French onion soup

“Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.” – Ludwig van Beethoven.

French onion soup is a rustic French classic soup made up of beef or chicken broth and caramelised onions and served with a piece of toasted bread with melted cheese on top.

The two main components of a French onion soup are the beef broth and the caramelised onions. A handful of frugal ingredients make up this wonderful restaurant classic dish. Onions, salt, sugar, stock and butter work in slow motion to make up a wonderful, luxurious bowl of thick soup made up of silky brown caramelised onions and dark deep stock. If you’ve had French Onion soup only in restaurants, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find out how simple it is to make this dish at home.

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Ingredients:

  • Butter- 4-5 tbsp,
  • Oil-2 tbsp
  • Onions- 4 sliced thin
  • Sugar- 1/2 tsp
  • Salt to taste
  • Vegetable stock – 3 -4 cups
  • Bayleaf-1
  • Sage powdered-1/2 tsp
  • White wine -1/2 cup (optional)
  • Bread -3-4 slices (toasted )
  • Garlic butter to spread
  • Cheese slices 3-4

A good stock made out of good ingredients be it vegetables or chicken make up the base of a wholesome, flavourful soup. For a good vegetable stock, the cabbage family (turnips, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, etc) should be avoided. In addition, powdered spices too should not be added. Whole spices like peppercorns, bay leaf, cloves could be added instead as they are easy to strain and discard once the stock is ready. A good vegetable stock takes 25-30 minutes, whereas a good meat stock takes an hour. The recipe of a good vegetable stock is given below, for a chicken stock you could substitute for 1/2 kg of chicken parts and for a beef broth you could use a kg of bones.

For the vegetable stock:

  • Water -3 cups
  • Onions sliced- 1
  • Garlic clove -2
  • Carrot-1 cubed
  • Beans-2-3 cubed
  • Potato-1 cubed
  • Celery- 1 stock
  • Peppercorn – a few
  • Bay leaves-2
  • Salt to taste

Pressure cook all the ingredients for 20 minutes, strain and use as required.

Method for soup:

  • In butter and oil fry sliced onion till translucent.
  • Add 1/2 tsp sugar and salt and fry onions till golden brown and caramelised.
  • Add 1 tbsp flour and mix well
  • Add vegetable stock and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
  • Add bay leaf, white wine and sage and boil for 10 minutes more.
  • Add salt if required and pepper. Remove bay leaf.
  • Pour the hot soup into soup bowls. Test for seasoning.
  • On toasted bread, apply garlic butter and cover with a cheese slice.
  • Microwave high for 30 seconds till the cheese just melts.
  • Cut into squares with the help of a pair of scissors.
  • Take two squares and place over the hot soup in each bowl.
  • Serve hot.

Years ago when mum was visiting my sister in Bangalore, my elder brother who happens to be in Bangalore too invited – all of them to dinner at Koshys – a well-known restaurant situated at St. Marks Road.  It was taken for granted that mum would order sweet corn chicken soup as it was her favourite but she did Spring a surprise when she asked my sister Tessa, what else was on the menu. When she came to know they were serving French onion soup, without hesitation she ordered a bowl of the same. It was then that she let out a secret – French onion soup was her favourite. I happen to mention this to another sister of mine Mary (Well , I have four sisters in all, when we get together we just have fun!) and the little secret she let out totally stumped me! Mum’s mother- Big mamma too loved French onion soup! So there you have it -French Onion Soup – loved by all.

After I got married and moved to Chennai, Renjit and I on our first dinner out together went to this quaint restaurant that served us the most delicious bowl of French Onion Soup – the only difference being, instead of a piece of garlic cheese toast in the soup, they had broken a raw egg into the soup, we were asked to stir the soup till all the flavours blended in and then taste the soup. It was divine, so flavourful and till today the taste lingers on. It’s worth a try!

Chefs tips:

  • If making a vegetable stock, as long as the vegetables are healthy you can use what’s available in the kitchen.
  • Whole spices are preferred to powdered spices as they are easy to strain and discard.
  • As mentioned in the post, in the place of cheese toast, break a raw egg into each bowl, stir well and taste. You will not be disappointed.
  • Take time to caramelise the onions and pay much attention. French onion soup is all about the richness of caramelised onion infused with a flavourful broth.
  • If breaking a raw egg into the soup bowl, see that the soup is steaming hot when being poured into the soup bowl.
  • Serves 2-4.

Till my next post

Cheers,

Rose

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