I tend to get over-excited when a classic dish gets me to reconsider its virtues. Just when I had forgotten the French onion soup, I am reintroducing it into my culinary repertoire this year.
Last night my dear and wonderful friend Andrea Stewart, an elegant chef who takes culinary complexity and makes it simple to make and love. She gets as excited over the discovery of a new butter from Italy, as she does over a trip to Asia.
Her French onion soup which is inspired by different sources, and yet pieced together to create a symphony of harmonious flavours that are memorable.
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1kg white onions (a mix of white and shallots, but mostly white)
1 tsp granulated sugar
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 teaspoons all purpose flour
3/4 cup brandy or cognac
8 cups chicken stock
1-2 tsp balsamic vinegar
Topping mixture of emmenthal, comte and/or gruyere
Melt the butter in a large pot on medium heat and add the onions and sugar. Cooking until softened and translucent - stirring occasionally then add the garlic and season with salt and pepper.
Continue to cook, stirring occasionally - the onions will develop a lovely deep brown colour. Don't worry about any bits sticking to the bottom as these will come up when you add the brandy to deglaze. They add lots of flavour. Don't rush this cooking - it will take a good hour or so.
Sprinkle the flour in and stir constantly for around a minute. Add the brandy and use the liquid to deglaze and get all the bits from the bottom.
Add the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for approximately 45 minutes. Season with the vinegar and salt and pepper if necessary.
To serve, place in a soup bowl and add two slices of bread in each bowl, then sprinkle with cheese and place under a broiler until the cheese is lightly