The reason we decided to make French Onion Soup one day was simple: we bought too many red onions and we needed to figure out a way to use it up the best way possible! French Onion Soup is such a classic soup that takes a lot of time and patience to make, but the results are worth the effort. With a combination of rich beef broth, caramelized onions, toasted French bread and melted Gruyère cheese, it is a wonderful contrast of flavors – from sweet to salty. We were also excited to use our new (and cute!) porcelain soup crocks to serve the French Onion soup in, which gives it that distinct look for this delicious and comforting soup. We used a recipe from the 2001 edition of The Culinary Institute of America: Book of Soups. It’s a beautifully illustrated cookbook that has been in our collection for years. Follow along as we share the step-by-step process on how to make this classic French Onion Soup.
The recipe calls for 4 medium onions, thinly sliced. We actually doubled the recipe, but for simplicity sake, we will give you instructions based on the cookbook's recipe. To make things easier on us, we sliced the onions using a mandolin so it comes out fairly evenly. And obviously it's a lot faster.
In a soup pot (not a pan like we used here), add some oil and the onions over medium-low heat. The trick here is to not stir the onions at all until they begin to brown on the bottom.
When the onions begin to brown on the bottom, raise the heat to medium, stir, and continue to cook until the onions are deeply caramelized to a dark golden brown. The total cooking time should be about 30-45 minutes. If the onions begin to scorch, add a few tbsp of water and continue cooking. To the onions, add 2 minced garlic cloves and 1/2 cup brandy and simmer until the liquid has nearly evaporated, about 2-3 minutes.
Next, add 1 1/2 quarts of beef broth... and the herb sachet shown below.
We snipped about 3-4 parsley stems from our herb garden for the sachet.
To this cheesecloth, add some thyme, tarragon, and 1 bay leaf. This gets wrapped up and tied with a string to put inside the soup pot while it's cooking to release the flavors of the herbs without having them get inside the pot.
Bring to a simmer and cook partially covered for 45 minutes to 1 hour, skimming the surface as necessary and discarding any fat. Once the soup is done, remove the sachet and season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Meanwhile, grate about 1 cup of Gruyère cheese. Gruyère is sweet but slightly salty, with a flavor that varies widely with age. It is often described as creamy and nutty when young, becoming with age more assertive, earthy, and complex.
When the soup is ready to serve, fill the soup crock and add a couple slices of toasted French bread.
Sprinkle with a generous amount of Gruyère cheese and broil on high for about 5 minutes until the cheese is melted.
The secret to making a fine French Onion Soup is to give it lots of time to develop flavor. The rich flavor of the base is not due just to the broth, but to the caramelized onions. If you find yourself with a lot of onions and want to make something where onions are the key ingredient, then this is surely a dish to consider. We hope that this post will help show you that it's not a daunting task to make your own French Onion Soup at home.
To view or print-out this recipe, click here: French Onion Soup