Soupe à l'oignon gratinée
I always intend to make proper French onion soup, one of my favorite salty treats. I keep stale bread, I buy gruyère, and I always have onions. But the pantry circumstances are never just right, or when they are, I can’t find a recipe I like on that particular day. It’s hard to plan in advance for a dish so humble—I feel like it should just materialize, as I imagine it does with housewives all over France (right? maybe not). If I have a bunch of fresh meat and other vegetables, I’ll always decide to cook those, and I almost always have something I want to get through. Also, the minute I get a hunk of gruyère in the house, I start nibbling at it. It’s a cheese that’s too easy to eat.
The circumstances were finally as close to perfect as they ever would be tonight, and I made André Soltner’s soupe à l’oignon gratinée.
If you find yourself on the fence about onion soup, and many people do (too cheesy, too oniony, too salty, too sweet, etc.), plan a night for this soup. It was one of those dinners when my expectations were not necessarily low, but they were simple; I thought it would taste of onions simmered in chicken broth. It looked so silly and cheap bubbling away on the stove. But at the table, Nathan asked me what the hell was in it that made it so good, and I was stumped. Butter? Boxed chardonnay? It’s a mystery, lost in my dutch oven forever. This is a wonderful, heady soup, with about two dollars’ worth of ingredients in it.
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 pound onions, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups white wine
6 cups chicken stock
Salt and pepper
About 6 slices French bread (I pulled an old loaf of pain de mie out of the freezer)
3 ounces grated gruyère
Melt a tablespoon of butter in a pot large enough to hold all of your ingredients. Sauté the onions until they are golden brown. Add the flour, and cook over medium heat, stirring, for three minutes. Add the wine, bring to a boil, and cook three more minutes. Add the stock and seasonings, bring to a boil, and simmer for thirty minutes.
In the meantime, melt the remaining butter in a skillet and fry the bread slices until they are golden brown on both sides. Preheat the oven to 450ºF. Stir 1/4 of the bread and 1/4 of the cheese into the soup, and simmer it for ten more minutes (this must be the magic part).
Pour the soup into a tureen or an ovenproof serving dish, top with the remaining bread and cheese, and bake until the cheese is browned and bubbling. (My oven wasn’t hot enough, so my cheese didn’t brown very well. But it was bubbling, and it was perfect.)