, top with grated cheese and grill about 6 inches from the heat for 3-4 minutes until the cheese begins to melt and bubble.
  4. Eh voilà!

Even considering the extended periods of cooking / simmering required, this soup was simplicity itself to make, tasted delicious and was very filling.  From what I’ve read so far this is how the French approach cooking; simple, fresh ingredients with the emphasis very firmly on taste, everyone having an opinion on how something should be prepared and served.  I’m looking forward to eating it in France later this year.  I was very pleased with what I made, but I wonder how different from the indigenous variety it will turn out to be.

This recipe was taken from French Food and Cooking by Carole Clements and Elizabeth Wolf Cohen.

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8 Responses to French Cuisine – Soupe à l’Oignon Gratinée

  1. Zazzy says:

    If only I could pronounce it, Soupe à l’Oignon Gratinée sounds so much more glamorous than French Onion Soup. It is one of my very favorite things and I make it occasionally, but it really makes me nostalgic for a wonderful little restaurant we used to frequent when I was at university. If you wanted a dessert crepe, the only thing you could possibly have for dinner was a salad or their marvelous onion soup. And even then you had to split dessert.

    • That restaurant sounds just like my kind of place – where did you go to University? I love crepes, terrible more-ish things!

      • Zazzy says:

        That was in Columbia, Missouri. University of Missouri. I love crepes, too, but I never make them. Silly, really, they’re supposed to be easy to make and I want to make one of those crepe layer cakes.

  2. Claire@Mummy Plum says:

    Yum! I LOVE French Onion soup. Especially if the cheesy crouton is done well. One of my favourite restaurants in London is a french place in a little side street in Chelsea – it’s called La Poule au Pot. Not the cheapest so more of a special occasion place. It’s very shabby chic with dried flowers in the ceiling and old crockery..and very romantic when candlelit at night. Properly french – they don’t even bother to translate the menu. Anyway…they sell AMAZING French Onion soup. Only problem don’t even feel the need for a main course afterwards!

    • Kind of like Zazzy said, Claire, this soup is so filling. We found that this weekend, it kept us full all afternoon. Someone should invent the French Onion soup diet, certainly there’s no room for anything else! Your restaurant sounds lovely, too, very atmospheric.

  3. I love French Onion soup – the depth of flavour is just so yummy … and then the croutons on the top …. heavenly! Could you find a recipe for Ils Floutant – I think that’s what its called – my all time French pudding, aside from Tarte Tatin. I’m drooling.

    • Ile Flottante – yes, found a recipe, will give it a whirl at the weekend and blog about it next week. Never heard of it before, thanks for telling me about it.