A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about an ingredient I couldn’t even imagine being without – the onion. Onions are such a versatile ingredient that can be used in almost any savoury dish, but I wanted to highlight one of my quickest, easiest yet most impressive onion recipes that can be made at the drop of a hat (or the knock of an unexpected guest at the door).
If you have read my previous blogs, you may have noticed that I’ve got a number of must haves – things I always try to keep in the house, because they are the things that help me create something from seemingly nothing. The recipe I’m about to share for French Onion soup was created out of necessity one day when I had some surprise dinner guests, but wanted to make something that was a bit impressive.
French onion soup incorporates things that I have blogged about over the last year – onions, stock, herbs, croutons and more generally, soup. It is so easy to prepare this soup from the most basic ingredients and although I have listed a fairly specific recipe below, don’t be afraid to use what you’ve got to create your own version of it. For example, when I made it this week, I used a small yellow onion, a red onion and a shallot. In the past, I have eliminated the wine and used additional beef stock, I’ve used white or brown sugar and have used a number of varieties of breads and cheeses to top it off. Each time it is different but equally appetizing.
Cupboard to Table’s Simple French Onion Soup
• 2 large onions (sweet white onions are ideal)
• 1 cup dry red wine
• 4 cups beef stock
• 1 cup water
• 2 tablespoons butter
• ½ teaspoon granulated or minced garlic
• 1-2 bay leaves
• 1 teaspoon dry or fresh herbs (i.e. thyme, oregano, rosemary, marjoram and/or savory)
• 1 teaspoon sugar
• Freshly ground pepper
• Croutons or toasted baguette slices
• Grated cheese (i.e. mozzarella, gruyere)
• Oven-safe single-serve bowls
Finely slice the onions and begin sauteeing them in melted butter in a dutch oven or similar pot. The key is to cook the onions low and slow so they caramelize and don’t burn. I cook them for approximately 30 to 45 minutes, adding a pinch of salt and fresh ground pepper and a teaspoon of sugar in the last 10 minutes of cooking to help along the caramelization process. Next, add 1 cup of dry red wine, deglazing your pot, and heat on medium for another 10 minutes until the alcohol flavour has evaporated. Finally add the beef stock, water, garlic, bay leaf and herbs and bring to a rolling boil, return to medium and cook for an additional 20 to 30 minutes. Remove the bay leaf, finish with salt and pepper and the end result should be a lovely dark soup with perfectly cooked flavourful onions throughout, ready for the fridge, the freezer or to use right away.
When preparing the soup to serve, first preheat your oven’s broiler. Ladle the soup into your oven-safe serving bowl to about ¾ full. Next top with your toasted baguette slices or croutons or any other dried bread you have on hand and immediately top with grated cheese. Place on a baking sheet and place under the broiler until the cheese is golden and bubbling. Remove from the oven and place on a serving plate as the bowl will be hot to the touch. All that is left is for your guests to sit down and enjoy.
Written by, AHWD Cooking Expert – Dan Saunders