Don't groan, please. I know French Onion Soup enjoys the same reputation as Spaghetti Bolognese, Sweet and Sour Pork and Lemon Chicken in that they were the first dishes that we were probably introduced to of the cuisine in question. And because of that, and because it seems so passe, people groan and say "Oh no, not _that _again". I know I did when I, in an admittedly brattish moment, groaned when I was served French Onion Soup at Iron Chef Sakai's La Rochelle restaurant.
Herbs de Provence: a mixture of crushed bay leaves, basil, nutmeg, rosemary, thyme, cloves, white pepper, coriander and lavender
But the culinary albatross that it bears does not pay heed to how delicious, in a non revelatory way, French Onion Soup really is. It's comforting and thick but not too-heavy and it's flavoured with sweet delicious brown onions. The piece de resistance of course is the Blue Brie croutons. Never has a French Onion Soup had it so good. And if you can't find Blue Brie, feel free to use another Blue cheese that you like or the more traditional offering of Gruyere cheese.
I know that fine bone china isn't the usual setting to have French Onion Soup but I was serving it as a light meal to an elegant friend of mine who wholly appreciated being served soup from my best Jasper Conran. And to her credit, there wasn't even a flicker of a groan when I told her what it was.
French Onion Soup with Blue Brie croutons
An original recipe by Not Quite Nigella
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons oil
5 large brown onions sliced into rings
2 garlic cloves,finely chopped
2 tablespoons plain flour
6 cups beef stock(I use OXO stock cubes)
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 teaspoon Herbs de Provence or a Bouquet Garni
2 teaspoons brown sugar (optional)
1 teaspoon Vegemite or Promite (optional)
30cm baguette (French stick), cut crossways into 10 slices
60g Blue Brie (I used King Island)
Step 1 - Heat the butter and oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic, and cook, stirring, for 10 minutes or until the onions are soft and translicent and started to turn gold. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute -be careful as it can burn. Add the stock, wine and herbs de provence or Bouquet Garni. Bring to the boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes or until soup thickens slightly. Remove bouquet garni if using. Season with salt and pepper and taste, if it lacks balance and flavour add the brown sugar and Vegemite. I find it depends on the quality of the stock or stock powder.
Step 2 - Grill baguette slices until golden and turn over and grill other side. Butter on one side and add thinly sliced blue brie until it starts to melt. Place 1 or 2 pieces on top of soup and serve immediately.