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French Onion Soup

By Cheryl Forberg
Image of French Onion Soup
Every time I post photos of my French Onion Soup on social media, I’m barraged with comments about how delicious it looks. As beloved as it is, it seems that most people don’t make French Onion soup at home. Instead, they wait until they’re dining out to order it. Living in the country, we don’t have any options for finding this umami-bomb dish on a local menu. In fact, I’ve always made it at home. Believe it or not, it’s super easy to make as long as you have access to a great bread and cheese shop.

Here are a few tips for super easy French Onion Soup:
  • Onions: Choose wisely as these are the main ingredient. I use high-quality sweet yellow onions, which most chefs would use. Two pounds seems like a lot, but while they cook slowly, they will reduce a lot in size. I use a combination of olive oil and butter to sauté them in because it allows them to brown without burning and helps them achieve a sweet, caramelized flavor. Just as sugar turns to caramel when heated in a pan, a similar process happens here with the onions. Fruits and vegetables contain small amounts of natural sugars and when they are slowly cooked, they release the sugars. Through cooking, the onions’ sugars brown and caramelize which adds layers of rich flavor to this humble ingredient. It’s important to keep the heat low and stir often, as it will take about 30 minutes for the onions to cook. That is the most difficult part of the recipe!
  • Deglazing: If you are averse to cooking with alcohol, you can always deglaze the pan with a little beef or chicken stock before adding the bulk of it. Deglazing is not to be missed though, as it saves all of the tasty brown bits from the bottom of the pan and incorporates every bit of their flavor into the soup. I usually use white wine for deglazing, but you could use red wine, cognac or sherry. Just be sure to turn off the heat before adding the alcohol to the hot pan.
  • Stock: Some traditional French Onion Soup recipes use all beef stock or half beef and half veal stock. I usually use half beef and half chicken stock because that’s what I usually have on hand, and I really like the flavor combination.
  • Cheese: Gruyere is a hard, nutty Swiss cheese often used in French Onion soup and it’s always my first pick. However, parmesan or mozzarella are sometimes used.
  • Bowls: Restaurants often serve French onion soup in a stoneware or crock-type bowl. (There is a nice selection available on Amazon and they can be used for any type of soup). They can range in size anywhere from 12 to 24 ounces, so be sure to measure your soup yield before divvying it into bowls. You will probably have a yield of 8 cups/64 ounces, which would make four to six servings. You won’t be filling the bowls to the top with soup. You must leave plenty of room for the toasty crouton and gooey melted cheese.
French Onion Soup
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Image of Ingredients for French Onion Soup
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 pounds Melissa’s Perfect Sweet onions, peeled, halved, and sliced 1/4-inch thick
1/2 cup dry white wine (or cognac or sherry)
4 cups beef stock
4 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and pepper

For topping:
Thick bread, cut into crustless rounds the size of the soup bowl opening
6 ounces grated Gruyere cheese

Image of onion sauté
Heat a Dutch oven or a large stockpot on medium-high heat. Add butter and oil. Sauté the onions for about 30 minutes, stirring regularly, or until they turn golden brown.
Image of onion soup preparation in Dutch oven
Deglaze the pan with wine and simmer for 5 minutes or until almost dry. Add the beef and chicken stocks, bay leaf and thyme. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the bay leaf, season to taste with salt and pepper. If desired, add a tablespoon of cognac or brandy before serving. Keep soup hot.
Image of bread toasts in oven
Heat the oven broiler. On a half sheet pan or cookie sheet, toast the bread rounds lightly on both sides. Remove from oven and set aside. Place soup bowls onto a sheet pan and ladle soup into oven-safe soup crocks or bowls, leaving about 1 inch at the top of the bowls. Check to be sure that oven rack is set at appropriate height under broiler to accommodate the tray of filled soup bowls.
Image of onion soup
Place toasted bread on each soup bowl and generously cover with gruyere. Return to the broiler until cheese is melted, bubbled, and browned. Serve immediately.
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