Wood-Fired French Onion Soup
Soupe à l’oignon is a traditional French dish with a history that dates to the Roman Empire, and has surprisingly maintained its form very well over the course of several centuries. It’s a hearty dish that makes the perfect complement to backyard festivities and all kinds of cookout food, including the pizza we’re all fond of here. The best part? It can be cooked in your pizza oven! Read on for a little history about the dish and a super easy recipe to add it to your backyard BBQ menu.
Une recette intemporelle (a timeless recipe)
Competing theories exist as to the contemporary incarnation of the soup, which are summarized by the Culture Trip as being the result of either of two myths:
The first suggests that the soup was created when Louis XV, after a long hunting trip in the wilderness with members of his court, went back to his cabin in the woods to fix himself dinner. There, the story alleges he and his great-aunt only found onions, butter, and champagne inside the cupboards. Apparently motivated by appetite, they threw the ingredients into a pot and gave them a boil and stir, only to be surprised by the resulting soup’s delicious flavor.
Another hypothesis for the soup’s origin also comes as a result of Louis XV. In this version, the soup was created when the visiting Duke of Lorraine, father of Louis’ wife Queen Marie, stopped at the Pomme d’Or hotel where famed chef and the inventor of modern canning Nicolas Appert worked. Appert allegedly fixed the soup and served it to the Duke, who was so moved by its taste that he learned the recipe from watching Appert and then shared it with the French court, where it quickly became a favorite among royalty both for its savory taste, and on account of its ability to mask the smell of a night of drinking, becoming a historical example of hangover food.
What makes it so good?
The secret to good French onion soup is that caramelized onions melding with the tang of spices, wine, and the friendly beef broth it's cooked with. Served atop a baguette, the soup targets almost all of the senses of texture in the mouth, being both chewy, crispy, fatty, and fluid. Try serving it with barbeque dishes, cajun food, or of course, pizza!
If you’re ready to give this French classic a try, here’s a video from Chicago Brick Oven president Carmen Parisi, showing how he cooks onion soup in his oven:
- 1 stick butter
- 4 sliced white onions
- 2 tbsp chopped garlic
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 1 c red wine
- 3 tbsp flour
- 2 qts beef broth
- 1 Baguette – sliced
- 1/4 lb Gruyere cheese
- 1/4 lb Swiss cheese
- Salt and pepper
1. Heat your outdoor pizza oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. While your brick oven heats, melt the butter. We like to melt it in a safe dish in the oven just to be authentic!
3. Add onions, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, salt and pepper and cook on low heat until onions are caramelized and a nice shade of brown. This step should take about twenty minutes.
4. Add the wine and bring to a boil, then reduce wine at a simmer until it has evaporated. For better consistency of your soup, discard the bay leaves and thyme sprigs.
5. Add flour to the onions and stir until there are no lumps. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
6. Add broth and allow to simmer for 10 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
7. Cook your baguette slices near the mouth of your outdoor oven for three minutes, or until you’ve achieved desired crispiness.
8. Pour your soup into four bowls. Please ensure the bowls are rated for use in a brick oven!
9. Pile baguette slices and cheese on top of the soup, and place at the front of the oven. When the cheese is melted, your French onion soup is ready!
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Still looking for a wood-fired pizza oven for your own backyard? Check out the Chicago Brick Oven CBO-500 Countertop Pizza Oven which is perfect for baking the French Onion Soup right in your backyard!