I have to put the brackets around (French) when discussing French Onion Soup because if you’ve ever been to France you know that it’s just ‘Onion Soup’ there. Or if you’re Marla who has been 6 times at least, you request ‘French Onion Soup’ anyway, then look all embarrassed when the waiter stares at you like you have two heads and are covered in purple polka dots.
French onion soup is one of those bucket list foods when traveling to France, along with anything duck, baguettes and an abundance of wine. I ordered the soup only once, it was for lunch at a little cafe we came across on our way down from Sacre Couer. It was terrible, and I mean terrible with a French accent. The soup was luke warm at best, the cheese was not melted and sat at the bottom of the bowl in its original grated state, while the croutons looked like the cheese on top had a blow torch taken to it. In fact I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what happened, to add insult to injury the taste was mediocre at best. This was not what I was expecting from the land of culinary delights, but apparently Paris is known for terrible food in equal parts with terrific food and it is generally advised that you should research your restaurants first. This was not a place that we researched, we were hungry and our feet were crying in pain from hobbling along cobblestone streets for days on end. I can’t say that I’m sad I didn’t take a photo of the abomination.
Marla on the other hand ordered the soup at a lovely little restaurant in St. Germain. It was beautiful and delicious, she even let me try a bit before slurping it back. Not deterred by my own experience I was determined to make this soup when I got home. Not only was I determined to make the soup, but start from scratch right down to the stock. Little did I know what I was getting myself into.
And so the start of the epic marathon soup making begins. I won’t go into the details of the stock in this blog, but needless to say it was delish on its own and I’ve used it for other recipes like Scotch Broth soup and Chinese Hot Pot. The stock or I should say the bone broth was made from typical stock ingredients, various roasted beef bones, onion, carrots, spices, etc. To make it a bone broth I included cider vinegar to break down the cartilage, and cooked all this deliciousness in a crock pot for 24hrs. Thats right 24hrs, I’ve learned that the best stock is made this way and it doesn’t require babysitting the way the stove top method does.
Once the stock was made it was time to start on the soup. I researched a lot of recipes for this one, trying to find something authentic and similar to what Marla would have had at that restaurant, and what I envisioned this soup should look and taste like. For my first attempt I ended up deciding on Julia Childs recipe with some minor variations based on what I had on hand, and it was pretty darn good. It was also one of the only recipes that didn’t lie about how long it takes to caramelize the onions. It actually didn’t say how long it would take at all, while other recipes implied that you could get it done in 40mins, which is a flat out fib. With 5-6 cups of onions it took me well over an hour to caramelize, but…. It.was.worth.it.
It was an amazing soup if I do say so myself, and it freezes well. Which is good considering how much the recipe makes and just two people to eat it, not to mention that it took 36hrs to complete.
- 5-6 cups yellow cooling onions, thinly sliced (1-1/2 to 2 lbs)
- 1tbsp olive oil
- 2tbsp butter
- 1/2tsp sugar
- 1tsp salt
- 3tbsp flour
- 6 cups beef stock (if not homemade, something that is good quality)
- 1 cup red wine
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2tsp ground sage
- 12ounces gruyer cheese, shredded
- 1/2 raw yellow cooking onion (optional, I forgot to add it)
- 2-3tbsp cognac (I used Courvoisier VSOP)
- Baguette sliced 1″ think (however many slices are need to cover the top of the soup)
- olive oil for drizzling on the baguettes
In a dutch oven melt the butter with the 1tbsp olive oil over medium-low heat.
Once the butter is melted. Toss the onions to coat, and cover for 20 minutes, or until the onions are tender and translucent.
Remove the cover and turn up the heat to medium or medium-high. Add the sugar and the salt. Stir frequently until the onions have browned. Word to the wise, this may take awhile, I have a glass top which may have contributed to the timing, but it was well over an hour to brown the onions to my satisfaction.
Once caramelized, reduce the heat to medium-low and add the flour, tossing to coat. Brown the flour for 2-3 minutes. It should form a paste.
Stir in 1 cup of the warmed stock, scraping up all the nibbly bits on the bottom of the pan, before adding the rest of the stock along with the wine, sage and bay leaf.
Simmer for 30 minutes.
To make the croutons you can drizzle them with olive oil and broil in the oven.
Remove the bay leaf then check the taste of the soup at this point to see if you want more salt and pepper. Season accordingly, also adding in the raw onion and cognac.
Add a bit of the gruyere into the soup and stir. Then layer the toasted baguette slices on top of the soup. Sprinkly the remaining cheese thickly over the whole dish.
Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Then turn on the broiler and brown the cheese to your liking.
Let cool enough not to scorch your tongue and Bon Appetit!!!!