Thursday, December 30, 2010

French onion soup – a perfect dish to serve after a night out on the town


French onion soup is a perfect dish to serve after a night on the town. In fact, it gained its popularity in Paris as the “middle of the night restorative” during the days of Les Halles, Paris’ former wholesale food market.  In the old days revelers and nighthawks would come to the market at Les Halles for a bowl of soup at dawn after the clubs closed.

According to Dorie Greenspan in her wildly popular new cookbook Around My French Table, the secret to making a great onion soup is patience. To quote Dorie, “cook the onions until they are almost the color of mahogany and everything after that will be perfect.” She goes on to say, “the onions can take up to an hour or more to brown and don’t be tempted to speed things up, because if you burn the onions, your soup will have a bitter taste.”  She also advises that if you want your soup to live up to the French standards of Les Halles, you must serve it brûlante, or burning hot.

Speaking of onions, I don’t salt them while they are browning because salt inhibits their ability to brown. Most onion soups call for thinly slicing the onions, but we’ve found that if you chop them, the soup is easier to eat and the onions don’t slide off of your spoon, which Meakin jokingly refers to as a "leaky lip." To make the topping, if your broiler isn’t strong or you don’t have a kitchen torch to melt the cheese, you can make cheese toast in a separate step as I’ve done here.

French onion soup, minus the bread and cheese of course, can be made in advance and kept covered in the refrigerator, making it perfect for a late night meal when you’ve been out on the town. Add a tossed green salad and you’re all set.



French Onion Soup
Adapted from Williams Sonoma Foods of the World – Paris - with advice from Dorie Greenspan
Printable Recipe

2 ½ pounds yellow onions, chopped
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon canola oil
Pinch of sugar
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
2 cups red wine
8 cups low-sodium beef stock
1 dried bay leaf
2 tablespoons cognac or brandy
6 thick slices of a French baguette
3 cups hand grated Gruyere cheese

In a large, heavy pot over medium-low heat, melt the butter with the oil. Add the onions, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, adding the sugar, until the onions are meltingly soft, golden and lightly caramelized, about 45 minutes to an hour, taking care not to let the onions burn. Add the chopped fresh thyme leaves, salt and pepper and cook a minute or two more. It is important not to salt the onions until they have browned. If you salt the onions beforehand, they won’t brown as well.

Add the wine, raise the heat to high, and cook until the liquid is reduced by half, 8 – 10 minutes. Add the stock and bay leaf reduce the heat to medium-low, and let the soup simmer, uncovered, until it is dark and fully flavored, about 45 minutes. If the liquid is evaporating too quickly or the soup taste too strong, add a little water, then cover and let it continue to cook.

Just before serving, remove the bay leaf and discard. Add the cognac or brandy and let the soup sit for a few minutes. In the meantime, toast the bread on both sides, either in a toaster oven or in a preheated 400 degree F oven, then add the shredded gruyere cheese on top of one slice, return to the toaster or oven until the cheese has melted. Serve the soup burning hot. Makes about 4 servings.

54 comments:

  1. Love the looks of your French onion soup. I haven't made that in ages. I enjoyed your pinapple platter and grits souffle also. Your niece is wearing the same dress as my Rachel. We are headed back to Florida today, with a three day stop in Hilton Head to have New Years with friends. Happy New Year Sam and Meakin!

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  2. I think I could enjoy this for breakfast right now!! It's been too long since I made this. Happy New Year to the two of you.

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  3. My favorite! I never thought to chop the onions. You are so right--no chance of them slithering down one's chin when chopped! And, toasting the cheese on the bread and adding to the soup is genius.

    Have a delicious, happy and safe New Year!

    Best,
    Bonnie

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  4. Happy New Year, Sam! Hope it's a wonderful time of new beginnings for you and your family. I think a bowl of your French onion soup would be the perfect way to kick off the new year.

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  5. This looks so good. And I love the idea of using chopped onions instead of sliced. I will have to get me some Gruyere and give this a try. Thanks for this one!

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  6. I've been threatening to make French Onion Soup now for over a month. Your photo is beautiful.

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  7. This is one heck of a treat. The melted cheese on top of the bread and the warm broth are heavenly together.

    Nisrine

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  8. Sam, I love French Onion Soup! Yours looks so good! Thanks for sharing!

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  9. One of my favorites..I alays put Thyme also..I thought of you last night we watched A Bourdain in Provence....your St-Rėmy:)

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  10. Perfect and so comforting!

    Bonne Année!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  11. I love onion soup, so one of these days, I am going to try this recipe. Your photos make my mouth water! Looks soooooo good. Thanks Sam.

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  12. Okay, now this sounds perfect! I love French Onion Soup, and I would love a bowl of yours right now...for breakfast :D I like that you chop the onions, it would make it so much easier to eat. The hour wait to get the onions just right would be worth the wait!

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  13. Your photo is wonderful, Sam. I love French onion soup and am eager to try Dorie's recipe.

    Happy New Year!

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  14. French onion is one of my favorites and yours sounds delicious. I agree with you on the patience - the recipe I use cooks the onions in the oven for 2 1/2 hours before they even get to the stove top. I think I'd like the flavors in your recipe, so it will be my next effort. Hope you're having a great day.

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  15. We love French Onion soup but our homes are so small that my hubby can't stand to have me make it unless I use the burner on the gas grill. We love it out but very rarely is it as good as my friend Donnie makes. This sounds like a great recipe though. Happy New Year.

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  16. Oh my gosh, that looks so amazing! I love french onion soup - I'm inspired to try this recipe.

