French Onion Soup

by Andie Mitchell on December 20, 2010

I’ve been to Paris. I spent a week there, traipsing about the Louvre, chicly knotting my knock-off silk scarf and standing up straighter than usual, daintily sipping cafe au lait, and mostly, asking the kindly gentlemen working crepe carts if they would  “please use a heavier hand with the Nutella.” Something is always lost in translation.

I fell in love in Paris. And no, not with anyone new, because not a single young Frenchman could lure me from Daniel back home here in the States, but rather, I fell in love with Paris. The whole city felt like those sexy, sophisticated, and effortlessly stylish French wall posters that became so trendy in the 90′s. Always with a black cat and some form of mustard yellow, like the painting in Monica and Rachael’s apartment on Friends.

Buildings are antiques, food is never for granted, and art is far beyond what’s framed and considered ‘fine’. The city is magic. And while there, I walked everywhere possible. From one end to the other with my best friend Sabrina.

We bought books at Shakespeare and Company just so we could get them stamped.

We went to the movies…four times, maybe.

I asked her if cream-colored berets and navy pea coats were still in style. She told me they never were. I told her to revisit the book collection, Madeline. She reminded me that it was an illustrated children’s book. I took note.

We shared a small room and a bed in a dusty hotel that required a few dozen turns of a skeleton key to enter.

And then…we ate French Onion Soup. A savory broth flavored with caramelized onions and robust red wine, topped with one crusty toast round, bubbling and blistered with gruyere cheese on top.

It was glorious…complex and rich. I considered my immediate love for it a testament to how good the soup truly was, because I don’t really like soup. It’s just one of those foods that could walk off the face of the Earth without saying goodbye, and I wouldn’t mind a bit. If only soup could walk. Or talk.

And as much as I did love that soup, on that night, in that city, I haven’t had it again since. So a little while ago, I read through a dozen or so recipes and decided that five years without French Onion Soup was just more than I could bear. I decided on Simply Recipes’ version, knotted my apron, and set about making a pot of soup. Or, I set about making something that warranted a slab of crusty bread with a mass of melted cheese. That’s more like it.

It was delicious and fairly simple. Perfect for wintertime, it’s definitely worth making.

Heat a medium sized sauce pan over medium heat and add enough olive oil to cover the bottom well.

Add in 3 large sweet onions that have been sliced. Saute for about 30 to 40 minutes, lowering the heat after 10 minutes to medium low, and then to low, so that the onions cook slowly and don’t burn. Stir them occasionally until the onions are a deep dark brown.

Add in red wine and stir to deglaze the pan.

Add garlic and stir for about 2 minutes.

Stir in 4 cups of very high quality beef stock, one bay leaf, and a pinch of thyme. Let the mixture simmer for 30 minutes more, for all flavors to blend.

Discard the bay leaf and ladle the soup into individual oven-proof ramekins. I let the onions hang over the sides a bit because I like to show guests a bit of what’s inside.

Plop a handful of croutons on top of each soup bowl.

Sprinkle with grated cheese and broil for just about one minute, or until the cheese is bubbly and beginning to brown.

French Onion Soup

(recipe adapted from Simply Recipes)

serves 2-3

  • 3 large sweet yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon of sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups of beef stock (you must use very good quality for the best results)
  • 1/4 cup of dry red wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 teaspoon of dry thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 ½ cups garlic and herb croutons or 2 thick slices of toasted French bread
  • 2/3 cup of grated gruyere cheese

Heat a medium sized sauce pan over medium heat and add enough olive oil to cover the bottom well.  Add in 3 large sweet onions. Saute for about 30 to 40 minutes, lowering the heat after 10 minutes to medium low, and then to low, so that the onions cook slowly and don’t burn. Add the sugar after about ten minutes or so. Stir them occasionally until the onions are a deep dark brown.

Add in red wine and stir to deglaze the pan. Add the garlic and stir for about 2 minutes. Stir in 4 cups of very high quality beef stock, one bay leaf, and a pinch of thyme. Let the mixture simmer for 30 minutes more, for all flavors to blend.

