Gratinee is the classic way to serve a great French onion soup. Depending on which culinary reference book that you refer to, The word gratinee can be defined as French onion soup with a crouton and melted cheese topping. Some define gratinee as a style of gratin that starts with the featured ingredient being hot. Some define gratin as being a recipe that required the main ingredient to be at room temperature before baking. As most cooks know, sometimes culinarians spend too much time making definition.
I have seen several versions of onion soup gratinee in restaurants over the years. Some recipe use a roasted whole peeled onion, and some recipes require julienne sliced onion. I like the original version that was cooked in Paris bistros the best. Originally, gratinee was made with chopped onion or diced onion. The first time that I dined at a Michelin star rated French restaurant as a kid, the French onion soup was made with diced onion. Back in those days, chefs were very strict about respecting original recipes. Old editions of Larouse Gastronomique also state that diced onion is the original style of onion for gratinee.
If you have been a regular reader of my recipe blog, then you have seen that I cook authentic traditional food with a nice clean cafe or bistro style presentation. I cook traditional classic cuisine with no extra personalized ingredients. My own inventive recipes that I have posted in my blog do get a bit wild in style, but I do respect tradition and accuracy. My classic onion soup gratinee recipe never changes!
The original gratinee was prepared late night at a bistro in Paris. Stocks cook overnight in most restaurants, so freshly strained stock was used. More than likely, a combination of chicken and beef stock was used, according to many food historians. The stock was flavored with savory herbs. Wine became an optional ingredient in later years, but wine was not part of the original recipe. The onions were diced and lightly caramelized. The crouton was plain dry stale French bread. The cheese was gruyere or a lightly aged local cheese. After the first few gratinee were served, it did not take long for the word to get around and gratinee became more than a late night bar offering.
French Onion Soup:
This recipe makes 1 serving of soup!
Heat a sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
Add 2 pats of unsalted butter.
Add 1 teaspoon of olive oil.
Add 1 clove of chopped garlic.
Add 1 1/2 cups of diced onion.
Saute and stir the onions often, so they evenly caramelize to a very light brown color.
When the onions become lightly browned, add 1 3/4 cups of rich chicken stock.
Add 1 3/4 cups of beef stock.
Add 1 small bay leaf.
Add sea salt and black pepper.
Add 1 pinch of oregano.
Add 1 pinch of marjoram.
Add 1 pinch of thyme.
Add 3 drops of worcestershire sauce.
Raise the temperature to medium high heat.
Bring the soup to a boil.
Reduce the temperature to low heat.
Simmer and reduce the soup, till the onion flavor develops in the broth and till the soup reduces to about 2 1/2 cups in volume.
Remove the bay leaf.
There should be a high proportion of cooked onion to the amount of broth when the soup finishes.
French Onion Soup Gratinee:
Place a 2 1/2 cup soup crock on a baking pan.
Ladle the soup into the crock, till it is almost full.
Place a thick, stale, dry, hard piece of French Bread on top of the soup as a crouton.
Note: There is no need to season and bake the crouton first. You want to taste the soup and cheese and not taste an over seasoned greasy crouton. I have seen too many onion soups ruined by a greasy over seasoned crouton. Besides, the original gratinee was made with a plain dry stale bread!
Place a few slices of gruyere cheese or swiss emmentaler on top of the crouton.
Place the pan with the soup crock under a broiler or salamander that is set yo a low temperature.
Allow the cheese to melt and lightly brown.
Place the gratinee on a serving dish.
Garnish the plate with a parsley sprig.
Gratinee is a great soup for a chilly day and it also can be served in temperate weather. The lightly caramelized onions turn sweet in the soup broth.
Gruyere cheese is considered to be the classic cheese for gratinee, but bleu cheese, swiss emantaler, lorraine swiss, P'tit basque or any of your favorite French melting cheeses can be used for gratinee.
Gratinee is a nice "feel good" French soup! Yum! ... Shawna