10 January 2013

French Onion Soup - Soupe a l'Oignon Gratinee

When I took the time to thoroughly caramelize the onions for a special version of my Vegetable Beef Soup last week, I got to craving classic French onion soup. Ever since my mother and I watched Julia Child make it on television when I was a child, I've intended to make it. Every time I have it in a French restaurant, I've intended to make it. For some reason, I never have. But, at last, today was the day! 

Naturally, I started with Julia's version in Mastering the Art of French Cooking - Volume One. And, just as naturally, I couldn't help making a few additions and subtractions as well as streamlining the directions. There's nothing difficult about it. It just takes a little patience and some good broth or stock. If you don't want to take at least 45 minutes to properly caramelize the onions, don't make this soup. If you don't want to make homemade beef stock or buy some really good stock or broth, don't make this soup. 

I used Pacific Natural Foods organic beef broth, a superb product I always have in the pantry, and it was wonderful! Good, flavorful, not-too-salty broth or stock is key to this soup. And there are plenty of recipes out there shortcutting the cooking of the onions. Don't you believe them!

If your eyes are as sensitive to onions as mine, you need to get these fabulous onion goggles -- they have changed my life! And they're kind of cute, too. Unfortunately, no one was around to take a picture of me modeling them!

We have many weeks of Soup Weather ahead - tell me about your favorite soups.

French Onion Soup - Soupe a l'Oignon Gratinee

Adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking

(Makes 7 cups / 6 servings)

1 1/2 pounds yellow onions, quartered and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup dry sherry
1 quart very good beef broth or stock
1 quart water

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
3 tablespoons brandy, optional
6 rounds of hard-toasted French bread
1 1/2 cups grated Swiss cheese
6 tablespoons shredded Parmesan

1 In heavy-bottomed large pot (a 4-quart is fine, but I used my Le Creuset 5.5-Quart French Oven), cook the onions in butter and oil over low heat, covered, for 15 minutes. No need to watch them, just set the timer and walk away.

2 Stir in the salt and sugar (helps with browning). Cook, uncovered, over moderate heat (onions should be sizzling), stirring frequently,* for about 35 to 45 minutes, or until onions are well caramelized, evenly golden brown.

* Who even knows what "stirring frequently" means? I've never seen a definitive answer to that question, so I'm going to say it means every 2 or 3 minutes (though maybe every minute toward the end).

3 During the last 15 minutes of cooking the onions, bring the stock and water to a boil in a 3-quart saucepan.

4 Sprinkle flour over the caramelized onions. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Stir in the sherry, and cook for 1 minute.

5 Off heat, stir (gradually at first) the boiling liquid into the onions. Stir in the thyme, marjoram and black pepper (and the brandy, if you're using it). Simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning (at this point, I added another 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper). May be made ahead to this point, cooled and then refrigerated until ready to use. While soup is simmering, cut slices of French bread to fit your broiler-proof* soup bowls and toast them on a baking sheet in the oven until they are hard as well as toasted. 

6 About 10 minutes before serving, preheat broiler. Bring the soup to a boil, then ladle into broiler-proof soup bowls. Place toast rounds on top, and spread cheeses over each. Place on a large, foil-lined baking sheet and put under the broiler for about 2 minutes to melt cheese and brown the tops.

*If your bowls are not broiler-proof, after oven-toasting the bread just top the toasts on the baking sheet with cheese and pop them under the broiler until cheese is bubbling and browning, then float them on the bowls of soup.

Note: If you're a Julia Child fan, you might enjoy reading my Vegetable Quiche post about one of my conversations with her.  


Eileen H said...

Husband's favorite soup!
Thanks for the recipe.

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Eileen, thank you for commenting! I think this has become MY husband's favorite soup as well.

TONY said...

