Looking for a classic French onion soup recipe? This comes from Canadian food icons Rose Murray and Elizabeth Baird. There are fewer better comfort foods when it’s chilly outside than a warm baked French onion soup, topped with gooey, crackly cheese and toast. Fortunately, it’s a simple dish to make – and inexpensive, too – a perfect choice for your holiday table.
Growing up, one of my culinary heroes was Elizabeth Baird, who was at the time food editor of Canadian Living magazine. She was the home cook I wanted to be – coming up with wonderful meals and baked goods made with everyday ingredients. I was also a fan of Rose Murray; the same generation as Elizabeth, she reminded me of an aunt who loved to cook – and I thought of her as a sort of Canadian Julia Child. The two are long-time friends, and as two of the original Canadian food writers they’ve teamed up to create an all-new cookbook filled with some of the most quintessential and delicious recipes that define Canadian cuisine.
Rose and Elizabeth, along with chefs from across Canada, have contributed over 125 recipes, many of the recipes complemented by personal anecdotes and recollections from the contributors about how the recipe came to be, the origins of the ingredients or the importance of the dish in their family traditions, culinary heritage or home regions. It’s a great collection of Canadian cuisine, including recipes such as Salt Cod and Potato Fritters with Spicy Lemon Mayonnaise, Quebec Tourtière, Braised Lamb Stew with Rosemary Dumplings, Double-Crust Blueberry Pie, Nova Scotia Oatcakes and Maple Walnut Fudge.
And of course, the ultimate French onion soup. You could, of course, substitute your favorite cheese – aged Gouda, Gruyère, and old white cheddar are my go-to cheeses.
French Onion Soup
Instead of the usual Gruyère, we’ve added a taste of Canadian smoked Cheddar cheese to a simple French classic we’ve been making for years. The toast should just fit inside the soup bowl. If using a skinny baguette, allow two slices per bowl. Reprinted with permission from Canada’s Favourite Recipes, by (Whitecap).
2 large Spanish onions
2 tbsp (30 mL) unsalted butter
1 tsp (5 mL) granulated sugar
4 cups (1 L) beef broth
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp (2 mL) dried thyme
1/4 tsp (1 mL) freshly ground black pepper
4 slices French bread
1 1/4 cups (300 mL) shredded smoked Cheddar cheese (about 4 oz/125 g)
Cut the onions in half lengthwise; thinly slice crosswise (you should have about 8 cups/2 L). In a large heavy saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and sugar; cook, stirring often, until very soft and coloured, about 30 minutes.
Pour in 1/2 cup (125 mL) of the broth and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan, until the broth has evaporated. Repeat with another 1/2 cup (125 mL) of the broth. Stir in the remaining broth, the garlic, thyme, pepper and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer gently for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. (Make-ahead: Cool, cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Gently reheat.)
Toast the bread slices until golden. Place four ovenproof soup bowls on a baking sheet; ladle the soup into them. Sprinkle half the cheese over the soup and place a piece of toast in each bowl. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Broil until the cheese melts and is golden, about 3 minutes. Makes 4 servings.