French Onion Soup
I try not to let Television sway what I eat, but I have been watching old episodes of The French Chef with Julia Child. I have seen her make French Onion Soup at least 6 times over the past couple of weeks and now I have a craving for it. It there anything better than some toasty bread with melted swiss/gruyere cheese, a beautiful beef stock and some carmelized onions. I think not!
Onion soup dates back to Roman times. It was a favorite soup for poor people since onions were easy to grow. The more modern version, French Onion Soup originates from Paris, France, as the name implies, back in the 18th century. This soup was made with a beef broth and carmelized onions. The wife of a famous restaurateur, Henri Marc Mouquin, is credited with introducing onion soup to the USA in 1861. The soup was finished by being gratinéed (definition below) with a large crouton and Comté cheese melted on top. The French Onion Soup gained a resurgence with the help of Julia Child’s, The French Chef series, during the 1960s and 1970s.
This recipe calls for 5 cups of sliced onions, but not to worry. You can slice them, but why not use a food processor. Just a little kitchen tip, when slicing onions, do it near an open flame. I’ll turn on a gas burner or light a candle. No tears! A Martha Stewart trick that works well. Just remember to turn the gas burner off when you are finished.
When browning the onions, don’t forget the sugar. It is key to getting the onions to carmelize. It will take about 30 to 40 minutes to get them to carmelize, but it will be worth the time. Melt the butter and add the olive oil to the pot. Add the sliced onions and 1/8 to 1/4 cup water. That will help the onions to saute without burning. Cook on a medium heat and reduce down in size, about 10 minutes. Stir often. The liquid will evaporate. Then add the sugar. As the onions start to carmelize, stir often so they do not burn.
Once the onions have carmelized, sprinkle flour over the onions and stir for several minutes. Then add the beef stock, dry white wine or vermouth, salt and pepper. Simmer for an additional 30 minutes to let everything meld together. Add the cognac or brandy and simmer for an additional 5 minutes. Now your soup is done and you just need to assemble the finished dish.
My crouton recipe is below. Start with a French or Artisan bread that is firm and doesn’t fall over if holding straight up in the air. Follow the directions in the recipe and your croutons won’t be so soggy that they fall apart when you put them in the soup.
According to Julia Child, the secret to stringy cheese, is to use both sliced and shredded cheese. I totally agree. Just make sure that you use thin slices of cheese and cut them into small sections. You should use more of the shredded cheese than the sliced cheese. You want your family and friends to be able to pull the cheese apart so they don’t choke on a glob of cheese.
Gratinée the top – You can place your French Onion Soup with the crouton and cheese in the broiler for a few minutes to gratinée the top. Watch closely so it doesn’t burn! What can you do if you do not have oven safe bowls? No problem. You can use a kitchen torch that uses butane fuel (see example here) and torch the croutons and cheese on top.
My final thoughts before closing…Thank You Julia for inspiring this recipe and “Bon Appétit!”
If you love this French Onion Soup recipe, please leave a comment and let me know what you think. If you made it, post your wonderful images on Instagram and tag me. Don’t forget to subscribe and you will be emailed each time I post a new recipe.
Gratinéed – cooked with a golden crust of cheese
French Onion Soup
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 5 cups sliced onions, thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/8 to 1/4 cup water
- flour, enough to sprinkle over onions
- 2 quarts unsalted beef stock
- 1 cup dry white wine or vermouth
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoon cognac or brandy
- 1/8 pound swiss cheese, sliced
- 1/8 pound gruyere cheese, sliced
- Firm French or Artisan Bread, sliced and toasted
- Grated swiss cheese
- Grated gruyere cheese
- Grated parmesan cheese
- Step 1 Peel and slice the onions. You can slice the onions in a food processor.
- Step 2 In a large stock/soup pot, melt the butter and add the olive oil.
- Step 3 Add the sliced onions and sugar to the pot. Cook the onions slowly, about 30 to 40 minutes until they carmelize. Stir often. You can add a little water in the beginning, so they do not burn. I add a little salt and pepper here, but not much.
- Step 4 Once carmelized, sprinkle the onions with flour and stir for several minutes to cook out the flour.
- Step 5 Add the stock, white wine or vermouth and salt and freshly ground black pepper. The wine or vermouth will reduce adding a little saltiness to the soup. Simmer for an additional 30 minutes to allow everything to meld together.
- Step 6 Add the cognac or brandy and simmer for an additional 5 minutes.
- Step 7 In your oven proof soup bowls, place a dab of unsalted butter in the bottom of each of the soup bowls. Then place two large croutons, on the bottom of each bowls. Add sliced swiss and gruyere cheese on top.
- Step 8 Pour in the soup, leaving room for additional croutons and cheese on top.
- Step 9 Place 2-3 toasted croutons on top. Cover the croutons with grated swiss/gruyere cheese. Spoon some melted butter on top to help the croutons and cheese to gratinee.
- Step 10 Bake in a 425 degree oven Fahrenheit for 15-20 minutes.