I love French onion soup. This is probably ironic for anyone who knows me since I loudly proclaim my distaste for onions frequently. But there’s something different about French onion soup. The large crouton and mountain of gruyere cheese probably help, but I also like the sweetness of deeply caramlized onions mixed with that salty broth and nutty cheese.
This recipe is actually pretty easy to make, but it does take time. Caramelizing onions is not a process you can rush. If you do, you lose the soft and rich flavor of the onion and dark rich color the soup will take on. This recipe calls for 4-5 large onions, and I probably could have used more. When onions cook this long, you can start with a filled pot, and end with barely a quarter inch on the bottom when done. The process is well worth it though.
French Onion Soup
- 4-5 large onion sliced in thin rounds, then sliced in half
- 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil
- 2 tablespoons of butter
- 2 tablespoons of flour
- 2 boxes chicken or beef stock (roughly 8-10 cups)
- 2 teaspoons dry thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- Salt and pepper
- Crusty French bread
- Shredded gruyere cheese
- In a large cast iron enamel pot, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Meanwhile, slice onions.
- When the oil is hot, add sliced onions and cook for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally.
- After 10 minutes, add a pinch of salt, a scant teaspoon of sugar, and the butter. Stir to coat. Reduce the heat to medium/medium low. Cook the onions for about 45 more minutes, stirring occasionally. This is the key step. You have to allow the onions time to brown and caramelize, without burning them. If you stir too often, they won’t brown!
- When the onions are deeply golden brown, add the flour and cook for a minute.
- Add the stock, thyme, bay leaves, and a little more salt and pepper. Stir to combine, cover, reduce heat to low/medium low, and simmer for another 45 minutes.
- While the soup simmers, make the croutons! Preheat the oven to 400. Slice you bread in thick slices. Add to a baking sheet in a single layer and toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Bake for 8-10 minutes until crusty and golden brown all over. Remove from oven, and top with cheese. Return to oven for 3-5 minutes to melt the cheese. When melted, remove from oven, preheat the broiler, and broil croutons for 2 minutes or so to brown the cheese.
- To serve: ladle soup into a bowl and top with cheesy croutons
- Note: if you have oven safe crocks you can ladle soup over bread and top with cheese and broil all together, but for people like me who don’t have those, this process works well.