Soupe à l’Oignon (from Ripailles, Reynaud 2008)
We are all middle class.
According to the Oracle of All Knowledge, A.K.A. Wikipedia, onion soup has long been considered “food for poor people” due to the plentiful bounty of onions. Good luck finding plentiful bounty in London. 24 hours and 4 supermarkets was what it took me to find any standard onions. All that was available to me was the standard onion’s posh, Oxbridge-educated cousin, the red onion. When I approached the supermarket employees asking for “normal onions, you know, the white or brown ones”, they looked at me as though I had suggested that I was one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, presumably making a pit-stop for dishwasher tabs and a pack of Trebor before bringing annihilation to all mankind. Slowly, shaking, they each pointed to the red onions. What is this red onion conspiracy? When did they go from the middle class onion of choice as a trivial way of distinguishing oneself from the hoi-polloi, to onion de rigueur? They have their place, sure, but that place is not in french onion soup.
French onion soup is tragically overlooked. It’s delicious and comforting but you don’t order it in a restaurant because you’re not treating yourself ordering “food for poor people” you could make at home, and you don’t make it at home because why make the effort when you can buy a pot and save yourself an hour of work? I throw my hands up, I am guilty. Until now.
Chopping SIX onions may appear to be going above and beyond the call of duty, but in the case of Woman vs Onions, Woman had a sharp knife, an extractor fan and all of the flappy hands uniquely utilised to pointlessly fan phantom onion fumes away whilst simultaneously attempting to hold back stinging tears at her disposal. Woman won.
Six caramelised onions and a couple of large glasses of wine later (one for the pot, one for me), I must make my confession: I strayed from the French recipe. Why add boring old water when you can add deliciously deep beef stock? And then, during cooking, I did something that would probably have the French choking on their croissants; I added a teaspoonful of Marmite. Oh la la.
Mesdames et messieurs, I absolutely believe the Marmite made the difference, and for this tip I have to give grateful credit to Helen Burness; work colleague and food anticonventionalist. The soup was rich, deep, and practically as addictive as crack. The toasted baguette with melted gruyère soaked it up until the bread itself melted in the mouth in a gooey, meaty, oniony explosion of oooooh.
Now here we are the next morning and I am at work, and I have to admit I am struggling to concentrate on anything other than the pot on the stove at home containing my next fix. Ooooooh.