Reminds us of sojourning in the French-Swiss Borderland (Culinary Immersion, Off-the-Beaten-Path, Best Kept Secrets )
Francis’s cousin Thiret, who lives in the French-Swiss Borderland, makes French onion soup at parties for the drinkers to eat in the wee hours of the morning. It is always topped with a crusty baguette toast and melted Comte cheese (France’s number one artisanal cheese and the regional pride). He swears by it.
I prefer to eat this rich broth on a cold evening in late autumn, winter or early spring. My grandmother loved it. It was all the rage in the States in the 1960s and for my grandmother it became a life long love. I couldn’t have started Sojourner Tours without my grandmother: she gave me the seed money and her blessing. I spent years looking for the perfect way to make it… and this recipe is my tribute to her!
It is a poor-man’s food yet truly regal. According to cousin Thiret, French legend states that King Louis XV invented the soup on a hunting trip: he was starving after a long day of hunting and all there was on hand at the hunting pavilion were onions, butter and a bottle of champagne (poor king). I doubled checked and it turns out that this is truly just a legend, in fact this peasant food dates all the way back to France’s Roman times!
It is usually made with beef broth but I prefer chicken broth and have been known to make it with shitake mushroom stock when hosting vegetarians. This is a simple recipe but it takes time and patience to do well. Which is probably what makes it so special.
Bon Appetit! -Lisa
- 2 oz butter
- 1 1/2 lb thinly sliced onions
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 tsp white flour
- 13/4 pints of stock (traditional beef, chicken or shitake)
- salt & freshly ground pepper
- Comte or Gruyere cheese
DIRECTIONS: Brown the onions with the butter and sugar in a large stock pan. (My recipe says to cook them slowly on low for 2o-30 minutes until they caramelize but I cook them on medium high and I stir rarely but watch them vigilantly. If you stir them too often they never seem to brown and you want to cook them until they are a nice deep brown.) Cooking the onions is the most important step so be patient and get a good intense color on them (and be careful not to burn them). Once the onions are brown, sprinkle them with flour and cook, stirring, for about five minutes over a low temperature. Add the stock, salt and pepper and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Garnish with a toasted baguette slice topped with melted cheese. (Serve with a dry white wine –unless you are eating it at 3 am as an antidote for over indulgence 😉 ).