Jean this is something I have actually made, well, my version anyway.
Over the years we have popped across the channel for family holidays in Brittany, Normandy and further south in the Loire so we have tried many examples of French cooking.One question, the beef stock we use a lot over here is made by crumbling an OXO cube into some hot water. Is that de rigeur in the culinary world?

The other thing, if you would like to join the 200th anniversary celebrations for Pride and Prejudice try this link to Vic's site. Yes I have written it but not many are going to read it me thinks. Have a look and you will see why. Has anybody got a sense of humour???? All the best, Tony

Here's the link: http://janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/2013/01/09/pride-and-prejudice-versus-the-sweeney/

Richard Sheppard said...

I hardly ever see French Onion Soup on restaurant menus but I love the soup. Never made it myself, but I'm going to have to give this a go sometime soon. I made your cabbage soup two nights ago (yes, again) and we're still eating leftovers today. Yum.

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Tony, we call those bouillon cubes, but I have never used them. Oxo brand might be better, but from what I've seen, these types of cubes are at least half salt and have a lot of artificial ingredients. So, no, they are not "de rigeur in the culinary world"! Hate to be a food snob, but I think if you make the soup my way just once, you'll never go back to the cubes!

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Richard, I'm so happy that my cabbage soup http://delightfulrepast.blogspot.com/2011/02/cabbage-soup-and-equipment-review_25.html is such a hit in your house! I think you'll really enjoy making (and eating) the onion soup too. Thanks so much.

Sippity Sup said...

Instant classic. Not that I thought your version was "instant"! GREG

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Thanks, Greg! I am not opposed to recipes that are quick, but you'd never know it from what I always cook!

Susan J Meyerott, M.S. said...

I love you Jean! I've been thinking about French Onion Soup and even looked up a recipe in my books....but didn't find what I was looking for. This looks and sounds perfectly delicious! I am so excited to make it!

Today it is you who is reading my mind!

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Thanks, Sue! Do let me know how it turns out for you. (I love reading minds!)

Unknown said...

My mother LOVES French onion soup. I mad a version for her last year when she was visiting... This will be the one I make next time. Looks soooo good!!

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Thanks, Jenn. I hope you and your mom will like it as much as we do!

Thomas "Sully" Sullivan said...

Pavlov’s dog is salivating less than I am. Caramelized onions. An instant way for me to drown in my own enthusiasm. The photos sells it/seals it for me. I’m not one to do the initial work you refer to, but this may be the exception…

Angie's Recipes said...

We love onion soup. I need to try your recipe and hopefully mine will come out as good as yours.
Happy Weekend, Jean.

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Thank you, Sully! And do let me know if you take the plunge!

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Angie, thank you. I wore my onion goggles so I could take my time slicing the onions thinner than I would have with onion tears streaming down my face!

Ruth Schiffmann said...

I love, love, love french onion soup, but since I'm the only one here that does, I probably won't try this one- although I will probably order it the next time I go out =)

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Ruth, thanks for commenting. Good to hear from you! This soup keeps well, so you could make it for yourself and have it four days in a row!

Brooks at Cakewalker said...

Jean, like you I've been meaning to make this for a long while and you've inspired me to put it into action. Especially since my son has expressed interest in trying the soup. I love the mention of the beef stock brand as it is easily accessible and I will bring patience for proper onion caramelization. Thank you for sharing the recipe!

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Brooks, thank you so much. You're going to be sooo glad you finally did it!

Bernideen said...

This looks terrific...will be printing out. Our local French bakery uses chicken stock and people are very loyal to this item on their menu. I am always interested to see other recipes!

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Thank you, Bernideen! Of course, it's a matter of opinion, but I prefer it with beef stock or broth. And I'm someone who uses a great deal more chicken stock and broth than beef, but this is just better with beef, I think.

Jeanie said...

I adore French Onion. I usually use Julia's recipe but I see so much here that is different and that I like, I'm saving this one to try when the weather turns!

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Jeanie, thank you! When you try it, do let me know how you liked it!