The lure of French onion soup is hard to resist. What’s more irresistible? It’d be making the soup at home. Starting with caramelizing the onions, then simmering the onion soup base, topping it with cheese, to finishing in the oven, the rich aroma wafting through the kitchen tells the tale of some serious good eats on the home front. Watching the lava-like cheese melt and bubble with a rapid pulse while gradually being transformed into a golden brown crust under the intense heat in the oven was pure excitement. Tasting the food was almost an afterthought.
The irony of the French onion soup: the cheeses are stealing the show. First, you can’t keep your eyes off the bubbly browned cheese on top. Then you have to turn your head right and left to tackle the saliva-like string of cheese catching the soup spoon and the bowl of soup. It brings out the child in you eating it.
Recipes of the French onion soup are varied: some with white or red wine, some with fresh or dry herbs. It’s tough to decide which one to make, especially I haven’t made onion soup before. I’m not counting the one time I made a Medieval onion soup as a school project when my daughter was in third grade. More than anything else, I want to replicate the classic onion soup. Gratinee Lyonnaise style is the closest to what I’ve had in mind.
Julia Child in Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home had this to say about French onion soup: “In Paris, we used to go to the big open market in Les Halles in the old part of the city at four in the morning when the day began. Around six a.m., everyone in the market would stop in one of the café for onion soup and a glass of red wine. They still do at Rungis, the vast new market outside of Paris.” Julia Child’s advice on making a good soup: the proper and thorough cooking of the onions. She suggested to start cooking the onions covered slowly until tender, then brown them over medium high heat to deepen the color. Very sound advice, Julia!
This soup is easier to make than I’ve thought. Once you’ve made the onion soup base, which takes about half an hour, the rest is just assembling bread and grated cheese in a bowl. Then off it goes into the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes. You can get this ultimate comfort soup on the table for less than an hour.
|Topped with a mix of Emmentaler and Gruyere cheese|
French onion soup is truly a classic. It is getting harder and harder to find a good bowl in restaurants around here — in the metro New York area. It seems to be disappearing from the menu. Someday, the old will become new and trendy once again. For the time being, I’m more than happy savoring onion soup gratinee Lyonnaise made with some freshly baked sourdough bread from my own kitchen. I was in such a hurry; I almost burned my tongue!
This is the week when IHCC home cooks are bringing out their cheese dishes. There will be plenty of delicious and exciting dishes to satisfy your taste buds. Bon Appetit!