Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Roscoff Onions (and a soup)

Last week I found some interesting looking onions at the grocery store.
A beautiful skin of pink/purple with an overlay of thin, crackly peel and a smell of mildly sweet oniony goodness.

I had to try them.

I happily noted that they were locally grown and I was further intrigued when I read the label and found that the seeds had been gathered from France to grow back here at home.

When I got home I did some googling and discovered that I was in the presence of greatness. Turns out pink French onions are the stuff of legends - or at least a well documented history.

The onions were originally grown in the town of Roscoff in the Breton region of France. The French farmers took their tasty harvest across the waters to England where they were sold door to door in braided bunches by bicycling Frenchmen who became known as Onion Johnnies.

Man I wish I was European. I totally want my onions brought to my door by a beret wearing, stripe shirt clad Frenchman.

But I'll take them as I can.
I broke into the onions and discovered a firm flesh with light onion scent and, miracle of miracles, a total lack of tears running from my poor, sensitive eyes. 

Apparently they're known for this trait - I love them even more!

So after all the onion research, appreciation and some taste testing I had to decide what to make with them.

And that only took me about half the day.

I am nothing if not decisive.

When I have an ingredient I haven't tried before I always want to cook the simplest thing so I can really taste the ingredient.

I was going to do a raw prep, then I was going to simply saute, then carmelize, then confit, then make a tart...

Finally I settled on French onion soup. Not the most creative choice, but it seemed fitting given the onion's origins.

I wanted to make a really light version of the soup to compliment the delicacy of the Roscoff onion so I switched up my typical recipe to alighter version. 
Roscoff Onion Soup
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
3 lbs Roscoff pink onions sliced thin
1 tsp sugar
3 tbsp flour
1/2 cup white wine
6 cups chicken stock
3 tbsp cognac
thick baguette slices
gruyere cheese grated

Melt butter with oil in large saucepan.
When butter has totally melted and stopped foaming add onion slices.
Cover saucepan and cook onions for 15 minutes.
Uncover pan.
Raise heat to medium and add sugar.
Stir together and continue to cook onions uncovered until they reach a deep colour (approx 30 mins.)
Stir in flour and allow flour to cook for a couple of minutes (this removes the raw taste of flour.
Add white wine and allow to evaporate and deglaze the pan.
Add stock.
Turn heat to low and allow to simmer for up to two hours.
Just before serving add cognac.
Place baguette slice in bottom of oven safe soup bowl and grate cheese over top.
Pour soup over top bread and cheese.
Place bowls under broiler and allow cheese to melt.
Typically I make my French onion soup with a mix of onions, garlic and a lot of chili flakes to give it some kick. I also use beef broth which makes for a more robust soup but I really wanted to keep this light and highlight the onions. 

This soup was so delicate and sweet. I was very pleased with the results and I hope you are too!


Heiko said...

I'm drooling... Voted for you by the way. Send the bribe to the usual place ;-)

Jenn said...

Thanks Heiko! Do you get these onions in your neck of the woods?

Kristen said...

I love onion soup and am terribly jealous that you were able to get such wonderful onions for yours. I am in a place where the meat guy looks at me weird when I ask for trout and the green grocer just laughs when I ask about persimmon. UGH!

Miranda said...

My husbands all time favorite soup is French Onion. These onions are a staple in my home. I live in Florida....I love them. :)

Viviane, Taste-Buds said...

Talk about delicious comfort food. I love this soup especially when it is really cold out!

Heiko said...

Never seen them. never seen a French man with a beret delivering any on his bicycle while I lived in England either... :-)

Anonymous said...

I live in Austria (but I'm a Kiwi) and ditto on the delivery guys ;P I did get the most amazing pink garlic when I was a private chef for a family in France though, but the name escapes me. Lovely blog!

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