Gratin Lyonnais

In making Soupe a l’oignon Gratinée, or French Onion Soup, there are two basic schools of thought:  1)  the Paris school, which developed around the wholesale market at Les Halles, and which always features beef broth  2)  the Lyon school, which demands a soup made with chicken stock, maybe because of the proximity to Lyon of Bresse and its famous  rouge-blanc-bleu chickens. I prefer the Lyonnais style, because the use of lighter flavored chicken stock allows the taste of the onions to be featured.

At Le Pichet and Cafe Presse, we add “duck jello” to our onions soup.  Duck jello is the term we use to refer to the gelatin rich duck juices that are left in the bottom of the pot when slow cooking duck legs for confit.   Clearly this is an ingredient that is not in every larder.  This sort of addition is typical of the French bistro kitchen, where nothing tasty is ever allowed to go to waste.

For  8 Servings:

 

Ingredients

4 cloves garlic, germ removed
2 1/2 pounds yellow onions
1 sprig thyme
1 bay leaf
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1 1/2 cup Sherry
3/4 cup dry white wine
2 quarts chicken stock
Salt and black pepper
2 cups grated Gruyere cheese
8 slices rustic country bread, preferably day old

Preparation

  1. Peel the onions and slice thinly. Slice the garlic thinly. Wash, dry and stem the thyme. Chop it finely.
  2. Bake the slices of country bread on a sheet pan in a very low oven until dry and crispy.
  3. In a large soup pot set over medium heat, sweat the onions and garlic with the butter , stirring often ,until richly colored. Add the sherry, increase the heat and cook until the sherry is almost completely reduced. Add the white wine and reduce by half. Add the thyme, bay, and chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Simmer to combine the flavors, about 20 minutes.
  4. Carefully skim the soup to remove any fat. Correct the seasoning with salt and pepper.
  5. Ladle the soup into individual bowls. Top first with the crouton then with a nice layer of Gruyere cheese. Heat under the broiler until crusty and golden. Serve immediately.
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