Not much compares to Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. True, there are several recipes I would personally skip – aspics, anyone?? One day, you’ll have to ask me why I believe aspics have fallen from grace…but I digress! Bottom line, cookbooks aren’t perfect, tastes vary, ingredients change and, in some cases, history erases certain recipes from the everyday table. Poor aspics! But, there are several treasures in MTAFC that are not just incredible meals, they are cherished memories. I will never forget the first time I made Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourgignonne or Julia’s Croissants or Julia’s Soupe à l’Oignon. Incroyable! Impecable! et à la fin, inoubliable!
Whenever I find myself with a free afternoon, I like to pull out MTAFC and see what special treasures I can uncover! One rainy Sunday afternoon, I decided to try Julia’s Soupe à l’Oignon. It was the perfect elixir for the drenched afternoon and yet it made enough soup to feed a small army! A perfect candidate for a lone recipe!
Here, I am calling for a local Sweet Texas 1015 Onion, which is a softball sized yellow onion named for its suggested planting date of October 15th, but you can easily replace this with 2 small yellow onions. For authenticity, I aimed to follow Julia’s original recipe, as featured in MTAFC, to the letter. These original recipes are classic. They need neither introduction nor additional flare to achieve perfection. Sure, there may be recipes that are outside of my personal gustatory palate, but Julia’s food, persona and instructions are, in a word, memorable. I tried to note any variation of technique. Ingredient wise, I believe the only variation I made was to add a small sprig of thyme to the onions while they cook.
Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 45 minutes
Broil Time: 3-5 minutes Makes: 2 servings
Julia’s Soupe à l’Oignon
1 small Sweet Texas 1015 Onion, or 2 small yellow onions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon of sugar
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 small sprig of thyme
1. Thinly slice the onions using a mandoline. Then, add the onions, thyme, butter, olive oil, sugar and pepper to a medium saucepan. Cook the onions over medium-low heat for 15 minutes stirring frequently until they are a caramelized golden brown. Note: Do not add any salt to the onions as it will cause the onions to sweat.
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1½ – 2 cups beef stock
2 tablespoons dry white wine (I used a Riesling)
1 tablespoon Cognac (I used Courvoisier)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2. Stir the flour into the onions and cook for 1-2 minutes.
3. Next, add the beef stock, white wine, and cognac to the soup. Season to taste and heat to a rolling boil. Reduce heat and simmer the soup for an additional 30 minutes until thick, velvety and smooth! Note 1: Julia’s recipe calls for you to add the cognac after this step, but I find it “sits on top” of the soup instead of enhancing the flavor. So, I personally like to add it with the wine to increase the richness of the soup. Note 2: Feel free to dig in if you just can’t wait as the soup is technically ready! Note 3: Julia notes that you can set the soup aside uncovered until you are ready to serve. Just reheat it to a simmer, when you are ready to eat!
Julia’s Soupe à l’Oignon Gratinée
1 small piece of thick French bread (baguette, hoagie, whatever you have on hand), toasted
2 tablespoons – 1/4 cup of Gruyère, shredded
4. Heat the broiler to High.
5. Toast your bread and set aside to cool. Gently, lay the toasted bread on top of the soup and cover it with the grated Gruyère. Place under the broiler for 3-5 minutes until the cheese is melted, bubbling and a pale golden brown.