Yellow onions in my garden are starting to sprout. Once this happens, they must be used. My first thought was French Onion Soup, steaming bowls of cold, fleshy onions.
In my own way, the preparation of French onion soup pays tribute to my friend and colleague Jean-Robert de Cavell. This world-famous French-born chef, who we proudly call Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, recently passed away at the age of 61 after a valiant battle with cancer.
Everyone who knew him has a story, so I’m going to share this memorable one. We met in the mid 90’s when he was relatively new to Cincinnati. At the time, he was the head chef at Maisonette Restaurant.
On the table:To honor Jean Robert D. Cavill, Cincinnati must strike hard
Jean Robert gave a course at my cooking school. It was his first experience teaching in a classroom. He joked that it would help improve his English accent. Anyway, we had a maximum of 50 students. More than 150 people have registered. That was before social media. We brought more chairs and somehow managed to fit 100 people. Everyone came home with happy stomachs and recipes, affection and respect for this talented and honest young chef.
I will miss him, especially in the spring when I harvest watercress and in the fall pick wild mushrooms. He was always happy to receive them.
French onion soup with garlic croutons
Bermuda or Spanish onions are classic onions used in this soup. But use what you have. I had regular yellow onions, and that’s what I used.
Serves 6 to 8 persons.
5 cups or more onions, sliced very thinly
3 tablespoons of butter
1 tablespoon of olive oil
Salt and Pepper
1 cup dry white wine
2 bay leaves
8 cups of beef broth
6-8 round croutons
Cloves and garlic
8 ounces grated Gruyere or Swiss cheese
Melt the butter and oil over medium heat in a large saucepan.
Add the onion and cover in the fat, then cook, stirring frequently, until softened and caramelized. The onions will take on a beautiful golden brown caramel colour.
As the onions soften and steam releases, the natural sugars stick to the bottom of the pan. This gooey, delicious, and fun frosting melts when you add the liquid. The caramelization process takes up to 40 minutes, so be patient. If the onions start to burn, just lower the heat.
Pour the wine into the skillet and scrape up any browned bits. This is called defrosting.
Add bay leaves and broth. Reduce heat and season with salt and pepper.
Simmer until the flavor is to your liking. Mine took 30 minutes.
Remove the bay leaves.
Cut the baguette or other creamy bread into circles. Brush it with melted butter. Grill one side and pass quickly under the grill.
Rub the face with a little garlic, then add the cheese.
If you have casseroles in the oven, put the soup in bowls and put croutons on top. Leave it under the grill until the cheese melts.
If you don’t have oven ware, place the cheese croutons on the baking sheet, rub them on the bottom of the broiler until the cheese melts, and place them in each croutons.
Do not leave a laurel? Do not worry. With a good beef broth, the soup will always be delicious. A dry thyme shake is a good substitute.