I recently had the worst French onion soup ever! I know this statement is pretty extreme, but I am not exaggerating. It was thin, greasy, lacked seasoning, and had the sorriest excuse for a crouton floating on top. How can a restaurant serve something like that? I was traumatized. The only good thing that has come out of this awful experience is my motivation to teach everyone how to make the BEST French onion soup, ever!
As you can imagine, it all starts with onions. Use a heavy pot such as a Le Creuset French Oven to caramelize the onions. Don’t rush this step, because this is where you develop a load of flavor. Slowly sauté the onions in a little butter until they are golden brown, and have developed a deep caramel color. This steps takes a good 30 to 45 minutes, so be patient!
Lots of browned bits of goodness, a.k.a. fond, form on the bottom of the pan while the caramelizing is taking place. Hello, deglazing. This is one of my favorite cooking techniques. In order to release the fond from the bottom of the pan you’ll need to add a flavorful liquid, wine being the most common. I like the flavor of a nice dry French red wine in my onion soup.
Use a good-quality, store-bought stock that’s low in sodium, or make stock from scratch. Making homemade stock is easy, and fun to do. It yields a lot, so you’ll have stock to use for several recipes down the road.
Simmer the soup for at least 10 minutes, and then season with salt and pepper. You’ll want to transfer your soup to oven-safe soup crocks. This step is important. The ratio of onions to stock should be equal between your soup crocks.
Now comes the crouton, and in my opinion it’s the most important part. Maybe that’s because I really love bread and cheese.
Top the soup with a piece of toasted good-quality bread: French baguette, tangy sourdough, Pugliese, Boule. Any one of these would be perfect. Cover the bread with a generous amount of grated Gruyere cheese, and broil until melty and delicious.
Making French onion soup is not that difficult. Using good ingredients followed by proper cooking techniques and a little bit of love will give you a bowl of soup you can be proud to serve to your family and friends.
French Onion Soup
Yield: 4-6 servings
Active time: 45 minutes
Start to finish: 45 minutes
3 tablespoons butter
4 medium-size yellow onions, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dry sherry or red wine
5 cups beef stock
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, rough chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
8 slices French bread, lightly toasted
2 cups Gruyere cheese, grated
- Heat a large, heavy soup pot over medium heat and add the butter. Sauté the onions, stirring occasionally, until caramelized and soft, 30 to 45 minutes. If a lot of fond builds up on the bottom of the pan, add a splash of water to prevent the onions from burning.
- Stir in the garlic, and cook an additional minute. Sprinkle in the flour, cooking for 1 minute.
- Deglaze with the wine making sure you scrape the bottom of the pan to remove all of the browned bits known as fond. Simmer the wine until almost dry.
- Pour in the stock, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 10 to 15 minutes to blend the flavors. Add the thyme, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Preheat the broiler to high.
- Ladle the soup into ovenproof soup bowls, and set on a foil-lined sheet tray. Place two slices of bread on top of the soup, and generously cover with the grated cheese.
- Slide the tray onto the bottom rack of the oven. This way the cheese can melt slowly before getting too brown.
- Serve piping hot!