Bouchon’s Lentil Soup Recipe: Pearl Onions and Sachet

Soupe Aux Lentilles

It sure has been a while since I posted a Bouchon recipe. With my new hectic schedule, I rarely have time to cook, let alone to follow Keller’s often intricate recipes. Nevertheless, I recently made his springy lentil soup on a mild and breezy night. The soup itself was not complicated to make but preparing each garnish separately was quite time-consuming. While I appreciate his preciseness, following his instructions closely is a large part of the challenge.
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I enjoy reading how Keller breaks down his fundamental techniques. These elemental steps may seem tedious but bear in mind that they are useful towards many other applications. In this first installment, I’ll explain two techniques: how to peel and cook pearl onions and how to prepare a bouquet garni or sachet. In the next post, I’ll describe how the whole dish comes together.

Peeling and Cooking Pearl Onions
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Red, white, or yellow pearl onions
Bay leaves
Black peppercorns
Thyme sprigs
Kosher salt
Red wine vinegar for red onions
Champagne vinegar for white onions


Cut an X on the root ends of the onions. Boil the onions until the skins soften, then peel, drain, and trim the roots.
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Separate the two colours. Cover the onions with 1 inch of cold water seasoned with the bay leaf, peppercorns, thyme, and salt. Simmer for 10-15 minutes until the onions are soft when pierced with a knife.
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Drain away all but a tbs of water, then stir in the respective vinegars according to colour.
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Basic Bouquet Garni or Sachet
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Dark outer leek leaves
Thyme sprigs
Italian parsley sprigs
Bay leaves
Black peppercorns
Garlic Cloves (for lentil soup sachet only)


An aromatic sachet is required to perfume the lentil soup. To create this, wrap the ingredients up in cheese cloth with kitchen twine. The basic sachet does not contain leek leaves but I decided to utilize the leaves leftover from making the soup.

A bouquet garni (boo-kay-gar-nee) is used to flavor foods that will later be strained. To make a bouquet garni, wrap all the ingredients up in the leek leaves and bind securely with kitchen twine.

  1. June 08, 2009 by Stumptown Savoury

    Oh, that soup looks really good. I’m glad to see you back to cooking your way through Bouchon. It’s really interesting to watch. Thanks!

  2. June 09, 2009 by Robert-Gilles Martineau

    Dear Mel!
    How are you?
    Lentil soup is a mainstay in winter back home in France, but it is quite different.
    Yours looks and sounds more like a minestrone soup.
    It is certainly very elegant and appetizing!
    And very healthy!
    Greta appetizer any time of the year!

  3. June 09, 2009 by Fearless Kitchen

    This looks like a really interesting soup… it’s funny that the garnishes are fussier than the actual dish!

  4. June 09, 2009 by s. stockwell

    What a lovely idea. Simple, tasty. beautiful photo and post, thanks, s

  5. June 10, 2009 by Lynne

    Very fresh and appealing. Great looking soup.

  6. June 10, 2009 by Cajun Chef Ryan

    The red and white pearl onions add a wonderful color and texture to the soup. And your leading image of the soup is fabulous.

    CCR =:~)

  7. June 10, 2009 by The Food Addicts

    The pearl onions look so good – and the entire soup is beautifully done! Great post!

  8. June 10, 2009 by lisaiscooking

    That looks like a fresh and lovely lentil soup. Beautiful finished dish!

  9. June 10, 2009 by Phyllis (me HUNGRY!)

    I love lentil soup but I’ve never seen it look this luxurious before. Your photos are so gorgeous with such vibrant colors!

  10. June 10, 2009 by Marc @ NoRecipes

    Wow the colors in the soup are so vibrant. I never have the patience to follow instructions so precisely and am always impressed when someone actually makes something out of a TK book.

  11. June 11, 2009 by nora@ffr

    yumm!! this soup sound addictive.. tummies are rumbling for them.. cant wait to try this out.
    lovely blog.. enjoyed a LOT

  12. June 13, 2009 by Mel (admin)

    Firstly, I’m giggling like a school girl that Marc would comment on my blog <3 Secondly, thanks!
    The verdict in part 2: while delicious, I would simplify it when I make it again so it would be manageable as a weeknight dinner.

  13. June 15, 2009 by HK Lam

    This is what I referred to as ‘slow food’. It is well worth the efforts. So pleasing to look at, and I guess it will taste superb.
    The muslin cloth accidentally make such a great backdrop for the bouquet garni. Well done

  14. June 30, 2009 by Tangled Noodle

    The soup looks gorgeous but seeing the preparation for the onions and bouquet garni, I don’t doubt that it will taste as amazing! Thank you for the tutorials, especially for the onions; I could see myself trying to peel them dry and driving myself insane with frustration!

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