Over Thanksgiving I experimented with cooking French Onion Soup for the first time. During our holiday planning family conference call (actually a google video chat with notes documented in a spreadsheet) we decided that french onion would be a nice light-ish soup to start the meal. I was excited to learn how to make it, and so I signed up for the task.
The biggest lessons I learned were the importance of the pot, heat, and time. In order to plan out my own process I started with the master. Julia Child is such a gem, and I could watch her all day. This episode of her show taught me the importance of cutting your onions thin as well as a great new knife trick (that I need to practice) around using your thumb to guide the onion.
In the end, I created my own merged version of this recipe (this visuals here are so helpful when cooking something for the first time) and this one (which makes it seem fool-proof!). In the end, even though I tried to use low-salt ingredients, and we only put cheese on the toasts, the soup was a bit filling for Thanksgiving after a full round of appetizers. But – it is a soup I plan to try again and keep in my rotation.
Steps & Notes:
- Prepare the Onions
- I was cooking for 5 people, so I cut up about 6 cups of onions.
- Many recipes emphasises the importance of thin strips, then cut in half. So, I went with that strategy
- Melt 3 tablespoons of butter
- Stir in the onions, making sure to coat them with butter (yum).
- Cover the pot and let them cook for 15 minutes on low. Then, season them with 1/2 teaspoon each of salt, sugar, and black pepper.
- Put the lid back on and let the onions cook for 45 more minutes.
- Note: I realized that I had the onions on medium heat during this step and they weren’t browning. Medium-high heat is important here and is what nudges the onions to become delicious. You don’t want them to burn, of course, so it’s important to keep an eye on them. (One of my favorite tasks.)
- Deglaze the pan & simmer uncovered for 5 minutes
- Recipes suggest everything from red wine to sherry to brandy. I went with 1/2 cup of brandy because we had it in the cupboard
- Add 8 cups of beef broth. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 1 hour.
- Some suggest heating it first in a separate pan, it was Thanksgiving and stovetop real estate was in high demand, so I just poured it in.
- Another key note is that your stock is a huge part of this soup, so you want to make sure you like the flavor of the stock you choose.
- Finally, keep the pot partially covered here.
- Cut a baguette into slices and top with gruyere and parmesan and toast in the oven until you are satisfied with the melty-toasty-ness.
- Serve in pretty bowls and enjoy!
Thoughts for next time:
- I’d like to try re-making this in a dutch oven. Sadly mine recently broke, and so I went with a regular soup pot which didn’t create as much fond as I was hoping for.
- Flour acts as a thickener, so I’d like to try that step if making this as a main dish.
- What else have you found success with? I’d love to learn more about this one!