French Onion Soup with Gruyere Gratinee
I’d never piled on the pounds as quickly as I had working as an analyst in investment banking. Sitting at my desk for 14 hours a day, typing in excel short cuts with one hand, and popping one malteser after another (it is, after all, a healthier chocolate) into my mouth and ordering sushi for dinner the day I felt I may have over done the maltesers. I could feel myself growing into my wheeley seat and becoming one with it but I tried to do the best I could. I grew into my seat, of course, but I stopped myself from buying bigger sized jeans. No more new jeans till I fit into my old ones.
I love soup and sushi. They appear to be less evil than most other take-away food. My favourite soup is the French Onion Soup. Au Pied de Cochon in Paris has the best french onion soup in the world. It’s a dense dark brown soup with this amazing golden crown of cheese – I have no idea how they get it to be that way. Second place goes to Boudin Blanc (white sausage) in London. I trick myself into thinking it’s healthier than the lemon sole in butter sauce with a creamy gratin dauphinoise on the side even though I’m stuffing my face with a bowl of cheese with onion soup on the side.
The best onion soup recipe I’ve found is from the Cordon Bleu. I came across the recipe in the book “The sharper the knife, the less you cry” (awesome, fantastic book) and tried it out a few times with fresh stock, stock cubes and bouillon powder. Needless to say, the fresh stock yielded the best results.
Recipe from the Cordon Bleu
2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced
1 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp flour
0.5 tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
0.5 cup (125 ml) dry white wine or dry vermouth (I used a good dry white wine)
1 tbsp cognac (Little sample sizes from service stations or from flights work just fine)
2 L beef stock, boiled (Yes, I used beef stock! I did chicken out and buy fresh stock from the supermarket but I am sure I’ll be making my own stock from a carcass soon enough)
Big enough baguette for 4, sliced thinly
6 ounces (180 g) gruyere cheese, grated
1 ounce (30 g) Parmesan cheese, grated (optional)
Preheat oven to 180C. In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, slowly brown the onions in butter until carmelised. Be patient as this will take at least a good half hour. Sprinkle the onions with flour and stir quickly and thoroughly. Add the wine and Cognac, and cook long enough to evaporate the alcohol (it’ll start looking like a pale brown thick onion-y sauce) and add the hot stock, thyme and bay leaf. Simmer for one hour, uncovered. Since this time my soup was on the runny side I’m going to thicken it up with a bit of corn flour the next time round.
Meanwhile, toast the baguette slices. Just before serving, top one side of the bread slices with gruyere and broil lightly until cheese slightly melts. Remove bouquet garni and ladle soup into four broiler-safe bowls. Put the toasts, cheesey side down, into the soup. Top with a layer of gruyere, and then a bit of parmesan. Bake for 15 minutes at 180C and then put under a broiler for a couple of minutes until the cheese bubbles and browns. Be careful – the crockware will be really really hot!