When we were teenagers, there was a restaurant on Grafton Street called Thunderbirds that did an amazing French Onion soup. The ‘crouton’ on top was actually the top half of a burger bap, toasted and smothered with cheese. I absolutely loved it, and have been optimistically ordering French Onion Soup ever since. Nothing has ever come up to my memory of the Thunderbirds’ version though..
Also, and I’ll admit this freely, I’m not blessed with a huge amount of patience, so the slow-cooking part of this recipe has always been a bit of a trial for me.. However, at the Friends of the Hospital Book Fair this week I got a copy of Delia Smith’s Soup book for £2, and there’s a recipe for French Onion Soup in it. So on this cold, wintery, snowy day I thought I’d give it a go.. the good thing about it, is that it doesn’t require a lot of minding, so you can do other stuff while it’s cooking away by itself.
Let’s see how we get on..
- A deep, heavy-bottomed pan or casserole.
- a sharp knife
- a liquid measuring jug
- use of an oven and a grill.
- 700g white onions – that’s about 5 medium-large onions – peeled and finely sliced
- 50g butter
- 2 tablespoonful Olive oil
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar
- 1.2l of good beef stock – hot
- 250mls dry white wine (see NOTES)
- 2 tablespoons Cognac
- Salt, and black pepper.
- See below for the croutons..
- Put the butter and oil into the pan on a high heat and when it’s hissing loudly, throw in the onions, the garlic and the sugar.
- Stir them around rapidly until every piece of onion is coated
- Continue to fry them, on the high heat, a for about 10 minutes until they soften and start to colour at the edges.
- Now reduce the heat to med-low, and leave the onions for about 30 minutes, until they’ve reduced in volume and are a nice caramelized colour
- Measure the Beef stock, wine and cognac into a measuring jug
- When you’re happy that the onions are nicely reduced and soft, add the liquid contents and combine well – make sure you scrape the bottom of the pan for any stuck-on bits.
- Increase the heat and bring it to a simmer; then turn down the heat and leave it, uncovered, for about an hour to cook very gently. After it’s been simmering for about 20 minutes, it actually starts to look like French Onion Soup.
While the soup is having its gentle cooking, you can start on the croutons. You’ll need:
- a French baguette or some sourdough, cut into thick diagonal slices
- 1 tablespoonful of Olive oil
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed.
- 200g Gruyere cheese, grated
- Mix the crushed garlic with the oil
- Place the slices on a baking tray, then drizzle the oil/garlic mix over them.
- Pop into a hot oven (180fan) for 5-10 minutes until they’ve crisped up nicely.
- Remove and allow to cool. then replace the slices on the tray and sprinkle the cheese generously over each one
- When you’re ready to serve, heat the grill to it’s hottest setting, then place the baking tray under and watch carefully until the cheese melts but doesn’t burn. See NOTES..
- Ladle the soup into warmed bowls, and float a cheesy crouton on top of the soup
- I had no white wine – someone drank it all, apparently.. 😉 – so I used Cider. I thought it added an interesting flavour, and quite pleasant too.
- Use good quality beef stock; as good as you can find, or even make it yourself..
- It’s a good idea to make sure that the croutons are well dried out before you toast them – it saves them getting too soggy when they float on the soup.
- If you don’t have a grill, the cheese melts and the croutons crisp up really well after 5-7 minutes in a hot oven.