I haven’t been to Paris in a while, but I’ve been to the next best place: Encino.
There are two reasons why I go to Encino, a small city (or enclave or district or borough or cluster or whatever it is) in the San Fernando Valley, north of where I live. One is that I have a superior dentist there. The other is that I know a fabulous cook who lives there, and I like to take advantage of every opportunity to eat at her house.
Last time I dropped by (“Oh, is it dinner time? Who knew? What’s cookin’?”) Suzanne offered me a sample of her French onion soup. While my memory is admittedly badly impaired, I don’t recall eating a better version of it, ever.
For those of you who do not want to go to Encino because you are too busy visiting more glamorous places like, say, Cleveland, I have managed to procure the recipe for Suzanne’s soup. If you know what’s good for you, you will make it.
And if you need the name of an excellent dentist, Google Dr. August De Oliveira…
Soupe a l’Oignon Gratinee
6 Tb Unsalted Butter
3 lbs Brown or Yellow Onions, sliced thin
2 Tb Flour
3/4 cup White Wine
1/4 cup Cognac or Brandy
1 Bouquet Garni (I use Thyme & Bay Leaf)
1 Qt Organic Chicken Stock
(2 tsp Brown Sugar, optional)
1 Baguette, sliced and lightly toasted
1 lb Gruyere or Swiss Cheese, shredded
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
2. Melt the butter in a large, heavy pot over medium heat, add the onions and cook, stirring until dark golden brown. This can take
up to 25 minutes; be patient and let them caramelize fully or the rich flavor of the soup will be compromised.
3. Add the flour and stir into the onions for 2-3 minutes until the “flour-y taste” diminishes. (If using the brown sugar, add it now and blend.)
Pour in the wine, cognac, and chicken stock, add the bouquet garni and simmer for 30 minutes.
4. Set 8 oven-proof ramekins or soup bowls atop a sheet pan.
Remove the herbs, add salt and pepper to taste, then ladle the soup into individual bowls.
Place the baguette slices on top of the soup in each bowl, submerging it slightly to moisten. Sprinkle the toasts with gruyere and bake in the oven for 15 minutes, then set under a hot broiler to brown the cheese topping.
Note: If increasing this recipe or if using a medium-sized pot, saute the onions in batches so as not to steam them.
Steaming will prevent the onions from caramelizing and result in a weak broth.