The Perfect French Onion Soup

Nothing is better than warm freshly made French onion soup on a cold and blustery winter day. 

Despite its simple elegance, you can’t rush true French onion soup. If you want do do it right – it’s going to take you about four hours to prepare – but it is worth it if you commit to dong it right. 

INGREDIENTS – (Serves 6)

Soup:

  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 6 large yellow onion. It is important that they be yellow onion and not white onions, which are too hot.
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup dry sherry (not salty cooking sherry – real sherry)
  • 4 cups chicken broth (canned broth/stock is fine)
  • 2 cups beef broth (canned broth/stock is fine)
  • one tied bundle of fresh thyme (half a dozen sprigs)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper to taste

Croutons and Cheese:

  • 1 small french baguette cut into slices a half-inch thick. Do not use sourdough baguettes.
  • 8 ounces of Gruyere cheese shredded (makes about 2 1/2 cups of shredded cheese)

Adjust oven rack so that it is in the lower-middle level and preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Half and cut the onions into 1/4-inch wedge-shaped slices. (Sliced pole-to-pole – not like onion rings).

In a large Dutch-oven type of baking/stove-top pan add butter, onions, 1 teaspoon of salt. If you are not using a non-stick pan, be sure to coat the inside of the pan generously with a nonstick cooking spray.

Cover the pan and cook in the oven for one hour.

After the first hour, remove the pot from the oven and stir the onions, scraping the bottom and sides of the pot.

Return the pot to the oven with the lid slightly ajar to allow stem to escape. Cook for another hour. Scrape the sides and stir the pot and return to the oven as before, cooking an additional 30-40minutes until onions are very soft and thoroughly golden brown. (We are trying to get the deep brown carmelization that is key to French onion soup.)

Remove pot from oven and place on stove at medium high heat. Use oven mitts (the pan will be very hot) and stir the onions and continually scrape the sides and bottom. Cook until all liquid has evaporated and the onions are brown. This should take 15-20 minutes.

Continue cooking on the stove top and stirring frequently until the onions become a dark, crusty color. If you are not using a non-stick pan, the bottom should start to become encrusted with a dark crust. This is the desired effect. This should take an additional 6-8 minutes after the liquid has evaporated. Adjust heat as needed so it doesn’t cook too fast or burn to black.

Stir in one cup of water – scraping the pot to loosen the crust is you are not using a non-stick pan. Stir until mixture is  well mixed and cook down again until all liquid evaporates, again forming the dark crust. This should take 6-8 minutes as before. Repeat this step 2 or 3 more times until all the onions are a deep, dark brown.

Stir in sherry and cook, stirring frequently until the sherry evaporates. This should take about 5 minutes.

Now stir in both broths, 2 cups water, the thyme bundle and the bay leaf, 1 teaspoon salt. Scrape the sides and bottom of the pan to deglaze it and to get all the browned onions mixed evenly in the broth mixture.

Increase the heat to high until the soup starts to simmer. Reduce to low and simmer covered for 30 minutes. 

Discard herbs and season to taste with salt and pepper.

While soup is simmering for the final 30 minutes, cut the baguette into 1/2-inch slices. Arrange the slices on a baking sheet and bake in a 400-degree oven until bread is dry and crisp. This is about 10 minutes. Set toasted the bread aside.

Serving: Adjust the oven rack 6 inches from the broiler. Place individual broiler-safe crocks on a baking sheet. Fill each with about 1 and 3/4 cups of soup.

(The bast way to do this is to test your favorite soup ladle before hand – and use it to fill up a measuring cup with water. You’ll soon learn how many ladle scoops equals a cup – or in this case, 1 3/4 cups.)

In the soup-filled crock add one or two of the toasted baguettes so that they float on top. Do not overlap them. Sprinkle he top with some of the Gruyere cheese and broil until the cheese is melted and bubbly around the edges. This should be about 3-5 minuted in the broiler

Remove from broiler and let cool for about 5 minutes before serving.

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If you are serving fewer than 6, make the recipe as normal. The excess French Onion soup liquid keeps well in the refrigerator for up to 3 days and is easily and quickly warmed up in the microwave for a future meal. It also can be frozen and kept indefinitely in individual-serving sized portions.