French Onion Soup

French onion soup, with plenty of cheese! Gaze upon its molecular beauty with awe.

French onion soup, with plenty of cheese! Gaze upon its molecular beauty with awe.

For years, French onion soup seemed a daunting dish to make. I figured you needed a degree from the Culinary Institute of America to make something so mysterious as onion soup! Yes, I’m aware of how silly that sounds, but bear in mind that I’m a baker at heart and cooking is relatively new for me.

As I mentioned in this post, I’ve been delving through my copy of The New Best Recipe lately, looking for inspiration in the kitchen. This comprehensive cookbook naturally has a recipe for French onion soup, and Husband and I decided it was time to give this dish a whirlie-whirl. It calls for 3 pounds of red onions. The onions have to be red, according to The New Best Recipe, because red onions impart the most flavour and nuance into this dish. Regardless, use whatever kind of onion you please.

I hate raw onions, so the thought of chopping up three pounds of red onions – pretty much the baddest onions in the onion kingdom – was dismal. Luckily for me, Gasoline was over for dinner, so he cheerily volunteered to chop onions for the dish. Husband initially was just going to observe the process of making French onion soup – he and I found the concept of making our own French onion soup pretty fascinating – but as I began the process of caramelizing the onions, he became so intrigued by the onions’ progress that he took over that stage of “soupery,” too. So all I had to do was supervise while the menfolk did all the cooking. 🙂 I took over after the onions had fully caramelized, and finished the soup – adding beef and chicken broth, red wine, and seasoning; slicing French bread and grating three types of cheese; topping each serving of soup with bread and cheese; baking the bowls until the cheese was melty and browned. Meanwhile, Husband prepared his famous filet mignon, cooking each steak to medium-rare perfection.

Husband cooks the best steak I’ve ever had, and he and I have eaten in some pretty posh places across three continents. Trust me. The man can cook. Just look at the photo below!

Husband took this vividly descriptive photo. Such stunning steaks!

Husband took this vividly descriptive photo. Such stunning steaks!

This turned out to be the best French onion soup I’ve ever had, better than I dreamed French onion soup could be. The bread wasn’t soggy; it had absorbed just the right amount of soup. The leftovers heated beautifully, tasting just as yummy as the day the soup was made.

A few notes:
The original recipe stated that the onions should be sliced rather than diced, but Gasoline diced the onions and that was just fine. So chop the onions however you wish; they will caramelize just fine, as long as the pieces of onion are more or less the same size.

When reheating the soup, bring the soup to a simmer before topping with bread and cheese and baking.

I used the cheapest red wine I could possibly find for this dish – $7.99 for a giant bottle of Burgundy – and the flavour of the soup was still delicious. Unless you have a vested interest in using expensive wine for cooking, I’d advise using the cheap stuff for this soup.

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French Onion Soup

Yield: About 6 servings

Ingredients:

For the soup:
2 TBS butter
5 medium red onions OR 4 large red onions (about 3 pounds), chopped, diced, or sliced thin
6 cups chicken broth
1 3/4 cups beef broth
1/3 cup dry red wine
2 sprigs fresh parsley, optional
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 TBS balsamic vinegar
salt
ground black pepper

For the cheese-topped crusts:
1 baguette, cut on the bias into 3/4″ slices; 2 slices per serving
4 oz. Swiss cheese, sliced thinly OR grated
4 oz. Asiago cheese, sliced thinly OR freshly grated
8 oz. mozzarella cheese, sliced thinly OR grated

Method:

For the soup:
Melt the butter in a 5 quart pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onions and about 1/2 tsp. salt and stir to coat the onions thoroughly with the butter.

The onions have been coated in melted butter! Yay!

The onions have been coated in melted butter. That many red onions in one place is… disturbing.

Cook, stirring frequently, to caramelize the onions. The onions are done when they are reduced and syrupy and the inside of the pot is coated in a very deep brown crust, 35 – 50 minutes.

The onions are caramelized. See the deep brown layer over the bottom of the pan? You want that. It's tasty.

The onions are caramelized. See the deep brown layer over the bottom of the pan? You want that. It’s tasty.

Stir in the chicken and beef broths, red wine, parsley (if using), thyme, and bay leaf, scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to loosen the brown crust. This crust is full of flavour; try to loosen as much of it as you can.

Bring the mixture to a simmer. Simmer to blend the flavours, about 20 – 25 minutes, and discard herbs. Stir in the balsamic vinegar and correct seasoning with salt and pepper. At this point, the soup can be cooled to room temperature and refrigerated for up to 2 days; return to a simmer before finishing the soup with the bread and cheese.

For the crusts:
Adjust an oven rack to the upper-middle position and heat the broiler. Set oven-safe bowls on a baking sheet and fill each bowl with 1 1/2 cups of soup. Place 2 baguette slices atop each serving. Divide the mozzarella cheese evenly among the bread slices, followed by the Asiago cheese and topped with the Swiss cheese. Broil for about 10 minutes or until well browned and bubbly. Cool 5 – 10 minutes and serve.

Source: Slightly adapted from The New Best Recipe from the Editors of Cook’s Illustrated, 2004

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One thought on “French Onion Soup

  1. Pingback: Chocolate Soufflé « KitchEnchanted

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