This is a simple recipe. The ingredients are simple, the process is simple, and yet, the results are absolutely amazing!
The French Onion Soup, or Soupe a L’Oignon Gratinee, is one of the most famous specialty. This soup’s origin dates as far back as Roman times and was popular throughout history because of the low cost ingredients and simple making process.
Onion soups have been popular at least as far back as Roman times. Throughout history, they were seen as food for poor people, as onions were plentiful and easy to grow. The modern version of this soup originates in Paris, France in the 18th century, made from beef broth, and caramelized onions.[wikipedia]
There’s a caveat to this recipe though — after you make this recipe at home you won’t be able to order it outside in restaurants.
Though many restaurants and brasseries offer beautiful versions of the classic soup, not a single one trumps the delectable aromatics, scrumptious taste, or ease of cooking your own pot.
Just note that the part of making this soup at home is waiting for the onions to properly cook-down.
Yes, patience is the most important part of this recipe. But trust me, it’s worth it…
(for 6 servings)
- 8 Medium sized onions
- 50–100 gr butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1.5 cups white wine
- 10 cups of beef broth (or vegtables for the vegeterian version)
- Fresh Thyme
- Salt & Pepper
- Quality Bread — any kind that has a thick crust would do
- Hard cheese — traditionally Gruyère but you can also use Parmesan, Pecorino… you get the idea.
Cut the onions in half — from its root to its top end — and then slice into thin half-rings.
You can use all Yellow Onions but I usually replace half of the onions with Red Onions. Red Onions are a bit sweeter in taste, giving the soup a nice sweet aroma.
You should use fresh crisp onions — their sugary content is higher which is very important for the caramelization process which gives this soup its color and amazing taste.
Heat up a large pot and pour the onions in.
We’re starting to caramelize the onions without using any oil or butter because any oil\butter we add at this stage — the onions are just going to absorb which will require adding more later.
Caramelization is the most important step in this recipe — the caramelization process extracts all the taste out of these onions.
Cook the onions on medium heat until they start browning.
We’re not using high heat as it’ll burn the onions and give our soup a bitter taste.
Take your time…. a good caramelization takes at least an hour.
Make sure the heat is not to high, stir the onions often and most importantly —be patient.
Tip: I always keep a glass of water nearby so if I notice the pot getting top hot I can reduce the heat and pour some water in to cool things down and prevent the onions from getting burnt.
After about 15 minutes the onions will start to soften.
Add the butter and stir it into the onions.
I also like to add some peppercorns at this stage.
This is about 30 minutes in. keep going…
After about an hour the onions have turned into a brown mush. A concentrate of oniony taste that is the base for this amazing dish.
(If you’re not there yet maybe your heat is too low, turn it up a bit and be sure to stir continuously so the onions don’t get burnt)
Flour — At this stage, we add a bit a flour. Take a small pan and roast the flour for a couple of minutes until it browns.
The brown flour adds a nutty flavor to the soup.
Add it to the onion mixture.
Wine — Add the white wine. I usually pick a nice not-too-expensive wine that I like. It’s important that the wine isn’t too sour as that sourness will intensifies during the cooking process.
Just pick a gentle white wine that good enough for you to drink.
(At this point, take a glass and have some wine yourself too ;))
After adding the flour and wine mix the whole thing together. The mixture is now starting to think and the smell… you can see where this is going
Stock is the final step to turn this flavourful mixture into a soup.
Spices — add some salt and pepper and a sprig of Thyme. Wait for a couple of minutes and give it a taste. The soup has a natural sweetness as a result of the caramelization process, but sometimes it’s not sweet enough — maybe it’s the onions, or the wine was too sour — and needs some help, so you can add some sugar to taste.
Cook — bring to boil again and then continue cooking at low temperature for about 2 hours.
Rest —the hardest part of the process — Let the soup rest for 3–6 hours.
I know its hard but you have to show some patience. The rest intensifies the tastes and really takes this soup to a whole new level. Trust me, its a hell of a lot better after a couple of hours…. it’s even better the day after!
Serve —The soup is amazing on its own, but with cheese and toasted bread… OMG!
The Crouton — I usually just toast slices of bread in the oven with garlic, butter, and some olive oil but the more decadent option is to also add cheese on top so we get this cheesy garlic crouton.
We then reheat the soup, put into a bowl (one that can go into the oven), spread some cheese on top and put into the oven to melt.
Once ready, take it out, put the bread it, sprinkle some thyme on top and Viola!
Variations to Explore
- Beer — Make it an Irish Onion Soup and replace the wine with a good stout (like a Guinness)
- Brandy\Sherry instead of white wine.
- Pancetta — Add a meaty hearty flavor by frying some Pancetta in the pot before adding the onions.
Fry some pancetta bits until they’re crisp. Remove them from the pot and add the onions into the fat rendered from it. Add the pancetta back in the final stages of the caramelization process.
(Since we already have the Pancetta fat, reduce the amount of butter in the recipe to ~half)