Sunday, January 17, 2010
Soupe a' l'Oignon chez Paris
Onion soup was on my mind when we started planning our trip to Paris many years ago. I had read much about Les Halles, the market in Paris where housewives and renowned chefs alike shopped for their food products, including fruit, vegetables, live chickens and much more. Les Halles is where "soupe a l'oignon" became famous. At the end of a night, still early morning and often before the sun came up, many shopping at the market, including the farmers themselves, would have that warming and filling dish of broth, onions, baguette and cheese.
The picture opposite is of a book I have had for several years, with Notre Dame cathedral in the background. It's a great book just for reading but also has some wonderful recipes in it.
We lived in Belgium at that time we were planning our trip, about 20 kilometers from where my husband was based with the RCAF at 1 Wing, Marville, France, about four hours from Paris. Our Belgian landlords offered to look after our two young children so that we could enjoy a Paris sojourn on our own.
We found a small hotel on rue Washington, about a block from the Champs-Elysees and the Arc de Triomphe. It couldn't have been a better place from which to sight-see the city. Our room was small, but we did have a small balcony, the typical kind you see in old movies of Paris: a door that opened to the street below, with iron bars half way up just outside it. I'd open that door and lean against the railing to watch the scene unfold below me. I'd pretend I was one of those artists who went off to Paris to live in a garret, eating only bread and soup, while writing famous books and painting masterpieces. For a moment I was part of all those books ever written!
We walked and walked and also used the subway. One night in Montparnasse we found ourselves stranded because the subway stopped at midnight, unbeknownst to us. Obviously I hadn't read everything I could about Paris! We didn't get to Les Halles, but we did find a Brasserie around 11 o'clock the next night.
The picture below is of the onion soup, topped with cheese, that I made this past week.
The picture below is my onion soup ready to be eaten at home a few days ago.
Another version I have came from Gourmet Magazine, a magazine I subscribed to from 1969/70 until they ceased printing in November 2009. I still have all of the magazines. All onion soup recipes are much the same with only a few differences. In theirs, they toasted the bread in the oven, turning it over once, until completely dry. They then said to add the bread to the soup in the bowl, topping it with Gruyere cheese and sprinkling over it all Parmigiano-Reggiano before broiling it. I decided to make the soup myself, but as I didn't happen to have any of the cheese called for, I topped mine with leftover cheese fondue from New Year's Eve that I had frozen! White wine and Kirchwasser had been in that cheese. My soup and topping were excellent.