A long time ago, when I tried my first spoon-full of French Onion Soup in an American restaurant, I nearly spit it out. To say it was a salt-bomb, drowning in cheese, would not be an exaggeration. Turning the cultural tables, my American friend Kelley ordered the dish in Paris when we were visiting a few years ago, and after her first spoon-full she threw her spoon down exclaiming "I don't know what this is but it's not French Onion Soup!" Because she's used to the salty American version, it was not at all what she'd expected.
It would be interesting to know why and how the recipe changed so dramatically from one continent to the other over the course of history and migration. You'll have gleaned, however, that real French onion soup is my own personal preference. So, today I'd like to invite you to my kitchen for a pot of soup. I'll show you how to achieve that lovely broth which, topped with aged-and nutty grated cheese, is always a welcome meal on our table.
French Onion Soup Ingredients
- 4 - 5 medium to large onions thinly sliced
- 1 tsp of sugar
- 2 cloves of garlic (or as you wish)
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of thyme
- pepper (salt if you wish to ad)
- 1 tbsp of all-purpose flour
- 50 g (1.7 oz) of real butter
- 1 tbsp of olive oil
- 250 ml (1 cup) dry white wine (Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio works)
- 1.3 L (5 to 6 cups) of fat free beef broth
- Gruyère cheese (plus extra for the table)
- Poitrine fumée (smoked bacon, as little fat as possible)
- Sliced baguette (1 slice to plate plus extra for the table)
French Onion Soup Method
- Melt butter, add olive oil.
- When this blend feels medium hot when holding your hand over the pan, add the onions.
- Sauté. Taking your time, sweat the onions until they turn glassy. About 5 to 10 minutes over medium heat.
- Add sugar.
- Slowly caramelize, while stirring. The onions should turn a nice caramel color over about 20 minutes, releasing the French Onion soup's sweet and nutty flavor that takes an American audience by surprise.
- Add flour and thyme. Stir well.
- Add white wine. Stir (it will thicken at this point. This is normal.)
- Add broth. Season with pepper (and salt if needed.) Stir. Cover and simmer.
- After 20 to 30 minutes, it's soup!
Where I take a shortcut is by not putting the soup under the grill in the oven. I tend to have accidents! Either soup spills in the oven, or I burn myself, or it doesn't go fast enough before the bread drowns a soggy death at the bottom of the bowl. I prefer the toast a bit crunchy still when I eat the soup, and for it to stay afloat while serving. It's prettier! So, I toast my baguette in a skillet.
- While the soup simmers, add some butter to a hot skillet. Add sliced baguette. Turn heat to medium.
- When toasted on the bottom side, turn over the bread. Heap grated Gruyère atop each slice
- Fry small pieces of bacon for crisping alongside the toast, for extra garnish and flavour. This is entirely optional, and is certainly not the French way of doing things. It's just a twist that I happen to like, but for vegetarian guests, prepare a few toasties without meat.]
- While the bread toasts on the bottom, the cheese will melt [incorporating the bacon.]
Ready to plate and serve!
Scoop the delicious onion soup into small bowls and add a piece of baguette to garnish.
Plate the rest of the toast for the table, and offer an extra bowl of Gruyère for those who want more cheese. To give dinner guests the option to have more, or less cheese, is a considerate thing to do. Allow the flavors to compliment one another, rather than one to overwhelm the other. Serve with a glass of dry white wine, super chilled.
If you'd like to try your hand in French cooking while staying in a self-catering cottage in the Vendée, or you'd like to try my take on it serving the meal with smoked bacon, this recipe for Onion Soup is a French classic that will please the entire family.
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