The first time I made this I misread/understood one step in the recipe and it turned out to be a time-saver with no loss of quality. This happy accident was in reading the temperature for the first 15 minutes the onions spend in the pot with the lid on. The original recipe has the heat real low, and I accidentally had it closer to medium. Try it a bit higher, checking to make sure the onions are happily starting to soften, with an occasional stir to help move the bottom onions to the top and vise-versa.
I don’t remember liking French Onion Soup as a kid. There was an incident… it involved a delicious looking, screaming hot bowl of the stuff being set down in front of me at a restaurant, and, me not knowing otherwise, digging in immediately.
You can imagine the betrayal I felt as that melty, salty, cheesy bowl of comfort hit the insides of my mouth with all the heat of the sun.
It would take me years to try another bite, and oh how glad I am that I did.
The soup is a marriage of some of my favorite things: salt-forward flavor bombs, melty cheese, toasted bread, and deeply caramelized onions. It’s a bowl of comfort that’s as comforting served to a dinner party or enjoyed solo.
It does take a bit of time to make but after you’ve wiped away the tears from the mound of cut onions the steps are easy.
To serve at a party: the soup can be made and reheated. Just take it to the point of tossing it in the oven and put a lid on the pot. When everyone’s arrived, crank up the oven, ladle into bowls, top with bread and cheese, and pop in. We serve this like so: salad plate, folded napkin, lava-hot bowl. The napkin helps the bowls stay put when serving and is a visual reminder to your guests that the bowl is hot.
1 1/2 pounds (680 grams or 24 ounces or about 5 cups) thinly sliced yellow onions
3 tablespoons (42 grams or 1 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil
1 teaspoon (5 grams) table salt, plus additional to taste
1/2 teaspoon (2 gram) granulated sugar (helps the onions to brown)
3 tablespoons (24 grams or 7/8 ounce) all-purpose flour
2 quarts (8 cups or 1.9 liters) beef or other brown stock
1/2 cup dry white vermouth or dry white wine
Lots of freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons (45 ml) cognac or brandy (optional but encouraged)
To finish (Optional)
1 to 2 cups (to taste) grated Gruyere or Fontina cheese (Swiss and/or Parmesan cheese work here as well; it’s whatever you like best)
Day-old thick sliced of bread
Melt the butter and oil together in a 4- to 5-quart saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat.
Add the onions and stir to coat them in the oil/butter.
Cover the pot and let them slowly steep for 25 minutes, stir occasionally, making sure to bring the bottom onions up off the bottom of the pot. Keep going until the onions have softened; they all won’t be caramelized yet.
Uncover the pot and stir in the salt and sugar.
Caramelize the onions, at low to medium-low, stirring frequently, for 30 to 40 minutes (depending on your onions this can take longer) or until they are a deep golden brown.
Sprinkle onions with flour and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes.
Pour in all the wine, stir.
In four to six additions, pour in the stock, stirring to incorporate before adding in more.
Season with pepper and (lightly) salt.
Bring to a simmer.
Partially cover and continue to simmer for 30 - 40 minutes.
Taste and salt and pepper to taste but be warned, the cheese you’re about to add will bring salt.
Stir in the cognac, if using. (Deb thinks you should, and I agree.)
Bowl, spoon, enjoy.
Turn on the broiler.
Arrange six ovenproof soup bowls or crocks on a rimmed, foil-lined baking sheet and add soup.
To each bowl, stir in a tablespoon of grated cheese.
“Lid” each bowl with thick slices of oiled/buttered (optional), toasted bread. (I like to tear up a slice to get full bread coverage because, yum.)
Mound as much grated cheese on top that makes you happy.
Broil until golden brown.
Reheat the soup either on the stove and then follow the instructions above or reheat in the oven (350° for 20 minutes or until boiling) before broiling for the last few minutes as above.
The main photo here is the soup reheated with cheese stirred in and a few more shreds added on top proving yet again that there's no wrong way to enjoy this soup. Happy slurping.