While still in the Auvergne-Rhȏne-Alpes region:
Many people assume that French food is quite fiddly. And yes, there are certainly some recipes that require an enormous amount of time and attention to fine detail. But the vast majority of French cooking is actually quite simple – and very wine friendly. And hearty. And, with big flavours, like this onion soup that is enjoyed all over France, also on the Auvergne-Rhȏne-Alpes region where it is called:
Gratinée Lyonnaise or Soupe à l’oignon Lyonnaise
50 grams butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 kilogram onions, halved and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon sugar
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons plain flour
350 ml dry white wine
1¼ litre hot, strongly-flavoured beef stock
Sea-salt flakes and freshly-ground black pepper to taste – that is, if necessary
½ loaf French bread, cut into 2-cm slices
140 grams Comté, Gruyère, or Jarlsberg cheese, finely grated
Melt the butter with the oil in a Dutch oven or other large, heavy-based pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and fry with the lid on for 10 minutes until just soft. Lower the heat, sprinkle in the sugar, and cook uncovered for 20 minutes more until caramelised, rich and really tender. The onions should be golden, full of flavour, and soft when pinched between your fingers. Take care towards the end of the cooking that they do not burn. Add the garlic in the final few minutes of the onions’ cooking time, then sprinkle in the flour and stir well.
Increase the heat and keep stirring as you gradually add the wine, followed by the hot stock. Cover and simmer gently for 15 to 20 minutes. Taste to see if it needs a bit of salt and pepper as your beef stock would have been salty, which may be just enough.
To serve, turn on the grill and toast the bread on a baking sheet. Ladle the soup into heatproof bowls. Put a slice of toast on top of the bowls of soup, and pile on the cheese. Place the bowls on the baking sheet and grill until the cheese has melted. Serve immediately.
Note: If you do not have soup bowls that are ovenproof, simply sprinkle the cheese on the toast and melt under the grill on the baking tray. Place the toast with the melted cheese on top of the bowls of soup and serve straight away.
French onion soup is probably one of the most epic soups in the world. It needs a wine that is smooth and fruity, and easy-drinking, so serve it with Pinot Grigio from the Nederburg 56 Hundred range.