Legendary Dishes | Zwiebelsauce (onion sauce)

AUSTRIA GERMANY LIECHTENSTEIN SWITZERLAND

There is no agreed method for making onion sauce in Europe. Some cooks insist it should be aromatic and saucy, rich and strong, and have a smooth consistency, other cooks believe it can be lumpy and gooey, thick or thin, flour-based or tomato-based.

Old-Style

Onion sauces in the days before sophistication were rustic affairs, more bitter than sweet, more brown than white. Lard was used to fry the onions, and flour rather than cream was the thickener. Broth was preferred to bouillon. Some recipes called for lemon juice instead of vinegar. Herbs – bay, rosemary, thyme – gave the sauce an aromatic hint. Cloves, egg yolks and mustard were occasional flavourings. And bacon or ham was an expedient ingredient. Interestingly, recipes began to appear in the 1930s with a haute cuisine twist. The onions were cooked in milk, sieved and set aside to breath. Sour cream and egg yolks were added to a light roux, and heated gently with the sieved onions.

  • 500 g onions, chopped
  • 350 ml broth
  • 50 g bacon, diced
  • 45 g white spelt flour / white wheat flour
  • 15 g lard
  • 5 g mustard (optional)
  • Salt, pinch
  • Vinegar, splash
  • 3 cloves (optional)
  • 1 bay leaf (optional)

Fry onions in lard over a medium heat for 15 minutes, until they begin to take on colour. Stir in flour and cook until the mixture turns light brown. Add bacon, followed a few minutes later by the liquid, less for a thick sauce. Bring to the boil, reduce heat to low and cook for ten minutes until the sauce reaches a smooth consistency. Finish with a splash of vinegar. Aromatic options should be added after the bacon.

Cream Version
  • 350 ml bouillon
  • 200 g onions, sliced into rings
  • 100 g shallots, sliced
  • 100 ml red / white wine
  • 45 ml sour cream 
  • 30 g butter
  • 30 g white wheat flour
  • Black pepper, large pinch
  • Salt, large pinch
  • Sugar, large pinch
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • Lemon thyme leaves, for garnish

Pour the hot water into a bowl, add the bouillon powder and leave to soak. Combine flour and onions in a large bowl. Heat butter in a large frying pan, add the flour and onion mixture, and cook gently for 10 minutes, stirring constantly. De-glaze the pan with the wine, add the bouillon and choice of herb, simmer for 15 minutes. Add cream, simmer for five minutes, season. Serve hot with grilled sausages and fried grated potatoes, garnished with lemon thyme.

Tomato Version
  • 350 ml bouillon / broth
  • 200 g onions, sliced into rings
  • 120 g tomato passata / sauce
  • 100 g shallots, sliced
  • 100 ml red / white wine 
  • 30 g butter
  • Black pepper, large pinch
  • Salt, large pinch
  • Sugar, large pinch
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • Lemon thyme leaves, for garnish

Pour the hot water into a bowl, add the bouillon powder and leave to soak. Heat butter in a large frying pan, add onions, sauté for five minutes until the onions start to brown. Reduce heat, cover and cook for 10 minutes. De-glaze the pan with the wine, add the broth and choice of herb, simmer for 15 minutes. Add tomato sauce, simmer for 15 minutes, season. Serve hot with grilled sausages and fried grated potatoes, garnished with lemon thyme.