French Onion Soup

What can I possibly say about French Onion Soup that hasn’t been said before?

Such is the dilemma with making such a classic recipe. This soup has been made thousands of times by thousands of cooks in thousands of different kitchens across the world. And to think, I’m supposed to write about such a classic?! It just seems so daunting.

So, then, I won’t even attempt to write anything new or profound about French Onion Soup. It is what it is: a delightful bowl of rich broth and caramelized onions, topped with crusty bread and melted cheese. In my opinion, this soup is perfection in a bowl.

With this recipe, I am not improving upon anyone else’s recipe, nor am I trying to re-invent the classic. I just make french onion soup the way I make it. I’ve tried a number of different of recipes and variations over the years, and have finally figured out the way I like to make this classic soup. And while there may not be one singular thing that separates my recipe from the rest, I do have a couple tips and tricks to ensure that the soup is rich and full of flavor. Because, let’s face it: there is nothing worse than a bland, watery bowl of soggy onions.

Here are my tips to ensuring that your french onion soup tastes awesome:

1. Take your time. The slower the onions cook down and caramelize, the better your soup will taste. Just set your burner over Low (no higher than Medium) and walk away! Stir occasionally and ensure that the onions aren’t getting brown, but that’s all you need to do. Just wait for them to do their thing. 2. Don’t cook all of the onions at once. Cook half of the onions down first, and add the rest after the first batch has caramelized. This will add texture to your soup (as some onions will be softer than others). 3. Use good stock. Since the soup is broth-based, the better the stock/broth you use, the better your soup will be. If you have homemade beef stock, use it! If you don’t have homemade stock, spend a few extra pennies and buy a good quality organic beef stock/broth. Its worth it! 4. Toast your baguette slices. No french onion soup is complete without some crusty bread and melted cheese on top. If you toast the bread/baguette before placing them on top of the soup, this will ensure that your bread doesn’t turn to soggy mush. The bottom of the bread will soak up the soup (and get slightly soggy) but the top should remain crusty and delicious!

French Onion Soup
(Serves 4-6)
*Supplies needed: oven-safe ramekins or bowls

6 cups beef stock (organic or home-made, preferable)
3/4 cup good quality red wine (Cabernet)
4 small white onions, thinly sliced
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1-2 bay leaves
2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 Tablespoons butter
Salt & pepper to taste
Baguette, sliced thinly & toasted
1 cup Gruyere cheese, grated

Melt butter over Med-Low heat in a large stock pot or Dutch oven. Add 1/2 of the sliced onions and cook slowly, over low heat until caramelized – at least 30 minutes. Stir occasionally and add more butter if needed. If the onions start to brown, turn the heat down. After the first batch of onions are mostly caramelized (after 30 minutes or more), add in a bit more butter and the rest of the onions.

After all of the onions have been added, raise the heat slightly. Every 5 minutes or so, scrape the sides of the pot and add a splash of red wine to deglaze the pan. Continue to cook over med-low heat, occasionally stirring, for 30 more minutes.

Once the onions have all cooked down, add in the stock, the rest of the red wine, bay leaves and thyme sprigs. Bring to a boil, then reduce down to a simmer. Allow to simmer for 20-30 minutes. Taste broth, season with salt & pepper. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

When the soup has reduced down and a rich broth has formed (after 30+ minutes of simmering), remove the soup from the stove. Ladle soup into ramekins or oven-proof bowls. Top with 1-2 baguette slices. Sprinkle a generous amount of grated gruyere over the top of the baguette slices.

Place ramekins on a baking sheet and bake for 5-10 minutes, until the cheese is melted and slightly browned. Remove from heat, and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before serving. (*Note: even after 5 or 10 minutes the ramekins will still be really hot! I would set the ramekins on top of a plate, napkin, trivet, hot pad, etc). Garnish with fresh grated black pepper and a bit of fresh thyme.

6 Responses

  1. Ahh, in a past life, I am pretty sure I was an eccentric French woman … and this coaxes her back out. I completely agree with you, don’t mess with the classics, but treat them with all the love and respect they deserve.

    As always, I love your posts.

  2. Food Frenzy says:

    This looks wonderful and I am sure it even tastes better. Oh and by the way, thanks for sharing it on Food Frenzy.

  3. Hey Lindsay, love this classic as well. It’s great that you can take a classic and make it your own according to your own taste and your recipe does sound delicious. I completely agree that you need to have a good quality stock with this recipe or the soup won’t turn out as you want it though.

  4. Meri says:

    When you served this for the holidays, I thought you had read my mind. It has always been one of a handful of my favorites. I should say IO look forward to trying your tips, but honestly I look forward to having another batch of yours…

  5. Kim says:

    I just tried making FOS today. What I noticed was that my toasted bread soaked up so much of the liquid and sank. After broiling the cheese, I see that the bread is completely soggy…but I want the top to remain toasty like yours. Any ideas?

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