Forget New Year’s resolutions – for me, the start of a new year means it time for French onion soup. What started out as a hangover cure many years ago has now become something of a tradition.
If I’m somewhere I can cook, I like to start the year with a steaming bowl of soupe à l’oignon gratinée. 2018 was no exception.
The sweet, caramelised onions, the beefy broth and – of course – the slices of baguette on top, smothered in melted cheese, are just what’s needed on a cold day.
The dish started life in the heart of Paris. Stall holders at the wholesale meat and produce market Les Halles would order it of a morning at many of the restaurants in the district.
The soup has gone on to become a classic of French cuisine, known way beyond the confines of Paris and its market traders.
In his book The French Kitchen, Michel Roux offers a Lyonnaise take on the soup. In addition to the ingredients you might ordinarily expect, his version includes egg yolks, port and crème fraîche.
James Martin, meanwhile, uses thyme, sherry and garlic in his French Adventure recipe, which he says he borrowed from the famous Fouquet’s brasserie on the Champs-Élysées.
And one of my French-language cookbooks, Délices De Nos Régions, uses chicken stock, rather than the more usual beef stock.
“Stall holders at the wholesale meat and produce market Les Halles would order it of a morning at many of the restaurants in the district”
It seems there are almost as many recipes for the dish as there are variations of its name. I know it as soupe à l’oignon gratinée, but you also see it described as gratinée aux oignons or à l’oignon and soupe gratinée aux oignons or à l’oignon.
It almost doesn’t matter what order you put the words in.
Come each January, you can keep your resolutions about exercising, losing weight or learning a language. For me, it’s soupe à l’oignon gratinée every time.