Decadent French Onion Soup

This is one of the recipes I translated in my cookbook, Travels with my Tummy. It is, I think, the perfect example of the French love for culinary spontaneity based on friends enjoying a merry time together (especially late at night).

Legend has it this recipe was the result of a wild night of Parisian partying by a number of the members of the Academie des Gastronomes. If you thought onion soup was good before, this will blow your socks off. At the very least, a few spoons-full of this tantalizing broth might well have you envisioning Notre Dame cathedral and the river Seine. One of the Academy members, on tasting the dish, was said to remark:

This onion soup carries with it, between the hours of 3 and 4 in the morning, a swooning sensation and a sense of comfort which will only serve to increase and magnify your optimism.

French onion soup

INGREDIENTS – makes 10 bowls

4-5 medium onions

5 tbsp butter

1 L water

sea salt, fresh ground pepper

pinch of cayenne pepper

pinch of cinnamon

1 bay leaf

1 bottle dry sparkling wine (the original recipe called for “Champagne”; you can substitute dry white wine if necessary)

500 g Camembert, ripened (ie. soft, flavourful)

6 egg yolks

1/2 L port

1/2 cup brandy (the original listing was for armagnac)

10 slices baguette

25-30 freshly shelled walnuts, toasted


Slice the onions into rings and fry in a stock pot over medium heat with the butter and salt & pepper. Stir and cook till translucent. Add the remaining herbs and spices and all the liquids. Stir well and let simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, toast the baguette slices lightly in a toaster or 300F oven. Toast walnuts, and chop into small-ish pieces. Slice the cheese into 10 pieces. Set ovenproof bowls on baking sheets for easy transfer to the oven.

Beat egg yolks in a small bowl. Stir in a small amount of the soup broth while stirring constantly. Pour this mixture back into the stock pot, stirring well. Keep stirring until broth thickens, then remove pot from heat.

Place one slice of baguette in each bowl. Pour enough broth in each bowl to reach 2/3 full. Place one piece of cheese in each bowl and sprinkle each with walnut pieces.

Place bowls under broiler of oven until cheese bubbles (watch closely – this could be anywhere from a few to 10 minutes depending on your oven).

Serve immediately, with a respectable wine and more baguette.


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