24 Oct 2010 French Onion Soup

As a newlywed, wed to a man who owned a copy of “Mastering the Art of French Cooking“, French Onion Soup was one of the first things I learned how to make well, thank you Julia Child, and one of the first things I got high praise for. I first made this soup in 1981. It seems everyone loves French Onion Soup, and since it’s getting harder and harder to find a good French Onion Soup at a restaurant, there is  always an appreciative fan base.  French Onion Soup isn’t hard to make, it’s just a bit time consuming to finely slice 5 cups of onions and then  caramelize them, but once that is over it’s smooth sailing.

I remember the first time I had the so-called French Onion Soup at Marie Callender’s.  I was so disappointed, it was the worst; sliced onions boiled in beef stock topped with a crouton and too much cheese.  Shame, Marie, shame.

Here’s the first tip for French Onion Soup, the onions need to be caramelized, Julia’s method is the best I’ve found.  Tip number two, the better your beef broth, the better your French Onion Soup.  For years I used canned beef broth, and was happy with it (just go easy on the salt elsewhere in the dish).  The new “Better than Bouillon” bases would probably work, too, but again, watch the salt.  I’ve just now started to make my own beef broth.  It’s not as intuitive as chicken broth.  Basically I buy two packages of meat from the market, approximately one pound of stew beef, and two pounds of beef bones (often beef ribs).  I throw them in a pot, along with with some onions, carrots, and celery, a bit of garlic, a grind of pepper, and a bay leaf, cover with water and simmer for 2-4 hours.  Then I strain, refrigerate overnight, remove the hardened fat, strain again, and then use in the recipe.  It’s a bit of a bother, but I feel good about the broth,  it’s real food, with no additives or preservatives., and it’s no more expensive than buying cans of processed beef broth.

French Onion Soup is a bit of a bother to make, but it’s worth it.  Larger bowls, with two croutons, are satisfying as a meal (as long as there is a nice dessert!  Ohhhh…, some people might want a sandwich or a baked potato or a slice of quiche, too), and it’s very elegant in small bowls, with one crouton, served as a starter.  Most people swoon over French Onion Soup, so it’s usually a safe dish to make for company.

French Onion Soup

5 cups thinly sliced yellow/brown onions (slice into rings, or half rings)
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 quarts hot beef broth (canned, or make your own)
1/2 cup dry white wine
salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons of Cognac (approximately)
6 slices of a good quality French baguette
approx. 2 cups grated Swiss cheese

Melt butter, stir in olive oil to blend, then stir in sliced onions.  Cover and saute for 15 minutes.  Uncover, stir in salt and sugar, and cook for an additional 30-40 minutes.

In another pan, heat the beef broth to simmer.

Stir 3 tablespoons flour into the onion mixture over medium heat.  Stir constantly for 3 minutes, then remove from heat.

Immediately stir in one scoop hot beef broth.  When broth has totally been incorporated into the flour, gradually stir in the rest of the broth.  Add wine, and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Partially cover pan and simmer (not boil) for 40 minutes.

Toast the baguette slices.

To serve: ladle the soup into ovenproof bowls. Stir in 1/2 tablespoon Cognac.  Top with a toasted crouton and approx 1/3 cup of cheese. Broil until the cheese melts.  Then serve. Makes six servings.

Now you too can make better French Onion Soup than any restaurant. I guarantee it. Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today.

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5 Responses
  1. Laurie says:

    Yum! This sounds so good right now! 🙂

  2. Debbie says:

    going to my freezer now to get some homemade broth to make this tomorrow!

  3. Ellen says:

    Wow! This site looks great!
    I remember you cooking a long time ago!
    Ellen 🙂

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