The wind is howling outside here, rain is pouring down, the fire is lit and I find myself with the ideal conditions for serving a hot French onion soup. Not a recipe to be rushed, this soup has to be planned, it will take about 2 hours to be ready and is even better the next day – but oh! it is SO worth it! And it’s fun because each person gets their own little soup, served piping hot, topped with bubbling cheese. This is serious comfort food!
The French Onion Soup Recipe
First cut up eight onions into thin slices, mix with a dash of salt and a little sugar and cook gently in butter or olive oil (either are good, whichever you prefer). Cook gently doesn’t mean fry fast until sizzled around the edges; these onions need time to relax and melt then to caramelise; personally I allow at least 45 minutes.
Pour onto the onions two pints of stock, add some white wine. The stock has to be good quality, preferably homemade. Some prefer chicken, I like beef for this recipe. If all else fails you can use stock cubes but …..
You want the onions to bubble away in the stock and wine for an hour, over a very gently heat. It’s a shame to cook any less than that because this is when all the flavour comes through. Add the sherry, pepper and more salt if required. All this can be done in advance.
When you’re ready to serve, make the croutons by slicing baguette thinly and baking the slices in the oven with a drizzle of olive oil until lightly toasted. Make sure your soup is very hot, check the seasoning, then ladle into the individual pots, mugs, bowls, ramequins … whatever – as long as they are ovenproof.
Lay several croutons on the surface of the French onion soup and sprinkle grated cheese over the top then stand the bowls beneath the grill in your oven. DON’T walk away at this point!! You want the cheese bubbling but not burnt.
This soup is best when eaten very hot, straight from the oven. Oh yes, don’t expect much conversation from your guests, they’ll be too involved in the amazing depth and flavour of this simple recipe!
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- 8 large onions
- olive oil or butter
- sugar and salt
- about 2 pints (1.2 litres) good strong stock (chicken works, but beef is better)
- glass of white wine
- glug of something stronger (sherry or cognac)
- a baguette
- grated gruyere or Emmenthal cheese
Thinly slice the onions and saute them with a pinch of sugar and salt over low heat stirring occasionally for about 45 minutes or until caramelised. Add the wine and stock and let it bubble away for about an hour to develope the flavor.
Stir in the sherry or cognac if you choose.
When ready to serve, toast some baguette slices drizzled with a little olive oil until lightly browned.
Spoon the soup into oven safe bowls, top with a couple baguettes toasts and grated cheese and place in the oven using the grill function. Keep an eye on the soups as this won't take long. Remove carefully when the cheese is melted and bubbling.
Serve immediately with extra toasts.