I don’t know about you, but I looove me a bowl of French onion soup. Sometimes, there’s nothing better than cracking through that crispy lid of cheese, creme brulee style, and diving into a (scalding hot, often) bowl of buttery, caramelized onions in a savory, well-seasoned beef broth. And I’m not too picky about it, either. Sure, you can probably screw up French onion soup, but I generally enjoy even the most lackluster bowls. There’s a saying about pizza (and sex) that implies that even when pizza is bad, it’s still pretty good.
That’s a filthy lie.
However, when French onion soup is bad… well, it’s still pretty okay, and I’m still probably going to enjoy it. (My father is probably tremendously disappointed in me right now for saying that, and Dad, if you’re reading this, I’d like to remind you that pretty much all the other wisdom and good taste you’ve imparted on me has stuck. Except for MacArthur’s Park. I’m on Mom’s team in that department.)
^ This is how I gird myself for cutting lots and lots of onions.
My go-to recipe for French onion soup is Julia Child’s, with only slight modifications, since I don’t have a freezer full of homemade stock on hand, which is kind of a bummer. It’s easy, albeit a little time consuming if you’re going to properly caramelize your onions, but so worth it, especially if you’re like me and living in a part of the world that’s getting chillier every day, which is also a bummer.
French onion soup (adapted from The French Chef Cookbook)
3 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
About 1.5 lbs, or 5-6 thinly sliced onions (I used a mix of red and yellow; the recipe calls for yellow.)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
3 tbsp flour
2 quarts hot beef bouillion/broth
1 cup dry white wine
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp thyme (recipe calls for sage, I used what I had on hand)
salt and pepper, to taste
1.5 cups grated Swiss or Gruyere cheese (optional)
Melt the butter and oil in a large soup pot, then add your onions and stir them to make sure they get coated with butter and olive oil. Cover the pot and cook over moderately low heat for about 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and translucent.
Uncover the pan, turn up the heat ’til it’s moderately high, then stir in your salt and sugar. Cook for about 30 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are golden brown.
Lower the heat, then stir in your flour. If the flour doesn’t absorb into a paste with the onions, add a little more butter. Cook slowly, stirring continually, for about two minutes, to brown the flour lightly. Remove the pot from heat.
Pour in a cup of your hot beef broth, stirring with a whisk to blend the flour and broth. Add the rest o the broth as well as the wine, bay leaf and thyme, and bring to a simmer. Simmer slowly for about 30-40 minutes, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper.
Now, you can stop here and just enjoy your onion soup … but where’s the fun in that? If you’re a cheese person (and I am a cheese person, we all know), ladle your soup into small, ovenproof crocks. Sprinkle your grated cheese over the top of your soup, making a nice little lid. Place the crocks under the broiler in your stove for a few minutes, until the cheese melts and your lid looks all blistery and crispy and delicious.