Is there any dish more comforting for a snowy winter evening than a gorgeously golden, cheesy and fragrant hot bowl of French onion soup?
Soupe à l’Oignon Gratinée (French onion soup) is like culinary alchemy: creating gold from virtually nothing. It’s amazing how much flavour you can coax out of an onion with just a bit of patience.
This soup isn’t difficult to make, it’s actually very beginner friendly, but it does take some time. Taking the time to slowly brown the onions and simmer is the key to the rich, deep flavour in a bowl of true onion soup. But I promise, and I guarantee, that the stirring will be worth it. You’ll be rewarded with deeply golden, intensely sweet onions that forms an incredible flavour base for this French Onion Soup.
Don’t have oven-proof soup bowls? Neither do I! You can make grilled cheese separately on the bread and popping the cheesy toasts in the bowl.
French onion soup makes a hearty first course for a roast chicken dinner. It’s also great as a light lunch or dinner—either on its own or with some lightly dressed greens (and maybe some more cheesy croutons) on the side.
Try it tonight; you will love this easy everyone’s favorite French classic! And your home will smell heavenly! It is intoxicating and mouthwatering.
- French bread - 10 slices or as needed - about 0.4 in. (1 cm thick)
- Olive oil - extra virgin or butter or dijon
- 150 g Cheese - about 2 cups of Gruyère or Emmental/Swiss cheese, or a mixture of both, coarsely grated
- Parmesan cheese - optional
- 2 tbsp Butter
- 5 Onion - peeled and sliced thin
- 1 pinch Salt
- 6 cups Beef stock - homemade or concentrated or 1.5 L water + 3 tbsp beef mix
- Paprika - optional to taste
- Black Pepper - Freshly ground to taste
- 2 tbsp Brandy - or dry white French vermouth or Sherry, optional
- Preheat the oven to 350-375° F (180-190°C).
- Cut the bread (French baguette) into slices about 0.4 in. (1 cm) thick. You will need 1 or 2 slices per portion, or just enough to cover the top of the soup in its serving crock.
- Place slices of bread on a rimmed baking sheet, brush lightly with olive oil (or butter or Dijon) and toast them for 5-10 minutes until crisp (or broil for 1-2 minutes per side). Remove sheet from oven. Flip each piece of bread over.
- Or use croutons rather than sliced French bread. It is much easier than cutting through a thick piece of cheese-covered bread. Just make sure it is nice and crusty so it can hold up well to being dunked in the soup.
- To make things even easier, put the cheese on top of the baguette slices (and bake) instead of gratinée-ing the bowl. For Gratinéeing, the original French method, see Variation 1 on Notes.
- Then lay the slices close together on a baking sheet with parchment paperand sprinkle each piece with grated cheese. (Gruyère or Swiss cheese, or a mixture. Parmesan may also be mixed with the other cheese or on top of them).
- Return to oven when it's close to serving time and bake in the oven 450°F (230°C) or under the broiler until the cheese is bubbly and lightly browned.
- Heat the butter in a stockpot over moderate heat. Add the onions, and a pinch ofsalt, stir them around, then cover with a tight-fitting lid. This will capture steam and help the onions release all their moisture. Cook, stirring occasionally until they are golden. About 30 minutes.
- The onions must cook slowly and become evenly browned. Do NOT brown too fast or use high heat as the onions may burn. Patience is your best friend. If the onions begin to burn on the bottom of the pot, reduce heat slightly and stir in 1/4 cup water.
- For an effortless option, see how to brown onions in a slow cooker! (Variation 2 on Notes).
- For caramelized onions with sugar see Variation 3 on Notes.
- You can alternatively Use a pressure cooker (Instant Pot) to cook the soup (see Variation 4).
- Deglaze the pot with Brandy, if desired: Add the Brandy (or vermouth) to the pot and scrape up the browned bits on the bottom and sides of the pot, deglazing the pot as you go.
- Add the stock and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer (low heat) until the onions are very tender and the flavours are well blended, about 20 minutes.
- Season to taste with salt (Don’t add extra salt if you’re using concentrated stocks or broths, as they are often very salty. If you’re using homemade stock or broth, add salt to taste with a pinch of sugar) and pepper.
- Taste the soup before assembling, and if it needs more seasoning, don't be afraid to add more! For extra seasonings see Variation 4 on Notes.
Assembling to serve
- For each portion fill an individual service soup crock with hot soup.
- Garnish each portion with 1 or 2 cheesy toasts, or use cheesy croutons just enough to cover the top of each bowl of soup.
