I am sure that we all have had some awful French Onion Soups over the years. I know I have . . . too salty . . . too muhc broth . . . crunchy onions . . .all bread. It seems to be a dish that is challenging to find done well. It is also rather old school - which maybe why no one really seems to put the care into it that they should.
I learned years ago that the trick to making a good French Onion Soup is to really caramelize those onions. I caramelized the heck out of them . . . and now understand the way French Onion Soup is supposed to be! The onions almost melted into the soup . . . the flavours were soft and delicate.
We really, really enjoyed this soup. In fact, we enjoyed it so much that there were no leftovers. Shame this.
I wondered, as I was making the recipe, if there was anything 'French' about French Onion soup or was it an American creation? I was happy to find this on-line (so we know that it MUST be true, don't we?):
French onion soup is an onion and beef broth based soup traditionally served with croutons and cheese as toppings. Although ancient in origin, this dish underwent a resurgence of popularity in the 1960s due to the growth of French cooking in the United States.
Onion soups have been popular at least as far back as Roman times. They were, throughout history, seen as food for the poor people, as onions were plentiful and easy to grow. The modern version of this soup originates in France in the 18 th century,made from dry bread or croutons, beef broth, and caramelized onions. It is often broiled in a ramekin traditionally with gruyère melted on top. The crouton on top is reminiscent of ancient sops.
Legend has it that the soup was created by King Louis XV of France. Late one night, he discovered he only had onions, butter and champagne at his hunting lodge (dear lord - a crisis of royal proportions!), so he mixed them together to create the first French onion soup. Alternate stories attribute the creation to King Louis XIV.
Julia Child's last meal was French Onion Soup. She died peacefully in her sleep of kidney failure soon after. Lucky Julia - if you have to go that wouldn't be all that bad . . .
Don't be put off by those memories of pots of almost raw onions served in basement-dark-and-dingy steak houses throughout the US by waiters in tuxedos . . . this is great soup. You and your lucky friends/family will be very happy when you serve this up!
French Onion Soup
2 teaspoons olive oil
4 cups thinly vertically sliced Walla Walla or other sweet onion
4 cups thinly vertically sliced red onion
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup dry white wine
8 cups less-sodium beef broth
1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
8 (1-ounce) slices French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
8 (1-ounce) slices reduced-fat, reduced-sodium Swiss cheese (such as Alpine Lace)
Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onions to pan; sauté for 5 minutes or until tender. Stir in sugar, pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Reduce heat to medium; cook 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Increase heat to medium-high, and sauté for 5 minutes or until onion is golden brown. Stir in wine, and cook for 1 minute. Add broth and thyme; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 2 hours.
Place bread in a single layer on a baking sheet; broil 2 minutes or until toasted, turning after 1 minute.
Place 8 ovenproof bowls on a jelly-roll pan. Ladle 1 cup soup into each bowl. Divide bread evenly among bowls; top each serving with 1 cheese slice. Broil 3 minutes or until cheese begins to brown.