‘Soupe à l’oignon’ and the Hotel Continental

My Orthodontists’ office, was in downtown Saigon (know as Ho Chi Minh City today) and  was close by the Hotel Continental. Once a month my mother would take me to my dentist appointment, a somewhat trying and potentially painful event. As an incentive and a lure what she invariably promised me was a trip to the Cafe at the Hotel Continental.The cafe was on the second story and had an outdoor seating area. There really was no better seat to people watch on a warm afternoon; an endless stream of fascinating people and events would pass before your eyes. We would order a  Vietnamese coffee or iced tea and a bowl of French Onion soup. The ‘Soupe à l’oignon’ came in a  white crockery bowl with handles on either side. The Gruyère cheese bubbling and golden brown atop the crunchy and perfectly crisp croutons. Underneath would be a dark delicious brown broth with a veritable jungle on carmelized onions in wait on the bottom of the bowl. Soothing comfort food eased the pain  of the dentist chair and sitting with my elegant mother passing time one on one was an event I looked forward to regardless of the trials and tribulations associated with a trip to the dentist.

The Vietnamese chefs well versed in their own indigenous cuisine generally had an expert and delicate touch when it came to translates French cuisine . I know these chefs without a doubt were familiar with the recipes of Julia Childs. As an adult the closest I have ever come to replicating this childhood favorite was Ms. Childs’ recipe. As my grandfather used to say if it is not broken no need to fix it. Here is Ms Childs recipe unadapted and a link to another shorter versionof the soup that can serve in a pinch. It may still be a bit warm for this recipe, so you may want to wait a month or two before enjoying. Also it looks like a lot of steps in this recipe but it is a fairly easy to follow and the results are worth the effort.

Bon Appetit!

Julia Child‘s ‘Soupe à l’oignon’

5 -6 cups yellow onions, thinly sliced (about 1 1/2 to 2 lbs)

Onions on a neutral, mostly white backgroundOnions on a neutral, mostly white background (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1 tablespoon cooking oil

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 teaspoon sugar 1 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons flour

6 cups beef stock (preferably homemade)

1 cup wine (dry red or white)

1 bay leaf

A leaf of the Bay Laurel Laurus nobilis.A leaf of the Bay Laurel Laurus nobilis. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1/2 teaspoon ground sage salt and pepper

12 ounces swiss cheese, grated

4 ounces parmesan cheese, grated

1/2 raw yellow onion

2 -3 tablespoons cognac

8 slices French bread (about 1 inch thick)

4 tablespoons olive oil, for drizzling


1 Place heavy bottom stock pot over medium-low heat.

2 Add 1 Tbs cooking oil

2 Tbs butter to pot.

3 Add sliced onions and stir until they are evenly coated with the oil.

4 Cover and cook for about 20 minutes until they are very tender and translucent.

5 To brown or caramelize the onions turn heat under pot to medium or medium high heat.

6 Add 1/2 tsp sugar and 1 tsp salt and continue to cook uncovered, stirring frequently until the onions have browned and reduced .

7 Once caramelized, reduce heat to medium-low and add 3 Tbs flour to the onions.

8 Brown the flour for about 2-3 minutes trying not to scorch it. (If the flour does not form a thick paste, you can add a bit more butter here).

9 Stir in about 1 cup of warm stock, scraping the bottom of the pan to get up all the cooked-on bits.

10 Add the rest of the stock, wine, sage, and bay leaf to the soup.

11 Simmer for 30 minutes.

12 To make the “croutes” (toasted bread), heat oven to 325 degrees F.

13 Drizzle each side of the bread slices with a bit of olive oil and place on baking sheet.

14 Cook the croutes for 15 minutes in oven on each side (30 minutes total).

15 Check the soup for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed.

16 Remove the bay leaf (if you can find it).

17 Transfer to a casserole dish.

18 At this point you can add the 2-3 Tbs cognac and grate the 1/2 raw onion into the soup.

19 Add a few ounces of the swiss cheese directly into the soup and stir.

20 Place the toasted bread in a single layer on top of the soup.

21 Sprinkle the rest of the cheese in a thick layer on top of the bread making sure to cover the edges of the toast to prevent burning.

22 Drizzle with a little oil or melted butter.

23 Place in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes.

24 Turn on broiler and brown cheese well. 25 Let cool for a few minutes.

Bon Appetit!

Read more at: http://www.food.com/recipe/authentic-french-onion-soup-courtesy-of-julia-child-356428?oc=linkback

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