French Onion Soup

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When I spend money I like having instant gratification. Nothing is better than shopping in a store, selecting an item or two, walking to a cashier, handing them a credit card, and leaving with a purchase. Right then, right there.

Due to my lack of patience, I really don’t care for online shopping. Nothing about it is tangible and it feels like I’m giving away money and only getting the concept of an actual, physical item. I think this is part of the reason I like going out to eat so much. Long before you even have to worry about paying for your meal you’ve already enjoyed it.

Mastering the Art of French Cooking is a book I’ve wanted for quite a while. It’s a classic, you can learn some great technique, and it’s full of exceptional recipes. While not excessively expensive (about $45 at the store), I never quite justified the cost. I’ve been eyeing it on Amazon.com where it’s $20 something and seeing as I had a gift card, I decided to seize the moment and buy it. Of course you can pay more to have it shipped faster, but I’m cheap and settled on standard. An eternity passed and I still didn’t have it.

I was planning on making French Onion Soup (or as it’s called in MtAoFC “Onion Soup”) as my first recipe from the book and decided I didn’t want to wait any longer. So, I found a version of it online and cooked it. A few days later my book finally came (after being inexplicably delayed two days longer than expected).

Soupe à L’Oignon

Adapted from Julia Child

  • 1½ lbs (about 5 cups) of thinly sliced yellow onions
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon sugar
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 8 quarts boiling beef stock (you could use any kind of brown stock or mushroom or veggie stock but beef is the most common)
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons cognac (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 baguette loaf, cut into slices
  • 2 cups (or more) grated Gruyere cheese

1. In a large covered saucepan, stockpot, or Dutch/French oven, etc. (basically anything that will hold a lot of liquid) cook the onions on low heat with the butter and olive oil for 15 minutes (this softens them).

2. 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 a deep, golden brown. This is probably the most important step of making this dish as it helps the onions develop a deep color and flavor. Whatever you do, do not rush this process.

3. Sprinkle in the flour and stir for 3 minutes.

4. Stir in the boiling broth (it’s really important the broth is hot as the flour will clump if the liquid is room temperature or cold). Add the wine, and season with salt and pepper to taste. At this point I wasn’t wowed at the flavor, but let simmer for about half an hour more. In those 30 minutes the flavors developed more and it was pretty tasty.

5. I was bummed I didn’t have cognac as I thought the soup was lacking a little something. Older cognacs (at least in my opinion) have extremely warm, spice flavor profiles (cinnamon, clove, etc.), so I decided to add in some nutmeg. I let it simmer a bit more, tasted again, loved the addition of nutmeg, and decided to add a few pinches of cayenne. While the cayenne is certainly unorthodox, people loved the mild heat

6. You can finish the soup a few ways. I found the easiest way was to ladle some soup into an ovenproof bowl, place two or three slices of baguette on top, and sprinkle on a handful of cheese. Place under a broiler for a minute or two (you’ll want to check frequently so it doesn’t burn). Another option is to spread your slices of baguette on a parchment lined baking sheet and sprinkle on your cheese, and place under a broiler for one to two minues. Transfer individual pieces of bread into a bowl of the soup.

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2 responses to “French Onion Soup”

  1. Liz says :

    Great looking soup. I love onion soup!

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