French onion meatball casserole
French onion soup is one of my all-time favourite things to eat. It is warm and comforting. Plus it always amazes me how something as simple as an onion can end up tasting so extraordinary. I really love French onion soup! I usually follow the Delia Smith recipe – it’s an absolute classic. I’ve never had a Delia recipe go wrong, actually. The first few steps of my recipe come from Delia.
I’d seen recipes for French onion meatballs online, and thought it seemed like an amazing idea. However, when I looked at them closely, they all seemed to involve canned soup or packet dried soup. I wanted something that wasn’t using packet ingredients, but would turn the soup I know and love into more of a hearty meal.
My base follows Delia’s recipe, then adds meatballs that are poached in the soup/sauce. It leads to delicious meatballs which are juicy and tender. (They also have extra onion in them to keep them even more moist.)
I served my meatball casserole with Gruyere bread rolls. French onion and Gruyere is an amazing combination. I followed this recipe from The Little Epicurean, although I omitted the caramelized onion in the filling, as I felt I had enough onion already! The rolls were the perfect accompaniment – great for dipping! I served mine in my gorgeous little Le Creuset mini cocottes.
This isn’t a quick recipe, but it is definitely worth the wait.
Ingredients (serves 4)
– 5 medium-sized onions
– 3 cloves garlic, chopped
– 50g butter
– half a teaspoon sugar
– splash of dry sherry
– 500ml chicken stock
– 500g beef mince
– teaspoon dried rosemary
– salt and pepper
1. Take 4 of the onions. Peel them and slice them very finely. I used a mandolin to get really thin slices.
2. Heat the butter with a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan until very hot. Add the onion slices, garlic and sugar and cook for about 6 minutes until the edges of the onions start to turn dark.
3. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting and leave for 30 minutes, allowing the onions to caramelize.
4. While this is happening, make your meatballs. Chop the remaining onion very finely (I put mine in a food processor to get tiny pieces) and put in a pan with the mince. Season with salt, pepper and rosemary. Shape into meatballs – I had about 32.
5. In a separate pan, brown the meatballs lightly on all sides. You will need to do this in batches. I didn’t use oil when I was cooking the meatballs – they stick at first but the meat should release once it is browned. Once browned, transfer to a plate lined with kitchen paper to absorb excess fat.
6. Pour the sherry and stock into the pan with the onions. Increase the heat until simmering. Stir well – make sure you scrape up the lovely caramelized film that is now on the base of the pan.
7. Put the browned meatballs in the pan with the onions. They don’t need to be submerged, it is fine for them to float half in and half out. To be honest, it doesn’t look very appetizing at this stage, but have faith!8. Turn the heat right down and leave to cook gently and slowly for an hour. Do not cover. Turn the meatballs two or three times.
9. Season to taste. Plenty of freshly milled black pepper works well here! Serve in warmed bowls with bread, rice, noodles or cheesy croutons. Enjoy!
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