French onion soup is one of the most beloved recipes to be found – when properly made, it is redolent of the true sweetness only to be found in the slow caramelization of onion, the depth of flavor from homemade beef stock, the complexity brought only about by 2 different kinds of wine and alcohol, a gentle touch of fresh thyme and the savor of a baguette slice or two absorbing all the rich flavors.
Lastly, who can resist the stretchy, pully magnificence of proper gruyere cheese from France broiled in a noble tureen designed specifically for this sole purpose?
The usual drek (It’s a great Yiddish adjective, look it up here if you’re not easily offended) is all too often the norm – beef “soup” from concentrate that sets the teeth on edge from its insane saltiness, fake cheese, a distinct paucity of wine and brandy, and a stale chunk of bread haphazardly chucked into a bowl before the inevitable microwaving.
It’s enough to bring tears to the eyes of TFD, Citizens!
Enough, let’s get on with the only proper recipe for French onion soup I would ever choose to share – my own, based closely on a recipe from the unmatched Julia Child. She notes in her preface:
“The onions for an onion soup need a long, slow cooking in butter and oil, then a long, slow simmering in stock for them to develop the deep, rich flavor which characterizes a perfect brew. You should therefore count on 2 1/2 hours at least from start to finish. Though the preliminary cooking in butter requires some watching, the actual simmering can proceed almost unattended.”
Don’t deviate from my recipe or her advice. 🙂 I up the umami quotient with a parmesan rind in the broth (removed before serving) and I prefer vermouth to white wine for its extra herbal flavor. Except for these touches, this is all classic French onion soup, Citizens!
Enjoy this perfection and serve it to those you truly care about.
Battle on – The Generalissimo
1 ½ lbs. or about 5 cups of thinly sliced yellow onions
3 T butter
1 T vegetable oil
A heavy-bottomed, 4 quart covered saucepan
1 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. sugar
3 T flour
2 quarts boiling Beef Stock, homemade
½ cup dry white vermouth (Noilly-Prat brand only)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 (2-inch) piece Parmesan rind
3 T Cognac
Rounds of hard-toasted French bread (see recipe following)
1 to 2 cups grated Swiss Gruyère cheese
Fresh Thyme sprigs to garnish
CROUTES — HARD-TOASTED FRENCH BREAD:
12 to 16 slices of French bread, cut ¾ to 1 inch thick
Olive oil or beef drippings
A cut clove of garlic
PROCEDURE FOR THE SOUP:
Cook the onions slowly with the butter and oil in a covered saucepan for 15 minutes.
Uncover, raise heat to moderate and stir in the salt and sugar. Cook for 30 to 40 minutes stirring frequently, until the onions have turned an even, deep golden brown. Sprinkle in the flour and stir for 3 minutes.
Off heat, blend in the boiling stock. Add the vermouth and season to taste. Simmer partially covered for 30 to 40 minutes or more, skimming occasionally. Add Parmesan rind when there is only 10 minutes left of cooking time. Correct seasoning and remove parmesan rind.
Set aside uncovered until ready to serve. Then reheat to the simmer.
Just before adding the bread and cheese, stir in the cognac.
When you’re ready to eat, preheat the broiler. Ladle the soup into bowls, top each with 2 slices of bread and top with cheese. Put the bowls into the oven to toast the bread and melt the cheese. Watch it carefully so it doesn’t burn, it doesn’t take long. Remove, garnish with fresh Thyme sprigs and eat immediately.
PROCEDURE TO MAKE THE CROUTES:
Place the bread in one layer in a roasting pan and bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for about half an hour, until it is thoroughly dried out and lightly browned.
Halfway through the baking, each side may be basted with a teaspoon of olive oil or beef drippings; and after baking, each piece may be rubbed with cut garlic.