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French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup

Whether it's for a first course or the main event, French Onion Soup is a classic every cook should be proud to serve. Here's the best recipe I have, bar none. I've also pointed out some alternatives that you can experiment with.

Onion soup isn't complicated, but the mistake most people make is rushing it. Many recipes only sauté the onions for 15 or 20 minutes, which isn't enough to caramelize them to get the rich flavor you should expect from this soup. Forty minutes, minimum. So use a timer to remind you to stir the onions every five or ten minutes while you get other things ready.

Here's the recipe for four or five servings of French Onion Soup:

    3 tablespoons butter
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    3 large onions, thinly sliced
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    1 tablespoon flour
    1 quart beef stock
    2 cups dry white wine
    1 bay leaf
    1 sprig fresh thyme
    1/4 teaspoon Tabasco
    2 teaspoons Worcestershire
    salt and pepper
    Gruyere or Swiss cheese
    bread, preferably a baguette

Heat the oil and butter in a large pot. Add the sliced onions, and toss to distribute the oil and butter throughout. Cook the onions over medium high heat for 40 minutes, stirring every ten minutes at first, and every five minutes for the last 15 minutes. They should get brown and there should be some fond sticking to the bottom of the pot.

Add the garlic and flour and cook another minute or two.

Add the beef stock and wine, and scrape the bottom of the pot with a flat tipped spatula to loosen the stuck stuff. Add the spices and seasonings, bring to a boil, and simmer for 20 minutes.

While the soup is cooking, make the croutons (toast) that you will float on the soup. If you have a baguette, make some thin slices, butter them, and either toast them under the broiler, or, as I do, on a griddle.

If you have the cheese whole, cut a few small cubes for each serving to go under the crouton, and grate some more to sprinkle over the crouton. The last time I made the soup, I only had pre-sliced Swiss cheese on hand, and so I tore up some pieces for under the croutons and trimmed a slice the right size to fit on top. That worked fine.

To serve, put the soup in an oven-proof bowl or crock, put in some pieces of cheese, lay the crouton on top, and put more cheese on the crouton. Put under the pre-heated broiler for a few minutes to melt and brown the cheese.

You'll get rave reviews on this one. I'll bet there isn't a restaurant in town that has any better.


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