There is nothing more comforting on a cold day than a steamy bowl of delicious French onion soup. Especially when it's full of caramelized onions and topped off with a thick slice of toasted bread loaded with mouth-watering melted cheese.
There are two essential components of a great French onion soup.
The first is the stock. Your soup will only ever be as good as the stock that you're using. This soup is traditionally made with beef stock, though sometimes a decent beef stock can be hard to come by and pretty expensive to make. If you're using boxed stock, be sure to taste it first. If the taste isn't to your liking, simply don't use it. If you cook a lot of beef, save the scraps and freeze them to make a stock with later.
The second important element is properly caramelized onions. Caramelizing the amount of onions that are needed in this recipe will take around 40 minutes. Caramelizing is a chemical process that only occurs when the sugars in the onion reach a certain temperature. This will only happen after a long cooking time - the more caramelized, the deeper the color of the onions and the more flavor you will get.
French Onion Soup (Serves 4-6)
• 6 large red or yellow onions (about 3 pounds), peeled and thinly sliced root to stem - about 10 cups of sliced onions total
• 4 Tbsp Olive oil
• 2 Tbsp butter
• 1 teaspoon of sugar
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 8 cups of beef stock, chicken stock, or a combination of the two (traditionally the soup is made with beef stock)
• 1/2 cup of dry vermouth or dry white wine
• 2 bay leaves
• 4 teaspoons of fresh thyme (can also use a few sprigs of fresh thyme) OR 1 teaspoon dried thyme
• 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 2 Tbsp brandy (optional)
• 8 inch-thick slices of French bread or baguette
• 1 1/2 cups of grated Swiss Gruyere and a sprinkling of Parmesan
1. Caramelize the onions: In a 5 to 6 quart thick-bottomed pot, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil on medium heat. add the onions and toss to coat with the olive oil.
2. Cook the onions, occasionally stirring, until they have softened, about 15-20 minutes.
3. Increase the heat to medium-high. Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and the butter. Cook, stirring often, until the onions have started to brown, about 15 minutes more.
4. Sprinkle with sugar (to help with the caramelization) and then add 1 teaspoon of salt and continue to cook until the onions are well browned, around 10-15 minutes more.
5. Add the minced garlic and cook for a further minute.
6. Deglaze the pot with vermouth: Add the vermouth to the pot and scrape up the browned bits on the sides and bottoms of the pot, deglazing the pot as you go.
7. Add stock and seasonings: Add the stock, bay leaves, and thyme. Bring to a simmer, cover the pot and lower the heat so that you maintain a low simmer. Cook for about 30 minutes.
8. Season to taste with more salt and add freshly ground black pepper. Discard the bay leaves. Add brandy if you're using it.
9. Toast French bread slices: While your soup is simmering, line a sheet pan with foil and preheat the oven to 450°F with a rack on the upper third of the oven.
10. Brush both sides of the French bread or baguette slices lightly with olive oil.
11. Put in the oven and toast until lightly browned, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from the oven, turn the toasts over and sprinkle with the grated cheese. Return to the oven when it's close to serving time, and bake until the cheese is bubbling and light brown.
12. Ladle soup into a bowl and place one cheesy toast on top of each bowl to serve.