This weekend is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 120th birthday so naturally we had to share a recipe from our new book F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Taste of France by Carol Hilker. It’s also a favourite time of year, when it’s still sunny but it’s starting to get cooler, the leaves are crispy and conkers have started to fall. We start thinking about comfort food, and this recipe, inspired by Fitzgerald’s Parisian haunts is like a hug in a mug!
French Onion Soup
La Rotonde, Harry’s, Le Dôme, Café de Flore, and other traditional French bistros were regular haunts of Fitzgerald, T. S. Eliot, and Picasso—especially Fitzgerald. Perfect for gray Paris days, onion soup was as much a café favorite back in the 1920s as it is today. Add a Salade Lyonnaise for a perfect bistro duo.
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 lb/1.3 kg Vidalia (or sweet) onions (about 6 medium), peeled, halved lengthwise, and thinly sliced (with a mandolin or by hand)
1 teaspoon fleur de sel or coarse sea salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon brown sugar
10 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1½ cups/350 ml dry white wine
6 cups/1.4 liters beef broth
1 garlic clove, cut in half lengthwise
2 teaspoons sherry (optional)
½ cup/50 g Gruyère cheese, grated
½ cup/50 g Swiss cheese, grated
Special equipment: 4 ramekins and cheesecloth/kitchen twine
Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a large pot over medium heat.
Add the oil and onions and cook until the onions have softened, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Add the salt, pepper, and brown sugar; continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are deep golden brown and caramelized, reducing the heat slightly if they start to brown too quickly, 35–45 minutes.
Add the wine to deglaze the pan and raise the heat to high. Cook until almost all the liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes.
Tie the thyme and bay leaves into a bundle with twine or enclose in a cheesecloth/muslin bundle. Add to the onions.
Pour in the beef broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook, uncovered, until the broth is thickened and flavorful, 25–30 minutes. Remove from the heat, discard the herbs, and whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
Preheat the broiler/grill.
Cut two ½-in/1-cm baguette slices for every serving of soup. Place the baguette slices on a baking sheet or cookie sheet and toast until crisp and dry but not browned, about 1 minute each side. Rub one side of each toast with the garlic clove and set aside.
Place the ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet, add ½ teaspoon of sherry to the bottom of each, then ladle the soup on top. Top each serving of soup with two garlic-rubbed toasts. Divide the cheese among the servings, covering the bread and some of the soup. Carefully transfer the baking sheet to the broiler/grill until the cheese is melted and bubbling, about 5 minutes. Serve straight away.
F. Scott Fitzgerald's Taste of France by Carol Hilker is available here.