This French Onion Soup is so much more than just soggy bread and cheese. The depth of the rich flavours set your taste buds on fire with each bite. The key is the beef broth. With this recipe, I go the whole 9 yards: I use my homemade stock*, as well as some bought stock. I don’t want to take any chances with it. I’ve also found that red wine rounds out the flavour more nicely than sherry. Sherry is the traditional way to make the dish, so I’ll include it in the recipe, with the option to substitute with red wine. (It’s possible that I just like red wine that much.) This is yet another great dish to impress friends, yet is incredibly simple to perfect.
*I make homemade stock from the carcass of any roast I make, and then freeze it in an ice tray for individual uses
French Onion Soup
1/2 stick butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 cups thinly sliced onions (about 2-1/2 pounds) halved and cut pole to pole into ¼-inch-thick slices (do NOT substitute for any other type of onion)
1 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt (I prefer using sea salt)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon flour
8 cups homemade beef stock, or good quality store bought stock, or a combination of the two, as I like to do
1/4 cup Cognac/sherry/red wine
1 cup dry white wine
8 (1/2-inch) thick slices of French bread, I prefer to lightly toast (some will tell you to make croutons out of the bread, which I find a bit gross)
3/4 pound coarsely grated Gruyere (you can also throw parmesan or aged cheddar on as well, in my opinion there can never be too much cheese)
Heat butter and oil over moderate heat until melted. Stir in onions, then reduce heat slightly, cover, and allow onions to cook until fragrant and translucent. Stir in sugar and salt, bring temperature back up, and allow onions to brown while stirring frequently (this should take about half an hour, you do want to burn them, the idea is more to caramelise them).
Slowly stir in the flour. When it’s well blended, and has made a thick paste, remove from heat. Briefly allow to cool, and then whisk in 2 cups of stock. Return to heat, and add the remaining stock, plus whichever sherry/cognac/wine combo you like best. Cover and allow to simmer for 1.5 hours. Add a little water if the liquid reduces too much. Add thyme, salt and pepper to taste.
Lightly toast sliced french bread in oven. Divide the soup between 4 oven proof bowls. These can be a bit of a challenge to find, and know that if the dish is oven proof, it will be labeled as such. Place toast on soup and evenly distribute the grated cheese on top. Place bowls on a cookie sheet and place under a preheated broiler until cheese melts and forms a crust over the tops of the bowls. Serve immediately.
Wine Pairing: For this dish I’d recommend a Beajolais. This light French wine pairs perfectly with a beef stock-based French Onion Soup. The acidity cuts through the saltiness perfectly, while the bright cherry/raspberry/strawberry fruit picks up on the onion’s sweetness.