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ONION SOUP

Onion soup The most important thing in making a flavourful onion soup is to brown the onions slowly and thoroughly, so forget all the recipes telling you to "cook the onions for just ten minutes" or so.

This recipe is an adaptation of the "Italian home-style onion soup" by the chef Michael Chiarello.

1 l (about 500 g) thinly sliced yellow onions (before cutting the onions, read the instructions below)
(1 single clove garlic or 2 - 4 garlic cloves)
about 2 tbsp butter (or half butter and half light-tasting olive oil)
50 - 100 ml dry white wine
about 700 - 900 ml good beef or chicken stock
pinch of dried thyme
1 - 2 bay leaves
black pepper
thin toasted baguette slices
grated Gruyère or sharp Emmental cheese

Cut the onions in the following way: first cut off the ends, then halve the onions lengthwise and peel them. Slice the onion halves thinly, again lengthwise, from stem to root end. This cutting method produces onion slices that are more pleasant to eat than the stringy pieces produced if the onion is cut crosswise.

You may replace part of yellow onions with red onions, shallots and/or leeks. (I usually use yellow onions with the addition of one or two red onions and shallots.)

Using a wide, shallow frying pan, melt the butter (and oil) on high heat, but do not let the butter brown. Add finely chopped garlic, if using it, and briefly sauté until fragrant. Add the sliced onions and a pinch of salt, which will help to release liquid from the onions.

Stirring almost continually, cook the onions on high heat for about 7 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring every now and then, until the onions are golden brown. This will take for a minimum of 25 minutes (see the pictures below).

Raw onions Arrow Browned onions
This is what you start with...   ...ending up with this.

Sprinkle thyme on the onions, then pour in the white wine and cook briskly, until the liquid has almost evaporated.

Onion soup Transfer the onions in a saucepan and pour in hot stock enough to wholly cover the onions. Add the bay leaf and some freshly ground pepper. Cover the pan and simmer the soup for 1 - 2 hours. Add some more stock, if the soup seems too thick. Onion soup may also be simmered in a covered pot in oven.

Just before serving, ladle the hot soup in heatproof bowls and cover the surface with lightly toasted, thin slices of baguette. Add a generous layer of grated cheese on top and broil in oven at 225 °C for a few minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and slightly browned. Serve immediately.

Recipe source: adapted from "Italian home-style onion soup" by chef Michael Chiarello/www.napastyle.com, accessed in 2005.


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