The art of perfecting this dish isn't overly difficult; it’s all in the timing.
French onion soup is a dish that dates back as far as Roman times. The modern day version, as we know it came to life in France, originally as a peasant’s dish, as onions were cheap and in surplus.
Combing butter, sugar, wine, cheese and bread, this dish marries many pleasures and creates a decadent dish that nobody will ever say no to!
Serves four – six people
1.5 Pounds of Onions
1 Cup of Salted Butter
½ Cup Raw Brown Sugar
1 Small Garlic Clove
½ Cup Sherry
¼ Cup Bourbon
3 Cups of Beef Stock
Stale Crusty Bread
2 Tbsp Flour
2 Cups of Gruyere Cheese
Salt and Pepper to taste
As important as the flavors are, texture is equally important; when dicing the onions, cut them in half, the slice long ways to achieve long pieces. As the onions do soften and break down and being the only ingredient, it’s quite nice to have the longer pieces.
Melt the butter into a pot, once heated, cook onions and garlic for 15 – 20 minutes. The onions must be well browned. Do not add salt at this point, there is enough in the butter and despite much debate about the pros of sweating the onions, it’s better for a long cooking process for them to retain as much juice as possible. After this add the sugar and caramelize the onions. Onions have a naturally occurring sugar and caramelizing with brown sugar adds a wonderful mellow flavor that pairs well against the saltiness of the remaining ingredients.
Once caramelized, add both alcohols and cook for 5 minutes until the initial alcohol has cleared. After, add the flour to the onions and cook through to remove the taste of flour. Once done, add the beef stock and stir well and leave to stew for an hour on a low heat. This is one of the most important things to pay attention to, the soup flavors need to meld and good soup takes time.
Grate the cheese and slice thick pieces of crusty bread. Gruyere cheese has the consistency of mozzarella with the taste of a full bodied cheese; it’s a win-win. If you don’t have Gruyere, mixing mozzarella with a strong cheese of your choice is a perfect substitute. Next, toast the bread until it is crisp.
After an hour of cooking, the soup should be thick and rich with texture and taste. Add salt and pepper to taste then place the soup in soup ramekins that are oven friendly. The soup should be thick enough to hold the bread and cheese on top. Once dished, melt under a grill or broil until the cheese is well browned and melting ridiculously over the edges.