Search ‘French onion soup’ on Google. Go ahead, I dare you. What you’ll find is almost 3 million entries… and that’s in English Google only (try searching for any kind of French food on French Google and you’re in for a real doozy)! If you take a minute to skim even half of those sites, you’ll be busy for 3 years straight.
I’m here to save you from a lethal internet waterfall by giving you the only French Onion Soup recipe you’ll ever need.
I’ve made French onion soup for so many years that I don’t really remember how I learned or where I first pulled the recipe from. My guess is probably my mom’s worn, dog-eared Betty Crocker cookbook, but it’s also evolved quite a bit since then… notably the non-traditional addition of balsamic, the omission of bay leaves (which I really can’t stand), the herbs, and a few of my methods.
However, I’m still going to give a nod to Betty Crocker, Juila Child, and to Laurent Mariotte (who wrote one of my all-time favorite French cookbooks, Revisitez Vos Classiques – Revisit Your Classic Dishes) for help and inspiration on creating my very own unique French Onion Soup.
Say goodbye to Google searches, here we go…
- 8 large onions
- 3 tbsp butter
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- Pinch sugar
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 3 tbsp flour
- 7 cups beef broth
- 1 cup white wine
- 1 tbsp Herbes de Provence, ground to release flavor
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 baguette, sliced in rounds
- 1 cup gruyere or emmental cheese
- Olive oil
Prepare your onions: Peel and half your onions, and slice about ¼ in thick. (hint to prevent crying too much: after halving the onions, rinse them well, rubbing the cut ends until no longer slimy. After slicing each half onion, put the slices in a bowl and cover with a plate).
Begin cooking onions: Put large pot (you’re going to need a big one for all those onions) on stove over medium heat. add butter and when it’s melted, throw onions in there. Give them a good stir to distribute the butter. Cook onions for about 5-10 minutes, until they’ve started to get a bit soft (I usually cover them, and stir every couple minutes). Add balsamic vinegar and sugar, and stir well.
Caramelize your onions: Reduce heat to low/medium low. Here’s the long part: you’ll have to cook these onion slices for about 30-45 minutes. The slow cook and the sugar will allow them to caramelize without burning (that deep brown caramel is a lot of what gives this soup not only its flavor, but its rich color). I usually turn the heat to low, and set an alarm in 10-minute intervals to go back and stir the onions.
Begin your soup: Once your onions are a nice dark brown, adjust heat to medium, add garlic, dust them with the flour and stir well. Keep stirring for a few minutes – the flour has to cook a bit.
Wine! Pour in wine and stir – be sure to scrape the bottom of your pot with a wooden spoon. All that seemingly-burnt residue from the cooking is going to add a really tasty flavor!
Grind your dried Herbes de Provence: you can use a mortar and pestle if you have one. Since I don’t, I just pour them on a cutting board and crush them a bit with the back of a spoon or the bottom of a flat sturdy glass.
Get your soup simmering: Add the herbs and broth to the pot of onions and simmer over low heat for at least 30 minutes.
Prepare your toasts: cover a baking sheet with parchment paper, drizzle with olive oil, and arrange your baguette slices on top. Drizzle (or brush) with olive oil. I also like to sprinkle a bit of fleur de sel, but that’s really your choice. Pop them in the oven under a hot broiler for a few minutes, until they’re golden and toasted. Sprinkle cheese on top of the toasts and put back under broiler until cheese is melty and golden, another few minutes.
Put it all together: Ladle your soup into a bowl (leave some wiggle room at the top). Place 2-3 cheesy bread slices on top, and sprinkle with fresh ground pepper and/or parsley if you’d like. The toast will soak up the soup, the cheese will melt into the soup… basically every bite will be heaven.
I’d love to see how your soups turned out! Feel free to share your pictures and any tips.