Variation 1:Gratinéeing (original French method) Alternatively, you can use individual oven-proof bowls or one large casserole dish. Fill (about 2/3 full) an individual-service soup crock (oven resistant) or casserole dish with hot soup. Place 1 or 2 slices of the toast (or croutons, just enough to cover the top of the soup in its serving crock) on top and cover with cheese. Pass under the broiler (about 6 inches/15 cm from heat) until the cheese is bubbling and lightly browned. Serve immediately. Alternatively, bake in 375°F/190°C oven until cheese is melted, remove from oven, and brown the cheese using a hand-held butane torch. Note: Gratinée means “To bake a dish so that it has a gratinée (crust) on top.”
Gratinéeing isn’t difficult to make, but it needs an oven resistant individual-service soup crock. But when you pull the serving bowls from the broiler and see the bubbling cheese on top, you’ll realize it’s a worthwhile project.
Variation 2:Slow cooker browned onions The browned onions are the star of the soup (well, on par with the cheesy toast). Making browned onions the classic way on the stove takes some time. It’s not high-stress or high-energy effort. For most of the time, the onions are cooked over low heat so you just need to stir them every now and then. Though of course, if this all seems like too much effort for you, we can use the slow cooker. Terrifically convenient and totally hands off, just throw the onions in, drizzle with butter or oil then leave on low for 10 hours. The onions are browned a bit but lack the same intensity of flavour you get from browning on the stove. So you do still need to cook the onions on the stove for 10 – 15 minutes to achieve the same true flavour. And while one may wonder what’s the point, there’s a big difference between cooking down onions for 30 minutes vs for 10 minutes. Plus, no having to manhandle a giant mound of onions in a pot that’s too small.
Variation 3:Sugar caramelized onions The addition of a little extra sugar will help. Heat the butter in a stockpot over moderate heat. Add the onions, stir them around and cook until they are tender. Stir occasionally. Remove the lid from the onion pot, increase heat to medium-high, sprinkle in 1/2 tsp sugar, and cook the onions until medium brown in color and caramelized, stirring frequently. Sprinkle 2 tbsp flour over the onions and stir for 3 or 4 minutes. Remove pot from heat and stir in 2 cups of hot stock. Return pot to heat and bring to boil. Add remaining stock and Brandy. Cover loosely and simmer very slowly.
Variation 4:Using a pressure cooker (Instant Pot) to cook the soup. Add the butter to the pressure cooker. Select the sauté setting. Once the butter has melted, about 2 minutes, add the onions, sugar (optional variation 3), and salt and stir with a wooden spoon, separating the onion layers and coating the slices with the fat. Cover the pot with a tempered glass lid and let the onions cook, without stirring, for 10 minutes. Uncover the pot. At this point the onions should be softened, but not brown, and there should be some liquid at the bottom of the pot. While wearing an oven mitt, hold the rim of the inner pot in place, and stir the onions vigorously. Be careful not to splash hot liquid on yourself. Continue to stir the onions vigorously every 2 minutes, making sure to nudge loose any fond or brown bits from the bottom of the pot as it develops with your spoon. Do this until the sauté cooking program has ended and the pot turns off automatically (20-30 minutes). At this point, the onions should be caramelized and golden brown. While the pot is off but still hot and the onions are sizzling, add the Brandy. Use a wooden spoon to thoroughly scrape any remaining fond from the pot bottom. Add the rest of your ingredients secure the pressure cooker lid in its sealing position, and then set the time for 5 minutes at high pressure. The pressure cooking softens the onions even further and helps to melt all of the flavours together. When the cooking program ends, let the pressure release naturally for at least 15 minutes, then move the pressure release valve to "venting" to release any remaining steam. At this point, the soup will stay hot on the “keep warm” setting for up to 10 hours, until you are ready to serve it. When you are ready to serve the soup, discard the bay leaf (if using – see variation 5). Taste the soup for seasoning, adding salt and/or pepper if needed.
At this point, the soup itself is done—all you need to do is ladle it into bowls; add the cheesy bread to each bowl, and serve.
Variation 5:Add extra seasonings Once the onions have begun to brown, add 2 cloves of minced garlic and cook for an additional minute. Add bay 2 leaves (remove them before serve). Add 1 tbsp fresh (or 1 tsp dry) parsley and/or thyme in beef stock. Try stirring some sliced green onions or chives into the soup just before you ladle it into the bowls. Add fresh parsley or thyme leaves, for garnish.
Make ahead:Soup can be made 3 days ahead if refrigerated, or up to 6 months ahead if frozen. But do not add toast/croutons and cheese to soup. Cool completely, uncovered, then chill soup covered in an airtight container. Toasts (or croutons) can be made (without cheese) and kept sealed in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. Reheat soup and add cheese to toast/croutons before proceeding with recipe.
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