onions-not-peeledThe French saying, occupe-toi de tes oignons means “mind your own business.” This post takes the literal translation: “take care of your onions.” It’s a recipe for real French onion soup.

sharpen-knife
To avoid teary eyes when chopping onions, use a very sharp knife!

At my evening gym class in the village, a regular topic of conversation is food (are you surprised?), specifically, “what’s for dinner?” And the answer, especially in winter, tends to be “soupe.”

In olden times in France, and still in Belgium, Switzerland and Canada, supper is “le souper.” You can’t miss that it contains the word “soupe.” It’s probably related to the adage: Manger comme un roi le matin, comme un prince le midi et comme un pauvre le soir–Eat like a king in the morning, like a prince at noon and like a pauper in the evening. Paupers got soup.

In France, it’s more common to call dinner “le dîner,” even when soup is the main course. (Souper tends to be reserved for a really late-night meal, say post-theater.)

Many of my friends go on a soup “cure” after an excessive weekend. With the holidays coming, a cure will be needed, though this soup is anything but “lite.”

A friend of ours shared his recipe for delicious onion soup. He protested that it wasn’t a recipe at all. Everything is measured “à vue de nez,” or intuitively/approximately, also often expressed as “au pif” or by the nose.

Onion soup for a crowd (about 8 servings)

About half a stale baguette, in 3/4 inch slices. “Not too much because it gets big”

Beaucoup (about 6 cups sliced) onions. It doesn’t matter what kind the onions are. Just slice them thinly. You need a lot because, contrary to the bread, the onions shrink.

Beaucoup (about 200 grams!  7 oz.) of butter. He would have put more but that’s what was left of the stick. He originally had less, but he dropped in the rest of the stick as soon as his wife stepped away. Don’t tell!

Flour–about two tablespoons

Salt

Pepper

Beaucoup (about a pound) of grated emmental or gruyère cheese

Melt the butter. Stir in the onions and cook until they get a little brown, or at least rosy. Keep stirring so they don’t burn. You’ll see the volume decrease. Don’t cover.

onions-cook-1When they’re a light brown, sprinkle 2 tablespoons of flour over them, one spoon at a time, and work it in. Keep stirring. Let the flour brown a little so the soup gets a nice color.

add-flour
Note: just a regular spoon will do. No need to level it off with a knife and all that.

Add water bit by bit. This is flexible, but he put in about 5 or 6 liters (about 5 quarts), stirring all the time.

Add salt (three pinches from a pot) and pepper (freshly ground from a mill). Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer about 30 minutes.

While it’s simmering, toast the bread (he put it on a tray under the broiler). You want it nice and brown, so the soup has a good color. Then heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit or 200 degrees Celsius.

bread-cheese-layer-1
I clearly overfilled because I couldn’t get all the liquid into the pot.

Arrange the bread in a large ovenproof dish. Put down one layer, sprinkle grated cheese over it, then another layer, more cheese, etc. Don’t over fill with bread! There was sort of a pyramid of bread, with empty space around the edges of the dish.

onions-on-bread-cheeseWhen the onions have cooked their half hour on the stovetop, spoon them onto the bread. Then pour in the broth. Don’t overfill or it will boil over and make a mess of your oven.

add-brothSprinkle more cheese on top.

add-cheese-on-topBake for about 30 minutes. Serve hot with fresh bread.

soup-doneHe said that in his native Normandy, he grew up with onion soup made with milk, but since milk was expensive (it was just after the war) they couldn’t afford to use it for a crowd. I will have to try it with milk, but with real farm milk, not UHT pasteurized homogenized stuff.

22 thoughts on “French Onion Soup

  1. Mmmm French onion soup is one of my favourites especially when itis made properly and this recipe certainly looks like the real deal and I will give it a try after Christmas, thanks TOF x and Merry Christmas to you and your family

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What’s at Leclerc? Actually, our friends do onion soup and invite a crowd every November. I went when they (actually it’s the husband who cooks) made it to get the recipe then made it myself. He doesn’t use lardons, and since he’s from Normandy he uses butter, but speaking generally, lardons or bacon are always a good idea, no?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Your butter is Bio-Village, that’s a Leclerc house brand.
        Regional variations are many. I believe in the Parisian version they used beef stock vs. the Lyon version’s vegetable stock. The Lyon version also used Port wine to caramelize the onions. At my grandmother’s the onions were caramelized in animal fat and ham stock was used. That gives the soup a really wonderful depth.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yum! This is a Normandy version. Butter with more butter.
        I didn’t get the butter brand at first because husband does the shopping and goes to every supermarket. I had no idea!

        Like

  2. As a non instinctive cook who has to slavishly follow a recipe, I loved this International Method. Stick of butter, cups of onions, litre or quarts of water, tablespoons of flour and pinches of S&P ! Best of all just an oven proof pot that is ‘big enough’ . Yes, I’ll give it a go and only wonder if enough for 8 is enough for we two. Happy Christmas!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Our friend makes it for a crowd. We three ate it for three days. It was a lot of fun to watch him make it, because it really was pinches of salt, handfuls of cheese, everything eyeballed. Which means you can’t do it wrong.

      Like

  3. Love French onion soup. My favorite for a cold evening. We had a French bistro called Bistro des Copains for almost nine years and our French onion soup was a big seller year around. Never came off the menu.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s