Warm Up with Delicious French Onion Soup!

By Resident Chef: Harvey Pincis

With the weather getting cooler, for the weekend thoughts turned to French Onion Soup, that had been part of the repertoire and popular in the household, but seemed overdue for a revival. It also brought back memories of the Breton Onion Johnnies that once sold actual French onions in strings strung over their bicycles, but alas, it is a sight not seen since the 60s in London. In lieu of the ar Johnniged onions I made do with large brown onions for the soup and crisp fried shallots for a garnish. On the question of stock, I personally find beef stock overpowers the sweetness of the onion so have opted for water, green apple juice (no cider being available) and some Marmite. Vegetarians will inevitably opt for this version anyway, but in any case, I feel sure it is closer to its peasant roots and am positively looking for sweetness, even to the extent of using a little sugar. What was good for Bartolomeo Scappi (c. 1500-1577), is good enough for me. Scappi was arguably the most famous chef of the Italian Renaissance, overseeing the preparation of meals for several Cardinals and became the personal cook for two Popes.

The other thing I did was to serve the toasts on the side, so the diner has the option of using them as croutons or (as I did) for dunking the toasts. I feel that baguette crusts are a little tough for cutting with a soup spoon!

 

Recipe:

Soup:Ingredients

  • 80g butter, plus a extra for the toasts
  • 4 onions, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 fist of fresh thyme, leaves picked
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • tsp salt
  • tsp sugar
  • 500ml green apple juice
  • 600ml water or other stock
  • 1-2 tsp of Marmite

 

Toasts:

  • 8 slices of baguette
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 100g cheese, grated

 

Garnish:

  • Shallots – finely sliced and caramelized.

 

Method:

  • Finely slice the onions across the grain into rings, the accent being on as finely as you can, setting aside large pieces of onion skin. You will cry, but this is part of the ritual.

 

  • Heat your butter (drop in a dash oil to prevent the butter burning) and on high heat add your onion. Opinions differ on the time to stir the onions, but I find that starting on high heat to get them slightly caramelized, pouring in the water and juice/stock, bring it to the boil and then turning the heat down for a long simmer with the thyme, marmite and seasoning works well.

 

  • It is at this point I add the onion skins to deepen the colour of the soup (and removing before serving!). After about an hour simmering, test for seasoning and any adjustment.

 

  • Chop up the garlic finely and mix with some butter as the baguette slices are toasting, spread the garlic butt and top with cheese, either a thick piece or grated. Cheddar works fine as does Gruyère.

 

  • Serve with the shallot garnish.

 

Bon Appétit!

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