From the repertoire of a perfect bride: the onion soup

There were six girls dressed in their best clothes, flared skirts, high heels, nice scarves to protect their neat hair set, white blouses and pretty jumpers, red lipstick and even movie star sunglasses. They came home to a beautiful sunny morning in November. One of them, Virginia, was getting married and Francesca, a mutual friend, decided to organize a hen party out of the ordinary for her… a cooking class.

To make the class even more unique we travelled back to the roaring 50s. I was the next Julia Child with a string of (fake) pearls, a long chocolate brown skirt form my graduation ceremony and an embroidered blouse I only wear for special occasions. Well dressed, with my best polka dots apron, I would teach her the dish that you just cannot miss in the repertoire of a modern perfect bride.

And what was it, you might ask… a golden brown roasted chicken with crispy skin? fresh pasta to welcome home your loving husband after a hard day of work? A cheese soufflé from the French school? none of these. The groom had a special request, the onion soup.

Yep, I made the same blank expression. The onion… what? really?  for a hen party? Though the groom had expressed this wish in many an occasion, and we could not let him down right now. The onion soup would represent the taste of home in their newlywed family tradition, it would be the symbol of their union, of something done with love. It could be worse, he could have asked for stewed snails!

Though there was a problem, I had never made an onion soup before… So I browsed through all my cookbooks – and they are many – in search of a soup that could be traditional and in the same time tasty, a classic winter comfort food. Eventually I found it. I tried it, then I made it again and again, and every time I was amazed by how a dish so humble, nothing more than a cutting board full of onions and many tears, could be at the same time so full of flavours and different shades.

I decided to follow Jamie Oliver’s recipe for the English onion soup with sage and cheddar, a classic one very similar to the Italian and the French version, though I made it more mine, using a very good extra virgin Italian olive oil (my olive oil), Italian golden and red onions and especially an aged Tuscan pecorino cheese. This soup requires a long cooking time, but let me tell you this: each and every single minute you’ll spend listening to the pot simmering on the stove is worth of you patience. It takes time to have soft and sweet onions and a thick soup.

The best way to serve the onion soup is into individual heatproof serving bowls (enamel, cast iron or earthenware): place a slice of bread over each bowl to fit like a lid, then put them in the oven. If you do not have serving bowls suitable for the oven don’t worry, go ahead and make your soup: you can ladle it into simple bowls, the ones you would use every day, and toast the bread on its own in the oven, already sprinkled with grated pecorino cheese, sage and drizzled with olive oil.

Onion soup
Author: 
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: Italian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
You'll need
  • 4 medium-sized red onions
  • 4 medium-sized golden onions
  • 1 leek
  • 4 shallots
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 50 g of butter
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • A few leaves of sage
  • 600 ml of hot good-quality beef, chicken or vegetable broth or or hot salted water
  • Black pepper
  • 4 slices of bread
  • Tuscan pecorino cheese
How to make it
  1. Peel the onions and slice thinly, do the same with the shallot, then set it aside. Remove the outer leaves of the leek and slice thinly. Crush the garlic with the blade of a knife.
  2. Pour a glug of olive oil in a large thick bottomed pot, then add the butter. Add the crushed garlic, the thinly sliced shallots and a few leaves of sage, then let it cook on low heat for a few minutes, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon.
  3. Add the onions and the leeks, stir again with the wooden spoon and add a pinch of salt.
  4. Cook slowly on low heat for about 45 minutes.
  5. When the onions are soft and silky add the broth and cook over low heat for about half an hour or until the soup is thick enough for you.
  6. Preheat the oven or grill to maximum. Toast the bread on both sides, then ladle the soup into individual serving bowls and place the bread over each bowl. Sprinkle the bread with plenty of grated pecorino cheese, add a sage leaf and finish with a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil and some freshly ground black pepper.
  7. But the bowl in the oven under the grill until the cheese is melting and golden, then carefully remove from the oven and serve immediately.

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A few other ideas to make the perfect onion soup:

… and now it is your turn
Which is, in your opinion, the dish that can not be missed in the repertoire of perfect modern bride?
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Comments

    • says

      A very original one indeed. Just imagine, when my best friend got married I organized another special hen party: go cart racing and laser games! it was really fun!

  1. Karen says

    What a great idea for a hen party! This soup is pure comfort, a great recipe to come back to again and again in married life.

  2. says

    Hen party: I haven’t heard that in a long time! Made me smile…
    Great choice to make onion soup, not intimidating for the beginner, and very sophisticated for an experienced cook. I haven’t made one in a long time, I guess I’ll be learning all over again. Thanks for the recipe! :)

    • says

      You are right, it’s the perfect dish to make you at ease – no chance to get it wrong – or to surprise your guests with a comforting and sophisticated dish. Wow factor guaranteed! xx

  3. says

    I think the one unmissable dish will necessarily be different for every bride – this might be a bit sneaky but I reckon that if you can nail a dish from your future husband’s childhood then you earn yourself a lot of brownie points! Especially if it’s something that his mum used to cook… I know that when I perfected torta di pane the way my Piemontese husband remembered it, I could do no wrong!

    • says

      Zoë you are absolutely right, you should be able to become a spy and investigate in memories and family matters to find THE dish, the one that will make him yours forever! And this time it was easy, the groom confessed his love for the onion soup!!
      Such a good idea the torta di pane!

    • says

      I’ll confess you another secret: I love keeping one slice of bread also under the soup, so that it can get completely soaked with it, so good!! x

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