Lyonnaise Style Onion Soup- One wine two ways (part 1)

This is the first of two posts using one ingredient {wine} two different ways.  I wish I could say that with much forethought this idea came to me.  But in reality, I didn't want this bottle of wine to go to waste.  Today the wine will be used in a  savory onion soup.  Although the soup recipe is from France, the wine I have stashed in my basement is from Italy.  Don't worry, the two cultures blended well in my soup pot{wink, wink}.

I saw a rerun of the TV episode of Essential Pepin on PBS in which Jacques made this rich and cheesy onion soup.  I quickly recalled that I've been wanting to make this onion soup for quite some time, but for some reason never did.  No better time than now, on a cold winter's day.  Pepin's Onion Soup is from the Lyon region in France, he mentioned that this soup is thicker than the typical onion soup, I'm guessing that's because of the many layers of bread and cheese, along with addition of eggs and wine.  A funny side note, he also told a quirky story of how he made this soup around 2:00- 3:00 am after a late night of dancing with friends.  

Onion soup dates back to the Roman times (500 BC).  Typically onion soup was peasant food, since onions were plentiful and inexpensive.  Wikipedia notes that the modern version of onion soup (beef broth, caramelized onions, bread, and Gruyere cheese) originated in France around the 18th century.  This updated version has  complex and rich flavors.  One bowl of this rustic, hearty onion soup will fill the hungriest belly.

I made a few notes during and after cooking this soup, I hope they are of  value when making Lyonnaise Onion Soup.

  1. Jacques' recipe did not mention what size of tureen or dutch oven he used.  I have 5.5 Qt dutch oven, which seemed too large for the amount of liquid; next time I would double the broth amount for this size of pot.  When making this, the 6 cups of broth quickly absorbed into the bread, leaving little liquid in the tureen.
  2. Jacques' recipe calls for a food mill, but didn't state what type of bottom plate he recommends.  I used one with larger holes, just because I like the texture of onions in my onion soup.  I'm not sure if this is the correct protocol for Lyonnaise Onion Soup, but I went with it.  
  3. I didn't have port wine at home, so I used an Italian Squinzano Riserva 2005.  This wine, from the boot heel of Italy, has been characterized as dry, robust, velvety wine with a hint of dark berries.  Besides being a red wine, I know this wine is not close to a sweet port wine, but I {being thrifty} wanted to use what I had on hand.  
  4. Finally, the last tweak, is that I cut back on the cheese.  It called for 2 cups of Gruyere, which seemed excessive even for a cheese lover {frenchtrilophile} like me. 

You'll be ready to tackle cold weather with this warm soup!  Enjoy!


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Ingredients for Lyonnaise Onion Soup with Red Wine

serves 6-8, 1 cup servings; refer to Essential Pepin for original recipe

  • One french baguette- slice 1/4 inch thick (15-20 slices)
  • 2-3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 medium onions, thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
  • 6 cups homemade chicken stock (* I used homemade veggie stock)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups grated Gruyère or Emmenthaler cheese (* I used 1 cup of Gruyère)
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • ½ cup sweet port (* I used Squinzano Riserva 2005)

Directions for Lyonnaise Onion Soup with Red Wine

  1. Preheat oven = 400 F
  2. Arrange slices of bread on a cookie sheet (optional- brush with olive oil) and bake 8 to 10 minutes until crisp and golden brown.  Remove and set aside.
  3. In large saucepan, melt butter and add onions. Saute until caramelized.
  4. Add stock to saucepan.  Add salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil, cook for 20 minutes.
  5. Push the soup through a food mill.  Set the soup aside.
  6. In a soup tureen (medium size, perhaps 3Qt vs the 5 Qt I had used) arrange the toasted bread slices in the bottom, sprinkle with cheese, add another layer of bread and cheese.  Fill the tureen with the soup.  Sprinkle remaining cheese over the top.  
  7. Place the filled soup tureen on a baking sheet.  Bake for 30 minutes until the cheese forms a crust.
  8. Prior to serving, combine egg yolks and wine in a small bowl; whisk together with a fork.  Using a ladle, make a hole in the cheese crust of the onion soup, pour the egg/wine mixture into the soup, stir in with the ladle.