Some people might know that French onion soup is one of my favourite things in the world. Sadly though, even I have to concede that the middle of summer really isn’t the time to eat it.
So, I thought I’d have a play and see if I couldn’t come up with a more summery version of the classic recipe.
Less hearty, more citrusy, and generally lighter was the direction that I was aiming for, and I think I’ve achieved it.
Apart from a slight change in ratio between the ingredients, I’ve swapped the beef stock out for chicken, picked a fruitier wine and replaced the cognac with a couple of suprises.
And it tastes…
… shockingly good.
It’s much lighter than a traditional French/Spanish/Italian onion soup, it’s also quite a bit sweeter.
It still manages to retain a rich deep flavour, but now also has a nice hint of citrus which makes it perfect for summer evenings.
Notes on ingredients
As with any onion soup, the quality of the stock is probably the most important thing in terms of ingredients. You can use stock that you’ve made yourself, or buy a decent quality chicken stock. If buying it then get a fresh stock from your local butcher instead of stock cubes. If you are using your own stock, then make sure that you have skimmed and strained it well, because you don’t want bits of meat or fat in the soup.
I like to use a fruity Riesling, but you could substitute it out for another dry fruity white if you have a personal preference. The citrus vodka should be something with a good strong lemon taste, I like Tanqueray Sterling Citrus, because it has a slight herbal tang as well that works really well in this soup.
The trickiest ingredient is cheese to top the croutons. The ideal is a nice zesty goats cheese that melts well. I’m not sure that there is a globally available cheese that fits the bill, but there are plenty of options, just ask your local cheesemonger for a recommendation.
- 500g Onions
- 2 tablespoons Olive oil
- 50g Butter
- 1 teaspoon White sugar
- 3 cloves Garlic
- 1.2 litres Chicken stock
- 375ml Fruity Riesling
- 1 tablespoon Citrus vodka
- ½ tablespoon Ricard/Pernod
- ½ Baguette
- 1 tablespoon Olive oil
- 1 clove Garlic
- 150g Cheese (see notes)
Make the croutons
Heat the oven to 180°C.
Crush the garlic.
Drizzle olive oil onto a good (not all bendy) baking tray, throw on the crushed garlic, and rub the oil/garlic mixture all over the tray.
Cut the baguette into 1cm (⅓”) thick slices. These will be much prettier if you cut them on a diagonal, instead of straight.
Put the bread slices onto the baking sheet, shake them around slightly, and then turn them over so that both sides are lightly coated with the oil/garlic.
Bake the croutons in the oven for about 20 minutes, until they are crunchy and crispy.
Make the soup
Very thinly slice the onions, and crush the garlic.
Melt the oil and butter together in a thick bottomed pan.
When the oil/butter mix is very hot, add the onions, garlic and sugar all together.
Cook for about 6 minutes, turning them over occasionally, until the edges of the onions have turned dark.
Turn the heat down as low as it will go, and then leave the onions to cook slowly for about half an hour. When they are done, the bottom of the pan should be covered in a caramelised film which will be a nutty brown colour.
Pour in the chicken stock, wine, vodka and Pernod, season with salt and black pepper and use a wooden spoon or spatula to scrape the caramelised onion from the bottom of the pan.
Turn the heat up stir occasionally while you bring the soup up to simmering point.
Turn the heat back down as low as you can get it and leave the soup to cook really gently, uncovered, for about an hour.
Assemble and serve
10 minutes before the soup has finished cooking, pop the bowls or tureen that you are going to serve it in, into the oven on a very low heat to warm up.
While the bowls are heating, grate the cheese.
Take the bowls out of the oven, and turn the grill onto the highest heat
Check and adjust the seasoning, and transfer the soup to your pre-warmed bowls or tureen.
Float the croutons on top of the soup (as few or as many as you like), and sprinkle the cheese thickly over the croutons.
Put the soup under the grill until the cheese turns golden brown and is bubbling.
I know that people say you shouldn’t have wine with soup, but in my opinion this tastes great served with the half a bottle of wine that you have left over from making it.