Soupe à l’oignon
Even though it originated as a humble peasant dish, French onion soup is nowadays regarded as one of the most prized dishes of French cuisine. The broth is simple, made merely with caramelized onions and meat stock. However, the soup is distinguished by croûtes–pieces of crispy baked bread that are placed on top of the soup and are then generously covered with cheese.
The assembled dish is finished in the oven, allowing the cheese to melt while the top turns into a golden crust. French onion soup is a dish with a rich history and a very long tradition. The onions have been used since the Roman times, and a similar soup has been known since the Middle Ages.
This French classic has been changed through history, establishing its final form in the 17th century. It was primarily known as a simple and hearty traditional dish, but in the 1960s, when French cuisine started to grow in popularity around the world, onion soup became one of its most famous representatives.
Today, it can be found in almost every traditional French restaurant, where it is usually served as a starter.
The first step when preparing this classic French soup is to caramelize the onions. Depending on the type of onions and the amount of heat, this step can take as long as a few hours before the onions reach the right consistency and color. Liquid — usually water or beef broth — is added when the onions have been fully caramelized, and once everything is brought to a heavy boil, the heat is turned down, and the soup is left to simmer. The broth can be thickened with flour, either before or after adding the liquid. The finished soup is divided between individual crock pots, and dry bread or toasted croutons are placed on top. For the gratinated version, a copious amount of grated cheese — preferably Gruyère or Comté — is placed over the bread, and the entire dish is placed under the broiler, melting the cheese and giving it a beautiful golden crust.