Best French Onion Soup

My husband LOVES French Onion soup.  I can’t tell you how many times he’s told me of his love for French Onion Soup.  What is it about the ingenious combination of these simple ingredients?  Is it the crusty cheese melted over crusty bread?  Is it the melt-in-your-mouth onions?  Is it the sweet-yet-savory flavor of the broth?  Is it something else, and/or all of the above?  Regardless, JR was predictably happy when I made this soup the other night.

This has become my go-to FOS recipe; how could it not be with a name like “The Best French Onion Soup (…ever!)“?  A couple of comments, and then I’ll copy the recipe directly from the original link.  One of the secrets to this particular recipe is the fact that the onions are veeeery slowly caramelized in the oven, rather than the more traditional method over the stovetop.  This makes for a much more hands-off experience.  I’ve upped the ante by throwing the onions (with the butter) in the crockpot… depending on how many onions you’re using, you probably want to have them on high for between 4 and 8 hours, and you will want to stir occasionally.  Warning: DO NOT do this at night or you will wake up constantly to the nearly-overpowering smell of cooking onions.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great smell.  It’s just a little bit more difficult to go to sleep to than, say, the smell of lavender.  You’ll also want to finish the caramelization on the stovetop just as the recipe calls for.

I’m also pretty lazy about the cheese I use, mostly because, well, I’m lazy.  Last time, I made it with provolone and then some parmesan sprinkled on top because that’s what I had.  It’s definitely best, though, if you use a good cheese from the swiss cheese family.  Likewise with the bread: you can get by with almost any kind of bread that you have on hand; just give it a good toasting in the oven and it will hold together for a while in your bowl of soup.  However, a nice baguette with a more chewy crumb will hold together best in your soup and you won’t end up with your last few bites of bread being a doughy, congealed glob mixed in with your onions.

Okay, enough from me: go forth and wow someone this week with your FOS-making skills!

The Best French Onion Soup (via Cookography … and go to his blog for some good pictures of the onion-caramelization process)

From: Cook’s Illustrated

Serves 6

Notes:

For the best flavor, make the soup a day or 2 in advance. Alternatively, the onions can be prepared through step 1, cooled in the pot, and refrigerated for up to 3 days before proceeding with the recipe.
Ingredients:

Soup

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter , cut into 3 pieces
  • 6 large yellow onions (about 4 pounds), halved and cut pole to pole into 1/4-inch-thick slices (Make sure you get Yellow)
  • Table salt
  • 2 cups water, plus extra for deglazing
  • 1/2 cup dry sherry
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth (They recommend Swanson Certified Organic Free Range Chicken Broth )
  • 2 cups beef broth (They recommend Pacific Beef Broth)
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme , tied with kitchen twine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Ground black pepper

Cheese Croutons

  • 1 small baguette , cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 8 ounces shredded Gruyère cheese (about 2 1/2 cups)

Directions:

For the soup:

  1. Adjust the oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Generously spray the inside of a heavy-bottomed large (at least 7-quart) Dutch oven with a nonstick cooking spray. Place the butter in the pot and add the onions and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, covered, for 1 hour (the onions will be moist and slightly reduced in volume). 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 and continue to cook until the onions are very soft and golden brown, 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours longer, stirring the onions and scraping bottom and sides of pot after 1 hour.
  3. Carefully remove pot from oven and place over medium-high heat. Using oven mitts to handle pot, cook onions, stirring frequently and scraping bottom and sides of pot, until the liquid evaporates and the onions brown, 15 to 20 minutes, reducing the heat to medium if the onions are browning too quickly. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the pot bottom is coated with a dark crust, roughly 6 to 8 minutes, adjusting the heat as necessary. (Scrape any fond that collects on spoon back into onions.)
  4. Stir in 1/4 cup water, scraping the pot bottom to loosen crust, and cook until water evaporates and pot bottom has formed another dark crust, 6 to 8 minutes. Repeat process of deglazing 2 or 3 more times, until onions are very dark brown. Stir in the sherry and cook, stirring frequently, until the sherry evaporates, about 5 minutes.
  5. Stir in the broths, 2 cups of water, thyme, bay leaf, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, scraping up any final bits of browned crust on bottom and sides of pot.
  6. Increase heat to high and bring to simmer. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove and discard herbs, then season with salt and pepper.

For the croutons:

  1. While the soup simmers, arrange the baguette slices in single layer on baking sheet and bake in a 400-degree oven until the bread is dry, crisp, and golden at edges, about 10 minutes. Set aside.

To serve:

  1. Adjust oven rack 6 inches from broiler element and heat broiler. Set individual broiler-safe crocks on baking sheet and fill each with about 1 3/4 cups soup. Top each bowl with 1 or 2 baguette slices (do not overlap slices) and sprinkle evenly with Gruyère. Broil until cheese is melted and bubbly around edges, 3 to 5 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.