When it comes to classic, country, French cooking, I always look up to my goddess, Julia Child. With her by my side, nothing can go wrong. And if something does, it is only me and her in the kitchen, so “who’s going to know?” – as she’d say
I tried many French Onion Soup recipes, and Julia’s really comes closest in flavour, aroma and moorishness (I don’t know whether this is a word, but I’m sure you know what I mean!:) to the French Onion Soup, which I can hardly ever resists when visiting Petit Bistro in Guernsey. I have the same problem with their Coq Au Vin and frankly many other dishes too…. (If you remember, I and Coq Au Vin went through a lot together… My eternal love for the French cuisine did not put me off trying to cook other classic French dishes though!)
Classic French Onion Soup is one of the easiest soups to cook, provided the right technique of getting that beautiful, caramelized onion flavour out is used. And I have learned that the hard way. You can slightly change proportions of ingredients and seasoning to your liking in this recipe (I have added garlic and removed flour, to make it gluten free), but don’t ignore the techniques Julia used to build up the flavour.
How did Julia make her Classic French Onion Soup pretty much perfect?
- The most important step: Soften the onions (this will take about 20 min) on a moderate heat under the lid first and then, when onions are soft and translucent, take the lid off. Add a sprinkle of sugar to caramelize them and to reduce almost all moisture. Stir the onions often so they don’t stick to the bottom of your pan. This will take another 20 minutes or more.
- Then there is the time it takes for the dry wine (I personally prefer white, although Julia used red) to cook away and mingle with the onions. You do need to allow 25-30 minutes with a partly covered pan. This brings the much needed acidity and the magical combination of onion & wine flavours. Again, don’t rush this process. This is where the flavours marry to make you happy ever after!
- And the last, but not least, perfectly naughty splash of cognac to finish the French Onion Soup off. Seriously, it does make a great difference!
In 1963, in 2nd episode of “Julia Child The French Chef” (one of the first cooking TV shows ever), Julia presented how to cook her version of the French Onion Soup step by step. This episode included 10 min introductory tutorial on how to quickly cut onions, care for your knives and remove the onions smell from your hands.
You can find the French Onion Soup and many other episodes of “Julia Child The French Chef” on YouTube.
- 6 cups (1 kg) yellow onions - raw, peeled, sliced
- 5 garlic cloves - peeled and sliced thinly
- 5-6 tbsp (75g) butter
- ½ tsp brown sugar
- ½ tbsp salt
- 5 cups (1.25l) beef stock
- 1 cup (250ml) dry white wine
- 1 tsp sage
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tbsp fresh marjoram- chopped
- 2 tbsp cognac
- 2 tbsp raw onion
- 10 slices (1 inch thick) of french bread
- 2 tbsp oil
- 1 cup (100g) mixed Swiss cheese & Parmesan - grated
- In a deep, heavy (ideally skillet) pan, on low to moderate heat, soften the onions and garlic in butter until tender and translucent for about 20 min. Cover the pan with a lid during this process. Stir occasionally.
- Take the lid of the pan, sprinkle sugar and salt, mix onions well. Cook uncovered for 20 min, allowing the onions to reduce and the juices to evaporate. Stir very often to prevent burning.
- When onions are deep brown and significantly reduced, pour in the stock and the wine. Add marjoram, sage and bay leaves. Now simmer your French Onion Soup, partly covered, for about 25 min.
- Preheat oven to 325F (165C).
- Line a baking tray with parchment paper, gently coat French bread with oil and bake for 20 min. When done remove from the oven and set aside. Increase the oven temperature to 350F (175C).
- Transfer the soup into a deep ovenproof dish (unless you used an oven proof dish to cook your soup on the stove), stir in the cognac and grated onion. Arrange previously crisped up in the oven French Bread on the top, scatter grated cheese over and bake uncovered for 15-20 min (or until the cheese melted and is starting to brown).
- Serve piping hot.
ps. Fancy a Friday Fiesta? Visit Fiesta Friday to celebrate Every Friday Dinner, mingle, find new friendships and inspiring recipes! Thank you Hilda (Along The Grapevine) for introducing me to this fab crowd!