Tomorrow is the 14th of July, Bastille Day, and across France there will be large military parades and festivities commemorating the beginning of the French Revolution. Beginning with the storming of the Bastille, a large prison in Paris, the period was one of great political and social upheaval which saw the overthrow of the French monarchy and the establishment of the French Republic. In honour of this traditional French National Holiday, I am going to cook a classic recipe, French Onion Soup which probably had its origins in Roman cooking but became prominent amongst eighteenth-century French peasants, for which onions were one of the staple dietary components. The addition or use of stock to French Onion Soup came later, as did the cheese croute ( a kind of crispy cheese on toast ). French Onion Soup went through a renaissance in the sixties when American chefs really started promoting French recipes and was used as a very fancy dinner party starter although I think it is altogether better as a lunch dish. Enjoy
My Classic French Onion Soup serves 6
1.5 kg peeled sweet Onions, peeled and finely sliced
6 cloves of Garlic, peeled and finely crushed
1 ½ litres fresh Beef Stock
100 ml quality Dry Sherry
60 gr Butter
50 ml quality Olive Oil
1 tsp fresh Thyme Leaves, finely chopped
½ tsp each of Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper
¼ tsp freshly ground Nutmeg
Half of a day old Baguette
50 gr grated Cheddar or Gruyère
50 gr grated Parmesan
A couple of pinches of Cayenne pepper
Parsley, washed, dried and finely chopped
Heat a slug of the oil and the butter together in a large heavy bottomed pan and add the onions. Stew the onions stirring frequently until all the cooking juices evaporate and the onions start to caramelise. Begin to stir continuously, to prevent the onions from sticking and burning and cook until they reach a light brown nutty colour. Add the garlic, thyme, nutmeg, stock, and seasoning and bring up to the boil. Simmer gently for fifteen minutes add the sherry and simmer for a further fifteen minutes to evaporate off the alcohol. Correct the seasoning and keep warm.
For the croutes preheat your oven to 325 F / 170 C / Gas mark 3 and thinly slice the baguette. Lay the pieces on a baking tray and drizzle with the remaining oil. Place in the oven and bake for forty minutes until golden brown. Turn up the oven to 375 F / 190 C / Gas mark 5. Pour the soup into six ovenproof bowls and top with the grated cheeses then sprinkle with the Cayenne. Place the bowls on a tray and place in the oven for fifteen minutes until the cheese is golden brown and bubbling. Take out of the oven, top with chopped parsley and serve. Please warn your guests about the hot bowls.
What to Drink? Try pairing your French Onion Soup with a fruity and refreshingly acidic Beaujolais wine or the complimentary nutty caramel flavours of a brown ale.
Allergens in this recipe are;