Soupe à l' Oignon Gratinée
We developed this recipe based on the many early-morning onion soups we've enjoyed at Parisian bistros like Au Pied de Cochon and Chez Clovis.
6 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. olive oil
3 lbs. medium yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tsp. sugar
1 tbsp. flour
8 cups beef stock
2 cups dry white wine
Freshly ground black pepper
1 lb. gruyère, shredded
1. Melt 3 tbsp. Of the butter and the oil in a large heavy pot over medium-low heat. Add onions, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, about 20 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high, uncover, and add the sugar and season to taste with salt. Sauté, stirring often until onions are very soft and a deep golden brown.
2. Reduce heat to medium, sprinkle in flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 2-3 minutes. Add about 2 cups of stock and stir to blend, then add remaining 6 cups of stock and the wine. Season to taste with salt and pepper and simmer for about 30 minutes. Adjust seasoning to taste.
3. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Meanwhile, slice the bread into at least 8 thick slices. Butter both sides of the bread with the remaining 3 tbsp. Of butter, then toast until golden brown on both sides in the oven.
4. Place a slice of toast in each of 8 ovenproof bowls, then fill bowls with the onion soup. Spread a thick layer of cheese on top of soup. Set bowls in 2 baking pans, place in the oven and bake until cheese has browned.
An oft-repeated culinary legend not-withstanding, it is extremely unlikely soupe à l'oignon was invented by Louis XIV (who concocted it, according to one story, with champagne!). Nor did the soup necessarily originate in Lyon, despite the fact that the region is famous for its onions (and that dishes cooked à la lyonnaise inevitably contain them). According to Dr. Paul Henry, a respected Lyonnais historian, the origins of the soup are probably quite pedestrian. Until relatively recently in rural France, soup was a staple of every household, kept simmering on the stove and eaten daily, often for breakfast. It was made of anything that was cheap, or grew plentifully in the garden—and the onion certainly qualified. It also had the virtue of being available most of the year—and was one of the more flavorful of vegetables. "The addition of cheese to the soup and its evolution to a 'gratinée'," adds Henry, "would probably have come from the Savoie, where cheese is often used in cooking."
Saveur Cooks Authentic French
Rediscovering the Recipes, Traditions,
and Flavors of the World's Greatest Cuisine
By The Editors of Saveur Magazine
Chronicle Books, November, 1999
320 pages, 400 full-color photographs throughout
Recipe reprinted by permission.
This page created March 2000
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