Mel’s Diner

Sharp Knives, Raw Meat and Fire


As some of you remember, back in January I participated in a cookbook review with some of the darnedest, bestest people whoever participated in a cookbook thing.  That was so much fun, I rashly invited many of the same people to do much the same kind of thing with Mastering The Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle.  Published in 1961, it was the bible of the soon to be burgeoning food movement in America.  So, who’s part of this cookbook thing:

We thought it would be fun, forty-seven years later, to re-visit the classic, now collecting dust on so many cookbook shelves.  Remembering the book was written for American cooks at a time when so many ingredients we take for granted were unavailable for the most part, the recipes seem quaint in their use of bouillon, canned truffles and few fresh herbs other than parsley.

So, rather than strict enforcement of recipes, we can play fast and loose (within reason, of course) with the ingredients, using fresh or different ingredients where Julia and crew had no choice.

The first recipe we did was an onion soup.  We picked it because it was a recipe the three ladies had created.  While living in France, Julia, Simone and Louisette started a cooking school called L’Ecole des Trois Gourmandes.  So, in recognition of these three ladies:

Soupe a l’Oignon Gratinee des Trois Gourmandes

  • 1 ½ lbs. or about 5 cups of thinly sliced yellow onions
  • 3 TB butter
  • 1 TB oil
  • A heavy bottomed, 4-quart covered saucepan

Cook the onions slowly with the butter in the saucepan, covered for 15 minutes

  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp of sugar
  • 3 Tb flour

Uncover, raise the heat to moderate, and stir in the salt and sugar.  Cook for 30-40 minutes stirring frequently, until the onions have turned an even, deep, golden brown.  Sprinkle in the flour and stir for 3 minutes.

  • 2 quarts of boiling brown stock, canned beef bouillon, or 1 quart of boiling water and 1 quart of stock or bouillon.
  • ½ cup of dry white wine or dry white vermouth
  • salt and pepper to taste

Off heat, blend in the boiling liquid.  Add the wine, and season to taste.  Simmer partially covered for 30-40 minutes or more, skimming occasionally.  Correct seasoning. (This is why you skim)

  • A fireproof tureen or casserole or individual onion soup pots
  • 2 ounces Swiss cheese cut into very thin slivers
  • 1 Tb grated raw onion
  • 12-16 rounds of hard-toasted French bread
  • 1 ½ cups Swiss, or Swiss and Parmesan cheese
  • 1 Tb olive oil or melted butter

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Bring the soup to a boil and pour into tureen or pots.  Stir in slivered cheese and grated onion.  Float toast rounds on top of the soup, and spread the grated cheese over it.  Sprinkle with oil or butter.  Bake for 20 minutes in the oven, then set for a minute or two under a preheated broiler to top slightly.

  • A 2-quart bowl
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 TB cognac

Beat the cornstarch into the egg yolk, then the Worcestershire and the cognac.  Just before serving the soup, lift an edge of the crust with a fork and remove a ladleful of soup.  In a thin stream of droplets, beat the soup into the egg-yolk mixture with a fork.  Gradually beat in two more ladlefuls of soup.  Again, lifting the crust, pour the mixture back into the soup.  Then reach in under the crust with the ladle and stir gently to blend the mixture into the rest of the soup.  Serve.

So, how was it?  To tell you the truth, IT WAS GREAT!!!!  The first time I made it, I used my roasted chicken stock I’m so proud of and found it didn’t hold up to the alcohol so well.  After the vermouth was added I had to cook it just over forty minutes to burn off the alcoholness and after adding the cognac at the end, the alcohol was over-powering.  Fortunately, the next day it was much better, so nothing went to waste.  The second time, I used home made beef stock and all was well.  I was surprised how much a difference there was with the beef stock – the chicken stock tasted great, but it couldn’t stand up to the alcohol.

The recipe is fussy, like a lot in the book – but, worth it.

Next time?  Sauce au Cari (Curry Sauce).  Look for the fun things we serve it with!


May 4, 2008 - Posted by | Recipe, Soup, That Cookbook Thing II


  1. It is a delicious recipe…even if it is time consuming and “fussy”. A great dish to impress others with. Thanks for twisting my arm and introducing me to Julia’s version.

    And thanks for thinking up this cooking club.

    Comment by Ruth | May 4, 2008 | Reply

  2. That last picture looks so great – I’ve never seen such a huge bowl of onion soup. Looking forward to all our other dishes.

    Comment by Sara | May 4, 2008 | Reply

  3. It was very good, but I think next time (and I suggested this in my post) I’ll do the cognac-egg yolk step before doing the bread-and-cheese step. I like it better after the cognac had a little more time to play with the other flavors.

    Bring on the curry!

    Comment by Deborah | May 4, 2008 | Reply

  4. Mike ~ The soup looks great. Yes, there is a bit of alcohol involved and this might have cooked off faster had you more patience or a wider vessel. I love Ina Garten’s twist on this using fennel as the principal vegetable. Of course, the amount of alcohol can always be reduced, but I enjoy the lift and depth of flavour it brings. I love your inclusion of crusty, cheese-topped bread here – so comforting!

    Comment by Shaun | May 9, 2008 | Reply

  5. […] of the posts that pained me most to not be able to get out on time was the post for the Julia Child Onion Soup round-up that my buddy Mike over Mel’s Diner hosted. Mike had so much fun with us gals in Cookbook […]

    Pingback by The Sour Dough » Blog Archive » Playing Catch Up on Saturday Morning | May 17, 2008 | Reply

  6. Well, I say. Great minds do think alike. Once my main source of inspiration, those 2 volumes have been collecting dust for more than just a little while. Anyway, not too long ago, I watched a documentary on Julia, and I decided to go back through The Art of…and work on some of those intense skill sessions. Some of those recipes are like boot camp for cooks. But…to comment on your soupe…yummidy yum yum…That looks so good. Ah, oh boy…I’m going to the farmers market in an hour…and meeting up with the onion lady. Maybe I can trade her some blackberries for onions. I made cheese scones this morning…wouldn’t they be a nice complement?

    Comment by dove | June 24, 2008 | Reply

  7. Hi Mel

    Just read about your recipe book task on Ruth’s blog
    I have just discovered Marcella Hazan and I’m slowly working my way through her books. In fact made one of her frittatas for lunch today. Yumo
    In fact I blogged one of her lasagne recipes and it was the most delicious…a heart attack on a plate.

    Comment by gilli | October 7, 2008 | Reply

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