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French Onion Soup with a Cheese Lid, James Martin
Eat and Drink
November 2020
Reading time 1 Minute

I love French onion soup! Especially when it’s made properly and seasoned well

This is a dish I could not resist. The idea came about when the brilliant 3-star Michelin chef Clare Smyth came to my house and cooked a Paul Bocuse classic, a truffle soup topped with a pastry lid. By making your own puff pastry you get all those great flavours of butter and cheese mixed into the soup. This is definitely one for the restaurant menu when the weather turns. You can use this idea for any soup you wish, as it almost creates the ultimate buttery, cheesy crouton, which would be great with any vegetable soup.
  • For the soup:
  • 25g butter
  • 5 Roscoff onions, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • A few sprigs of thyme, leaves picked
  • 50ml sherry
  • 50ml white wine
  • 25ml brandy
  • 500ml beef stock
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • For the cheese lids:
  • Plain flour, for dusting
  • 300g puff pastry
  • 200g comté, grated
  • Traditional puff pastry (MAKES 1.5KG):
  • 15g table salt
  • 275ml warm water
  • 625g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 95g salted butter, melted
  • 500g slab of dry butter or butter
  1. Add the butter, onions, garlic and thyme to a large saucepan set over a medium heat. Cook until the onions have coloured, then add the sherry, white wine, brandy, stock and sugar and season. Simmer for 10–15 minutes. Spoon into four deep ovenproof soup bowls and leave to cool.
  2. Preheat the oven to 200C (180C fan)/400F/gas 6. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry and cut out four circles slightly bigger than the soup bowl tops. Brush the edges of the soup bowls with water, press the pastry circles on top and seal. Sprinkle over the cheese and bake for 20 minutes.

Traditional puff pastry:

  1. Dissolve the salt in the warm water. Mix in the flour, being careful not to overwork it. Add the melted butter, transfer to a work surface dusted with flour and knead to a smooth dough. Roll into an even rectangle, wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge overnight.
  2. The next day, put the slab of dry butter between two sheets of greaseproof paper. Using a rolling pin, beat the dry butter into a 33 x 13cm rectangle. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to twice the size of the butter and place the butter into the middle of the dough. Fold one side of the dough over the butter to half cover it, then fold the other side of the dough over the butter to cover the other half, so that the two edges of dough meet. Pinch together the top and bottom edges of the dough to seal the butter inside. Fold the dough in half lengthways, then turn it 90 degrees to the right (a quarter-turn). Wrap in clingfilm and rest in the freezer for 20 minutes. Roll out the dough to form a rectangle. Fold and turn as before, then chill overnight in the fridge.
  3. On day three, fold and turn as before, and return the dough to the fridge to rest for two hours before giving another fold and turn. Wrap in clingfilm and chill overnight.
  4. On day four, give two more folds and turns, resting for 30 minutes between each one. Chill in the fridge for three hours, then roll the dough to 6.5mm thick to use as desired. Alternatively, you can wrap the dough in clingfilm and freeze for up to three months.
Extracted from BUTTER: Comforting, delicious, versatile, over 130 recipes celebrating butter by James Martin (Quadrille) Photography: John Carey

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