French Onion Soup has always been a favorite of mine. However, too often when ordered at restaurants it is a disappointment. So, I have learned to make it at home. This is my French Onion Soup Recipe.
French Onion Soup seems like it would be easy. Simply throw some onions in broth and top with cheese. The reality is this is a fairly time-consuming dish to make. It isn’t particularly difficult, but it requires a lot of attention.
Whenever I do a recipe I like to look at the history of the dish. With my French Onion Soup Recipe, I didn’t care too much about the history. I wanted to make the dish I grew up with. That is a rich onion broth with a hefty topping of cheese.
If you want a history, I found two articles of interest, based on some quick research. The Culture Trip and Munchies each have different stories about the origin. However, it appears that the French Onion Soup as known today developed in 18th century France, during the reign of King Louis XV.
My homemade French Onion Soup Recipe comes from tweaking a 2008 article in Cook’s Illustrated. I have been tweaking this recipe for ten years and am now pretty happy with the results. You can find the original recipe here, but you need a subscription to Cook’s Illustrated.
One thing I have learned is to add a mix of onions. This includes sweet onions and shallots. Cook’s Illustrated does not specify onion type, other than to say yellow onions and not to add too many sweet onions. So only about a third of my onions are sweet onions.
The most important thing with a French Onion Soup Recipe is cooking the heck out of the onions. You need to cook the onions in the oven and then go through several deglazing processes on the stove. The deglazing process gets the onions a dark brown. You will notice that the onions cook way down. That is normal.
Cook’s Illustrated recommends using two parts chicken broth, one-part beef broth, and one part water. I use all chicken broth, just to keep it simple.
Soggy bread is another part of most any French Onion Soup Recipe. This is probably my least favorite part of French Onion Soup. Cook’s Illustrated suggests toasting the bread first. That is definitely a crucial step, but the bread still tends to be on the soggy side.
To me, a crusty cheese topping is what I love about French Onion Soup. Cook’s Illustrated and many other recipes suggest limiting the cheese to let the onion flavor shine through. I love the crusty cheese so I double the amount in their recipe.
You can make this soup early in the day and let it simmer until it is close to serving time. For the final part, you simply need to add the soup to oven-proof bowls and top with bread and cheese. Placing the bowls under the broiler for 5 minutes melts the cheese.
I don’t need to tell you that the soup will be hot. Much of the fun with eating French Onion Soup is stirring it around and waiting for it cool. This soup makes a great first course, but we also have been known to serve it as a main course, especially during the winter.
French Onion Soup
This is a version of a French Onion Soup recipe I modified from Cook's Illustrated.
- 4 lbs onions yellow or mix, of yellow, red, sweet and shallots, halved and cut pole to pole in 1/4 inch slices
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup dry sherry
- 2 quarts chicken stock
- 4 sprigs thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 teaspoons cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon salt more to taste
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 baguette any crusty bread will work
- 1 pound shredded Gruyere cheese
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Place butter in large Dutch oven. Add onions and cook covered for 1 hour. Remove pot, stir, scrape up brown bits and add 1 tablespoon water. Put back in oven with lid slightly ajar and cook another 1 1/2 hours. Onions should be soft and golden brown.
Remove pot from oven and place on stove on medium-high heat. Cook onions 15 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently and scraping bottom of pot. When pot is coated with a dark brown crust add 1/4 cup water and cook until water evaporates, about 6 to 8 minutes. Repeat the deglazing process of adding 1/4 cup water and cooking until it evaporates 3 times until onions are a dark brown.
Add sherry and cook another 3-5 minutes, until sherry evaporates and alcohol smell is gone. Add broth, thyme, bay leaf, pepper and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to simmer, lower heat, cover and cook for 30 minutes. Add cider vinegar and more salt and pepper to taste.
While soup simmers, slice baguette and toast until crispy brown. Set aside.
Adjust oven rack 6 inches from broiler and turn on. In 4 ovenproof serving bowls add small amount of broth. Top with half of toast and some cheese. Add more broth with onions. Top with rest of toast and remaining cheese. Broil until cheese is melted, about 3 to 5 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes before serving