French Onion Soup.
Let’s take a moment to gaze upon this lovely little pot of goodness.
Toasted cheese and delicious French Bread floating on top of caramelized onions in rich broth. Heaven!
Fancy Pants Restaurant Soup that you can totally make at home.
There are two important factors in good onion soup: taking time to properly caramelize the onions and picking really good, strong cheese for the top.
I’ll be honest. There is a little bit of a time investment to REALLY caramelize the onions down to their thick, syrupy essence. It’s not hard work — in fact, you can pretty much just let them do their thing while giving the occasional stir, but it does take at least an hour. It is SO worth it.
Here’s what you need:
Onions, Chicken Broth, Beef Broth*, White Wine, Garlic, Bay Leaf, Fresh Parsley & Fresh Thyme (not pictured), Butter, Olive Oil, Salt & Pepper, Flour, French Bread, Gruyere or Emmentaler Cheese, Cognac (optional).
*French Onion Soup is traditionally made with beef broth. However, since I didn’t have the time to boil down a bunch of bones to make my own beef stock, I’m using store bought broth. To lighten the flavor of the store bought stock just a bit, I’m using 1/2 chicken broth and 1/2 beef broth. With this combination, the caramelized onion flavor comes shining through.
Grab 5 or 6 large yellow onions. Cut them in half and then cut across the top to make thin, semi-circle slices.
This is a lot of slicing and crying so if you have a handy gadget like a Mandolin or Food Processor, bust it out and make your slicing life easier.
Safety First! Mandolines are super sharp so always use the little finger protecting tool.
Melt 2 Tablespoons of butter and 2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil in a very large pot. The butter is for flavor (or course) and the olive oil helps to raise the temperature of the butter so that it doesn’t burn.
Add the sliced onions to the pot. See why you need a very large pot?
Cook the onions over medium LOW heat stirring occasionally to rotate the onions from the bottom of the pot to the top. Do not try to rush this process. If the onions burn or stick, you will have a bitter and extremely unpleasant taste. Patience Grasshopper.
After about 15 minutes….progress.
The onions are starting to melt down in the pot. Keep cooking and occasionally stirring. Notice that my onions are all still white in color. Do not let the onions brown until the very end of the hour cooking time. Slow and steady.
After 30 minutes….notice how much the onions have cooked down. The color is still very pale with only a little bit of browning on the bottom of the pot.
At 45 minutes….looking good. Don’t be tempted to turn up the heat. Keep things very low. Have a glass of wine. Listen to some Keith Jarrett. Mellow out.
Chop up 2 cloves of garlic. Mince/chop the garlic into very small pieces.
At about the 45 minute mark, add the garlic and about a generous teaspoon of salt to the onions.
Now the onions should be a golden color and be very mushy. Mushy is good. Keep going.
After at least an hour of cooking, your onions should be a lovely caramel color and have a very mellow, almost nutty aroma. There will be a nice coating of brown bits on the bottom of the pot. Try to stir these bits up with a wooden spoon.
When the onions are a deep caramel color and you just can’t take it anymore, add 1 Tablespoon of flour to the pot. My onions cooked for about 75 minutes total.
Stir the flour into the onions and cook it for a couple of minutes. Add 1/2 cup of dry white wine to the pot and stir up all those little brown bits from the bottom.
Add 4 cups of chicken broth and 4 cups of beef broth to the pot. I always try to use low sodium broth when possible so I can add my own salt and seasonings later.
Take several sprigs of fresh parsley and fresh thyme and tie them together with cooking string (that’s clean white string that has not been out in the garage…ahem) to make a little herb bundle.
Almost every store carries some fresh herbs all year round, especially parsley. The make a huge difference in livening up the taste of the store bought broth.
Toss the little herb bundle and a couple of dry bay leaves into the pot. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of wine to the soup.
Bring the soup to a boil and immediately turn the heat down to low so that it simmers gently for about 30 minutes.
As the soup simmers, pre-heat the broiler on the oven. Slice some French bread into 1 inch thick pieces and place them on a sheet pan.
Place the bread under the broiler for a couple of minutes to toast both sides. My broiler is in the top of the oven and screaming hot so I put my pan on the middle rack of the oven to avoid incinerating my bread.
Grate some Gruyere or Emmentaler cheese. You’ll need about 1/3 cup cheese per soup bowl.
Gruyere and Emmentaler are varieties of cheese from Switzerland. They have a nutty flavor and are great for melting. You can usually find one or the other in the special cheese case of most stores. In a pinch, you could use regular Swiss cheese but look for one that has been aged or you will get a rather oily top to the cheese.
To assemble the French Onion Soup, you need oven-safe soup bowls or crocks that are taller than they are wide. I use these same dishes for pot pies, chili and sometimes a giant bowl of ice cream.
Remove the little bundle of herbs from the soup. Give it a taste and season with salt and pepper.
The traditional French recipe calls for a bit of Cognac or Brandy in the bottom of each bowl.
If you don’t want to go out an drop $40 on a bottle of Cognac, look for those little airline sized bottles. Perfect! Add about 1 Tablespoon to the bottom of each bowl.
The soup should traditionally be very hot. Ladle it into the bowl being sure to get lots of the onions from the bottom of the pot.
Place the toasted slices of bread on the top of the soup. Use your geometry skills to cut bread so that most of the surface of the soup is covered.
Some people like the treat the bread like a giant crouton and float it in the middle of the soup. I prefer to get the bread to cover the top of the soup so there is a better surface for the cheese.
Speaking of cheese, sprinkle about 1/2 cup of the grated cheese over the top of the bread. Don’t be afraid to pile it up a bit.
(Yes, I’m wearing wrinkled shorts making soup. Living in Florida is weird.)
Put the soup under the broiler in the oven to melt the cheese. Little brown bits on top of the cheese are good but keep an eye on things so that it doesn’t burn.
Voila! Tres delicieux!
This recipe makes about 6 hearty servings of soup.
Here’s the Recipe!