French Onion Soup
Behold the humble onion. The most widely used and wholly anonymous vegetable known to man. Always there but never acknowledged. Imagine a stock or a soup or a casserole sans onion. Impossible. But are we ever grateful? No. I think the onion deserves better.
So I like to give them the spotlight every now and then. Let them show off to their full advantage centre stage. Given the chance they shine brilliantly in taste and texture. After all, French Onion Soup is not an all time classic dish for nothing.
The best recipe I have found is in the Cook's Companion by Stephanie Alexander. It really hits the spot on a chilly almost winter night.
It is really easy. The onions are baked in the oven and are fuss free. They come out with a rich caramelled onion flavour. I like to make my own chicken stock to make up the soup. I just can't bring myself to drink bought stock, even with yummy onions mixed in. And I prefer to have my cheesy bread on the side for dipping. I'm always frightened it will just go soggy and horrible if immersed in the soup for more than a few seconds. I have a real thing about soggy bread or soggy anything really. I have a great horror of breakfast cereals for just that reason - but that's another story.
The truly great thing about this recipe is that the onions are versatile. I use them as I would any caramelised onion - in gravies, sauces. Sometimes I just abandon the stock altogether and make fantastic cheesy toastie snacks (see below). In fact, that's what I'm going to do right now. See you next post.
(adapted from Cook's Companion by Stephanie Alexander)
Bake uncovered in a 180C oven for 2 hours, stirring occasionally, until very soft. Increase heat to 220C and bake for another hour, until the onions have caramelised. Take care that the onions do not stick and burn. Add small amounts of water if need be to keep the onions moist.
Sprinkle onions with 2 tbspn of brandy (optional). Place spoonfuls of onion in soup bowls and and ladle over chicken or veal stock. Season to taste. Add a slice of sourdough or italian bread covered with grated gruyere cheese. Bake in the oven until the soup is bubbling.
French Onion Toasties