Amazing French Onion Soup

French onion soup

This is one of the best soups I have ever made. Truly, it is tastiness in soup form. I made it using a recipe written in my notebook by a waitress in a café in Montmartre which had no amounts, cooking times or instructions. Just ingredients, and my memory of what it tasted like. So I made up how to make it, and it has worked an absolute treat.

The secret is a good stock. If at all possible, make your own stock. Chicken, vegetable or beef, whatever your preference. Mine was made with veal bones (happy, farmer’s market veal), which I roasted and then simmered with carrots, celery, a leek, an onion, some peppercorns and thyme and parsley for 6 hours. You can follow this basic method, but using roasted chicken, beef or veal bones. Ham stock wouldn’t really work here. Yes, I know making stock seems like a real faff, but I swear on my life that it’s worth it. Honestly. Trust me. You know it makes sense.

If you really don’t have the time to make your own stock, get a couple of cans of beef consommé from the supermarket. Baxter’s do a nice one. If you can’t find that, use a tub of fresh stock from the chiller shelf. And if you can’t find that and only have access to stock cubes then you’re not trying hard enough and you should go and sit in the corner.

Serves 4

4 medium/large onions
Butter. A slab slightly smaller than a deck of cards.
About 3 tblsps brandy
A large glass of white wine (about 250ml)
About 2 pints of stock.(see above)
Old bread, best if it’s gone a bit stale. About 2 rolls’ worth, or equivalent.
Gruyere cheese. About 200g, grated
A nice crusty baguette
Salt and pepper

The Cooking

Cut the onions in half lengthways, peel them and carefully slice them (not chopped, sliced into crescents). I say “carefully” because I’ve just bought myself a shiny new Global cooks’ knife and I slipped while slicing the onions and did myself an impressively bloody injury. Happens to the best of us. In a large saucepan, melt the butter and once it’s started foam add the sliced onions.

Make sure the heat is fairly low – you want the onions to soften slowly and not burn. This is to draw out some of the sugar in the onions. Leave the onions to soften for quite a while, giving it a stir every 5 minutes or so. It might take up to 45 minutes for them to get really lovely and translucent and sweet. Keep the faith, it’ll get there. Once they’re all juicy and soft, add the brandy and cook for another couple of minutes, then add the wine and cook for another 5 minutes just to take the edge off the alcohol.

Add the stock and bring the whole thing up to a simmer. Once it’s simmering, add half the grated gruyere and the old bread, broken up into chunks.

onion soup

Let it simmer for 20 minutes or so until the bread has almost dissolved. Have a taste and add salt and pepper as you think it needs it.

Ladle the soup into soup bowls. Put thick slices of baguette on top as croutons and then sprinkle over the rest of the cheese. Put the bowls under the grill on a high heat for 4 minutes or so until the cheese starts to bubble and turn brown. Serve immediately. Moan with pleasure.


13 Responses to “Amazing French Onion Soup”

  1. Ginger Says:

    That looks lovely and very authentic too, both the soup bowl and the cast iron pan 🙂

    Fred attempted to make a version of this recently but wasn’t happy with how it turned out…I’ll point him at your recipe next time.


  2. Fred Says:

    The version I made was Delia’s. Turned out a little too sweet though.

  3. smilespray Says:

    Yup. I’m making this. Off to the butcher’s!

  4. 101things Says:

    Ring before you go to the butchers! I have to order beef/veal bones specially since most butchers don’t actually do their own butchery any more, it’s most cost effective to buy meat in already boned. Daft, but there you go.

  5. YeastSpotting June 13 2008 | Wild Yeast Says:

    […] French Onion Soup ~ 101 Things Every Cook Should Cook […]

  6. leon Says:

    I love this soup! Had it once in Paris and not managed to eat it anywhere again, it was so nice.:D

  7. Sophie Says:

    We would like to feature this recipe on our blog. Please email if interested. Thanks 🙂

  8. Erik Says:

    I had not seen brandy in a french onion soup recipe before, I will have to try it.
    I agree with your assessment that homemade stock is the way to go; I wish I could make veal stock, but my roommate is dead set against veal at all, so I will have to wait until he gets over that 🙂
    One thing that I can add in the initial process of caramelizing the onions: I like to add a quater cup of water at the start and crank the heat. This wilts the onions really quickly, helping them release their own water more quickly. Once the water evaporates, reduce the heat and you will get to the golden-brown stage more quickly and with less burning.

  9. Sarah Says:

    Is not trying hard enough, With a stale baguette that inspired me to look for this recipe, and between the kids and the dog and all other manner of things on my to-do liste, I chose to use the below standard stock cubes. Yes, it could have been EVEN more delicious if I had sweated over home-made stock (and sometimes I do). But I’m not trying to impress the queen, just a hungry family. 🙂 Thanks for the recipe and the tongue-in-cheek slap. From a working mum, it works! Delish.

  10. Says:

    Mine is so much better 🙂
    Caramelize onions in butter for like 2 hours, add beef stock and sherry and reduce, add demi glace, thyme, salt, white pepper, and white wine, reduce, ladle into individual oven safe bowls, top with crusty bread rounds and Gruyere, broil and serve…takes 3 hours at least but I’d go head to head with you bro!

    • Says:

      o, i put about tblsp of honey in with my onions and butter and cook over low low heat, btw, and slice my onions on a Japanese mandolin to make them super thin……I’d send some across the pond but you’d hafta put your own cheese and bread on top 🙂

  11. funtimefoodie Says:

    Reblogged this on Funtime Foodie and commented:
    This looks so good. Always a complete sucker for french onion soup, especially authentic. I’ll definitely give proper feedback on this once I have.

  12. funtimefoodie Says:

    This looks so good. Always a complete sucker for french onion soup, especially authentic. I’ll definitely give proper feedback on this once I have.

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