Although it’s the middle of August, French Onion Soup was calling my name. It’s a simple soup that most importantly requires patience so that the onions caramelize perfectly and the flavor of the broth deepens throughout the day.
Ingredients (makes approximately 6 bowls)
- Yellow onions (4 large)
- Salt, Pepper, Garlic, Fresh Thyme (to taste)
- Flour (2 tbsp.)
- Red Wine (can use sherry, cognac)
- Beef broth (10-12 cups; I typically must build my broth from bouillon cubes or powder since it is hard to find it ready-made in cartons where I live, so this is also an option)
- Emmentaler (or gruyère)
- Bread for making the croutons
Caramelizing the onions:
I keep the onion whole while slicing, since I prefer rings. The onions should be sliced thin. To begin caramelizing the onions, place a large pan over medium-low heat. Melt butter in the pan (I go overboard with the butter – use enough to nicely coat the onions).
Add the onions to the pan, and slowly cook them. Once they are caramelizing, add enough red wine to coat the onions (they will turn a mild shade of red) and enough liquid should remain in the pan to gradually cook out. As the wine cooks out, add flour to create a thin coating on the onions. The onions will thicken in texture. A few more minutes, and they’re ready to be added to the pot with the broth. During this entire process, I am gently stirring the onions so that they evenly caramelize and cook with the wine and flour. This whole process takes me about 30-40 minutes.
Making the broth:
During this process, the beef broth should be heating in the pot. Add seasoning (salt, pepper, garlic, thyme – freshly chopped sprigs of thyme are ideal, but you can also use thyme from the store-bought container). I typically make the broth a little before or by noon, and simmer on low until dinner time.
Note: For almost four years I’ve been living between Prague and Austria, and have not found proper beef broth or stock that is usually found in American grocery stores that comes in cartons. I use beef bouillon powder or cubes (i.e. 1 cube for every cup of water). This just has to do for now!
Making the croutons, cheese, and fried onions:
I make my own croutons by slicing rolls or a bread loaf into small cubes and sitting them out to air. If the bread is quite fresh, I’ll toss the bread cubes in some olive oil and place in the oven to crisp up.
As for cheese, I top with plenty of Emmentaler. Today I also added shredded Mozzarella. As long as the cheese gets golden brown and crisps over the sides of the bowl, I’m happy.
Ladle the broth into a bowl, add your croutons, top with cheese. Place in oven until crispy, golden brown. An option is to top with frizzled onions.
Last Note: I do not measure my ingredients so intensely since I like to let time do its job. Another great thing about this soup is that substitutes or additions can easily be made (i.e. using sherry instead of wine, adding a few dashes of Worcestershire to the broth, using a different cheese). French Onion Soup is simple, rich, and filling, and always a mealtime pleasure.