Discard the bay leaf and ladle the soup into two individual oven-proof ramekins. I let the onions hang over the sides a bit because I like to show guests a bit of what’s inside.  Plop a handful of croutons on top of each soup bowl.  Sprinkle each with the grated cheese and broil for just about one minute, or until the cheese is bubbly and beginning to brown.

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Heather December 20, 2010 at 7:21 am

this wouldn’t even stand a chance if it were within a mile of me right now!

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Ang December 20, 2010 at 7:23 am

Alright, it’s only 7:20 a.m. and now I want onion soup. Question? I have a ton of onions already chopped from a party I did. Do you think it would be just as good to use the diced onion? I hope so, cause I really want to make this ASAP! :)

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Can You Stay for Dinner December 20, 2010 at 7:26 am

You can absolutely use chopped onion! Let me know how it works!!

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Megan (Braise The Roof) December 20, 2010 at 8:07 am

I also had the best onion soup of my life when I was living in Paris at a beautiful restaurant near l’Opera called Cafe de la Paix. It was actually the first time that I had beef in any form for about 5 years and it was magnificent. I still dream about that soup.

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Lu December 20, 2010 at 9:27 am

I love a good French Onion Soup. That looks absolutely amazing. Totally worth the eau d’onion hands and breath! I’ll be making this very soon.

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Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday December 20, 2010 at 11:31 am

Mmmm…. French Onion is one of my favourite soups.

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Shanna, like Banana December 20, 2010 at 11:48 am

Ahh love love love Paris. The buildings, the late summer nights, the people, the shops, the pastries..so intoxicating..all of it!

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Jessica @ How Sweet December 20, 2010 at 11:51 am

Gorgeous presentation. I want some!

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katecooks December 20, 2010 at 2:39 pm

all i ate in france was french onion soup and anything covered in nutella. sounds like we had very similar experiences, except mine was for study abroad and therefore i ate these two things for 6 months. you’d think i’d have gotten sick of it by then, but how could anyone get turned off of those foods, right?? i love comte for french onion soup. it’s especially delicious!

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RhodeyGirl December 20, 2010 at 3:17 pm

PB has been asking me to make french onion soup, but I didn’t have a recipe. Thanks for finding a great and simple one- I can’t wait to try it.

Also, I am realllly hungry right now (I am stoked for dinner) and the top picture is making me even more hungry!

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thecompletecookbook December 20, 2010 at 7:11 pm

You really should consider writing a book – your write so beautifully. :-) Mandy

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Rachael December 20, 2010 at 7:40 pm

The memories make the recipe all the more special – thanks!
I hitched and tented my way through France when I was in college, and it seemed that every house I stopped at served a variation of onion soup and buckwheat crepes – I’m excited to try this recipe for a little nostalgia kick!

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Tina @ Faith Fitness Fun December 21, 2010 at 7:33 am

I was surprised at how much I loved Paris when I went. So many people say such poor things about it, but it really is fabulous.

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Carlee December 22, 2010 at 7:17 am

I love French Onion Soup but never thought to make it for myself. I might be making this over the holidays just for myself. Yum!

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patridew December 22, 2010 at 3:50 pm

Soupe à l’oignon Gratineé… newlyweds studying french, a few bucks, a table beside an open-shuttered window, cobblestone streets, le Veiux Quebec…

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suki @ [Super Duper Fantastic] December 23, 2010 at 4:01 pm

I was in search of the perfect French onion soup in restaurants, but as it turns out, they’re never really very consistent. I might just have to try this out at home. :)

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Can You Stay for Dinner December 24, 2010 at 6:07 am

Yes, I’ve heard there’s a tremendous difference in that soup from place to place, which I find weird because it’s got fairly few ingredients!

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jen @ onecurlyfry January 3, 2011 at 5:44 pm

I love love love French Onion Soup.

Have you ever tried caramelizing onions in the crock pot? So simple and they turn out perfect!

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Can You Stay for Dinner January 4, 2011 at 8:04 am

Oooo, never tried them that way, but I’m in love with my crock pot so I’d love to experiment! Thanks!

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