Monday, October 24, 2011


During fall every year, I always think to myself, "Why don't I make French Onion Soup more often? It is delicious and inexpensive."  5 minutes into the recipe and I remember why I don't make it all the time: the pain. The horrible, horrible pain.  How do television chefs chop onions on live TV? I could never do it.  It would end up a hurricane and of mascara and phlegm.

You need a gigantic mountain of chopped onions to make this soup... and even the food processor sends enough fumes into the room to make my eyes water for the next day or so.

So why do I bother?

Around the time I pull the steamy hot bowls out from under the broiler covered in melted cheese, I remember why I own special bowls for just for this eye-scorching soup. Garlicky bread and melty cheese on top of a deeply flavored broth. I mean, come on. You can't simultaneously be human and not dig that.

This is one of those recipes that people are a bit afraid of making at home.  You really shouldn't be.  As long as you have some oven safe bowls to finish the recipe, it's really very easy.  It just takes quite awhile so you better start now.  No pain, no gain. And remember, the ends justify the means [Insert your favorite sports metaphor here].

French Onion Soup
Makes about 6 servings, depending on the size of your bowls (I know, real scientific)

4 (about 5 onions) pounds yellow onions
8 cups beef stock
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon sugar or honey
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup white wine
Crusty bread, toasted hard
2 cloves garlic
2 cups shredded Gruyere cheese
Salt & Pepper

1. The first part of this recipe is the hardest.  Slice your onions very thin. If you have a food processor with a slicing plate, use that.  Otherwise, power through it. You can do it, champ.

2. In a large soup pot, melt your butter and olive oil at medium heat.  Add the sliced onions, cover, and leave alone for 10 minutes.  

3. After the onions have steeped for 10 minutes, remove the lid, add about a teaspoon of salt and the sugar or honey, and cook the onions for about an hour, stirring very frequently, until the onions are a deep golden brown.  It's very important that you let the onions caramelize, no matter how long it takes - that is where most of the flavor of the soup comes from.

4. After the onions are done, sprinkle with flour and stir, cooking the flour for a few minutes and coating the onions.  Add the wine and stir.

5. Add the beef stock slowly, stirring between additions to avoid lumps of flour.  Add the thyme. 

6. Bring the soup up to a simmer, and simmer for another 30 minutes. Taste the soup half way through for seasoning, and adjust salt and pepper.  Remember that the cheese has some salt, so don't be too liberal.

7.  Turn your oven's broiler on. Add the soup to oven-proof bowls. Rub the toast liberally with the garlic cloves. Add the toasted bread to the top of the soup and cover each bowl in grated cheese.

8. Place the bowls on a cookie sheet beneath the broiler and leave until the cheese is melted and begins to brown.

9. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving. 


  1. I'm pretty used to onions now. I'm almost never bothered by them; but just recently I've been buying white onions (I guess I usually buy yellow or red) and all of a sudden one of them bit me in the eye (in a manner of speaking). Maybe they're stronger? I also get great big onions instead of little ones so I have less to chop (and peel).

  2. I don't know if I'm super sensitive to them or what, but I've been like this since I was a kid. If I chop enough onions, I can walk into the kitchen hours later - after I've cleaned - and my eyes still well up. Red onions are usually worse.

    I usually buy big onions, too. Easy to just cut them in half and store the unused portion.

    The onions I used for this soup were the size of small melons. Seriously larger than softballs. Disturbing. That was a bit off-topic. But also true.