French Onion Soup-Warm and Inviting on a Winter Day

A luscious bowl of French Onion Soup topped with toasted bread and baked Gruyere cheese

French Onion Soup is  luscious with its deep, sweet caramelized onion flavors and browned Gruyere cheese topping.  I’ve made several batches this winter and find the soup so satisfying during the cold Rocky Mountain winters.

This weekend  several of my foodie friends came to visit and not knowing what time their flights would ultimately arrive I decided to make something that could stay warming on the stove and be ready when everyone arrived. My favorite go to recipe for French Onion Soup uses lots of onions that are slowly cooked in the oven to intensify the sweetness of the onions.  Then the onions are finished on top of the stove to concentrate the liquid with some added water and sherry to deglaze the pot.  The broth or stock is added to the onions along with herbs and set on the stove to simmer.  The recipe is easy to make and the resulting soup is always the hit of the meal.

My regular supply of frozen homemade stock comes in handy for the soup…that along with the ample supply of local onions I always buy at the end of the season from local farmers…means I always have the ingredients on hand to make the soup.  Add in a toasted piece of bread and some shredded Gruyere or Swiss cheese and a sumptuous meal is served.

Now for a little secret….I use swim goggles when I cut onions.  See the picture below…those are the goggles I wear so I don’t cry through the entire process.  A friend of mine, and fellow blogger, uses an old pair of ski goggles to do the same.  Trust me these work and will make you much happier after cutting 5 pounds of onions.

Using goggle when cutting onions prevents tears!

Recipe: French Onion Soup

Summary: A rich French Onion Soup especially when topped with toasted bread and baked Gruyere cheese

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 8 large onions (5 pounds), halved and cut pole to pole into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • Sea salt or kosher salt (table salt as a last resort)
  • 1 cup water for deglazing
  • 1/2 cup dry sherry (use cheap sherry)
  • 6 Cups low sodium chicken or beef broth or mushroom broth for vegetarian version, I use homemade stock if available otherwise I use boxed broth from Pacific Natural Foods
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Ground black pepper
  • 8 slices day old crusted bread such as French, Focaccia, Italian or any baguette
  • 6 ounces shredded Gruyere or Swiss cheese for topping

Instructions

  1. Adjust the oven rack to the lower position and heat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Generously spray the inside of a heavy-bottomed large (at least 7-quart) Dutch oven with a nonstick cooking spray. Place the butter in the pot and add the onions and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, covered on the stove on low to medium heat for 10 minutes to just start the cooking process. The onions will be moist.
  3. Put the pot in the oven for 1 hour. Remove the pot from the oven and stir the onions, scraping the bottom and sides of the pot. Return the pot to the oven continue to cook until the onions are very soft and golden brown, about 2 hours longer, stirring the onions and scraping bottom and sides of pot after 1 hour. Onions will be reduced in volume and may start to be browning.
  4. Carefully remove pot from oven and place over medium-high heat on the stove. Cook onions, stirring frequently and scraping bottom and sides of pot, until the liquid evaporates and the onions start to brown, 15 to 20 minutes, reducing the heat to medium if the onions are browning too quickly. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the pot bottom is coated with a light brown crust, roughly 6 to 8 minutes, adjusting the heat as necessary.
  5. Stir in 1/4 cup water, scraping the pot bottom to loosen crust, and cook until water evaporates and pot bottom has formed another crust, 6 to 8 minutes. Repeat process of deglazing 2 or 3 more times, until onions are very brown. Stir in the sherry and cook, stirring frequently, until the sherry evaporates, about 5 minutes.
  6. Stir in the broth, thyme, bay leaves, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, scraping up any final bits of browned crust on bottom and sides of pot.
  7. Increase heat to high and bring to simmer. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove and discard herbs, then season with salt and pepper.
  8. While soup is simmering place the slices of bread in the oven to toast, about 5 minutes
  9. Ladle soup into individual bowls and add the one slice of bread, top with shredded cheese.
  10. Place soup under broiler until the cheese is melted and golden brown, about 3-4 minutes.
  11. Serve and enjoy!

Variations

To make a full flavored vegetarian variety I use Pacific Natural Foods Mushroom Broth (I buy it at Whole Foods or Sunflower Farmer’s Market). My daughter turned me on to this broth for vegetarian cooking. The broth has a rich flavor which is almost meaty in flavor.*

Makes 8 Servings


*http://www.pacificfoods.com/our-foods/broths/organic-mushroom-broth

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4 Responses to French Onion Soup-Warm and Inviting on a Winter Day

  1. Kim says:

    We LOVE French Onion soup in the winter. Like you said, very satisfying during the cold NJ winters. Okay, maybe you said Rocky Mountain winters, but when it is cold, it is cold no matter what the location.

    The last time we made French Onion soup, we did not have bread. As you know, French onion soup simply cannot survive without the bread. One side of the bread is nice and soup-drenched and the other lathered in warm oozy, yet oven crunched cheese. Ahhhhh – yummers.

    What we did…. searched for a “bread” replacement. We searched the fridge, freezer and cupboard. After some time, I think we actually found a winner. I was searching the “kids” section of our cupboard and found a round package of Holland Rusk. My initial thought was – great for teething baby, but not for my soup. Then after hunting around some more, that little package with those cute little Dutch flowers kept peeking out at me. Almost as if it were screaming – pick me! pick me!

    Well, we ended up using the Holland Rusk as the bread replacement and it was amazing!!! Not only were they dry in consistency (we usually dry our bread out before adding to any soup) – they were round and the perfect thickness. They were also the perfect size & shape for our medium soup ramekins.

    Since that night, we haven’t used anything else. Move over soup bread, the Holland Rusk is here. You need to try it and tell me what you think!

    • Jane says:

      KIm, what a great idea to use Holland Rusks! And you solve the problem of not having the bread fit the bowl. I will get some and try it next time I make the soup. I think you are on to something!!!

  2. Karen Harris says:

    I promise to try this recipe. I always say that until it comes right down to it and I land up making a shortcut version, while very good, is just not the real deal. I hesitate to since I’m afraid that my family will no longer accept anything else. This just looks delicious.

    • Jane says:

      Karen, while the recipe is time consuming because of the braising of the onions I find it easy to make on the weekend. Or, you can even braise/caramelize the onions when you have time and throw the pot with the onions in the fridge…that way you can finalize the soup when you have time. I think once you make the soup you’ll be hooked..and your family will love it. Enjoy.

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