When the weather gets cold, don’t you just want to curl up with a hot, comforting bowl of soup? My French onion soup is a classic recipe that will warm you up and earn you accolades from your family. Besides being a crowd pleaser, it’s also inexpensive to make (it doesn’t get much cheaper than onions). It’s delicious served alone or topped with a crusty piece of French bread and gooey, melted Gruyere cheese.
The base of the soup is simple- it’s made by caramelizing onions until they are deliciously sweet and golden brown. Caramelized onions are one of my favorite secret ingredients that I love to incorporate into dishes because they add so much flavor without too many calories. It takes a little patience to make them because it takes time for the onions to cook down to the point that their sugars start to caramelize and turn a lovely brown color. But it’s so worth the effort. I usually make an extra large batch and save the rest to use in other dishes. They make a great topping for things like pizza or flatbread and burgers. They also can be stirred into pasta dishes, sauces and dips to add depth of flavor.
Although classic French Onion soup recipes usually call for cooking the onions in butter, I use heart healthy olive oil instead. The caramelized onions have so much intrinsic flavor, you won’t miss the butter. Once the onions are done caramelizing, you simply add some fresh herbs, beef stock, wine (or sherry) and a bit of cognac and simmer until done. You can substitute chicken stock or even vegetable stock if you want to make a vegetarian version. The soup is delicious alone but classically, it’s served with crusty bread and tons of Gruyere cheese that’s melted under the broiler just before serving. To simplify the process and cut some calories, I toast slices of French bread in the toaster oven with just enough grated Gruyere cheese. It’s such a strong-flavored cheese, you’ll find that a little goes a long way. Bon appetit!
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 ¼ lbs. sweet yellow onions (about 3 large onions), thinly sliced (about 8 cups sliced)
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt plus extra to taste
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 1 cup dry white wine or sherry (I used a mixture of the two)
- ¼ cup cognac or brandy
- 8 cups less-sodium beef broth (can substitute chicken or vegetable broth)
- black pepper
- 6 slices French baguette (1 ounce each)
- 2 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated
- Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat and add the onions. Stir to coat the onions with the oil.
- Cook, stirring occasionally for 15 minutes until the onions start to soften. Add the salt and sugar and stir to combine. Continue to cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until they are golden brown and caramelized, about 45 minutes. Take your time with this step as this is what’s going to provide the rich flavor for your soup. If the onions start to burn or catch bottom, you can add a small amount of water to deglaze the pan.
- Once the onions are caramelized, add the garlic, thyme and bay leaf. Cook another minute or two and then stir in the flour. Cook, stirring, another 2-3 minutes. Turn the heat up to high and add the wine (or sherry) and cognac. Cook until reduced by half. Add the broth. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer the soup, partially covered, 20-30 minutes. Adjust seasoning with salt and black pepper.
- Top the bread with equal amounts of grated cheese. Toast the bread in the toaster oven for a couple of minutes until the cheese melts and the bread is toasted. Alternatively, you can place the bread on a baking sheet and place it under the broiler. Ladle the soup into bowls and top each one with a slice of cheesy toast. Serve hot.