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  17. My husband always orders French Onion Soup when he sees it on a menu ..a definite favorite! I like your idea of making the cheese topping separate and adding it when you serve the soup.

    Thanks for your concern after our big blizzard, Sam! It was one of the worse storms I can remember. Thankfully we are on track to getting back to normal.

    Have a very happy, healthy 2011!

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  18. I love French Onion Soup and yours looks delicious! This would be a great idea for New Years Day!

    I will heed Dorie's advice :)

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  19. Welove onion soup. my son gave me Around My French Table, for Christmas; anxious to get to it. Great idea to chop the onions for teh soup; will try to remember that.
    Best wishes for you and your family in 2011.
    Rita

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  20. Very sage advise Sam. It is so easy for this classic dish to made quickly and without lingering. I would want to savour every slurp.

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  21. Your soup looks delicious what that deep dark color. I am making that as part of my dinner tomorrow. Thanks for the tips on the onions and the advice of serving really hot.

    Have a happy 2011!

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  22. We're on the same page! I just bought onions and gruyere to make this soup but really want/need your soup bowls! Lovely!!!!

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  23. I love French Onion soup and make a similar version -- will have to give your method a shot!

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  24. Oh Sam, so true, there is nothing quite like French Onion soup for an evening treat! I haven't made it in years and just read Dorie Greenspan's recipe in some December/January cooking magazine. You've inspired me to make it again, especially since it has been so COLD! I hope that you have a wonderful new year and I'm looking forward to all of your posts that you share with all of us! Ciao, Roz

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  25. You and the Food Hound are killing me with this French Onion soup kick. Now I am going to have to make some too.

    Don't you just love those little crocks? We have the same ones, so cute!

    Happy New Year to you and Meakin!

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  26. I keep forgetting to make French onion soup; it is a big favorite over here! My French friend Marcelle told me she takes the whole onions and browns them in the oven and then uses them for soups and the like.
    Wishing you a great New Year and all the best for 2011~!!!

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  27. I never met a French onion soup I didn't love. I love the deep rich broth with the beef broth and the red wine. And making the cheese topping separately is perfect! Happy New Year, Sam. May 2011 bring you and Meakin all good things.

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  28. Love, love French Onion Soup. I have no doubt that Dorie's version is splendid.

    I wanted to stop by and wish you and your family a very Happy New Year. I am looking forward to reading and enjoying your blog in 2011.

    Cheers.
    Velva

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  29. This is one of my favorite all time dishes, and your right, what a great way to nourish yourself from a night out on the town!

    The grits souffle looks great too!

    Happy New Year Sam!

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  30. This is a great recipe for one of my favorite comfort meals. But I'd never thought of prepping it ahead before. Great tips!

    Wishing you a most happy New Year! And I hope you'll stop by my place for a "virtual" New Year's brunch :)

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  31. This looks wonderfully good, Sam. It is perfect for a cold and damp winter night. When I was young, we'd have waffles for Sunday supper. My poor children were raised on a Sunday supper of onion soup. It would be fair to classify my family as addicted to this soup. I hope you and Meakin have had a wonderful holiday and that 2011 brings you continued health and happiness. Happy New Year...Mary

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  32. I love French onion soup, especially this time of year! I'm looking forward to making this recipe! Looking forward to spending more time "visiting" and "cooking" with you in 2011! I may also be checking out that book "Around My French Table." Happy New Year!!!

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  33. wow love this soup yummy, have a fab 2011 :-) love Rebecca

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  34. I am making a pot of this today as we speak! Loved the idea to used diced onions...that is just what I did. It looks and smells heavenly. Haven't tasted it yet but the Gruyere is grated and we'll be enjoying it in the next little bit. Thanks!!

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  35. Ooooh, Sam, I couldn't agree more.

    Honestly I wish we lived down the street from you.

    Thank you for your wonderful friendship.

    Warmest regards toujours and a tres, tres bonne année to you and yours.

    Tishxo

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  36. Ahhh!! One of my all time favorite soups! I have sort of forgotten about it as of late, but I'm feeling it will be on our table soon. Nicely done!

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  37. Thank you so much for your kind words on my blog! YES, French Onion soup is fabulous, isn't it?? I desperately want Les Halles cookbook-- I am obsessed with Anthony Bourdain!! Can't wait to follow you and get more tasty recipes! Have a happy new year!

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  38. French onion soup is one of those classic favorites that I could eat anytime, anywhere...yours looks incredible! Wishing you and yours a very happy New Year, Sam!

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  39. This is a classic soup...It will defiantly warm you up after being out in the cold weather. Looks amazing!

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  40. That looks incredible! Happy New Year to you, sweet friend! ♥♥♥

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  41. I adore French onion soup, and this one looks so good with that deep brown broth.

    Happy New Year Sam!

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  42. A perfect looking French onion soup! Its my husband's favorite and i can't believe that i still haven't made it for him :) Best wishes to you in the 2011!

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  43. I am unsuccessfully trying to eat that soup off my screen with a spoon, it looks so good! What a wonderful recipe and you make it so simple. All of the very best wishes for 2011, Sam!

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  44. French onion soup is perfect for this time of year. It is a nice treat to have after coming in from the cold out doors.

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  45. Sam,
    I love the look of your French onion soup. It looks really good and I would love to try the recipe.
    Hope you have a very Happy New Year!

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  46. Just discovered your blog -- thanks goodness! I'm going to try your FOS recipe this week. Of all the French food I've made, I've never done soupe à l'oignon.

    Bonne année from Paris,

    La Mom
    An American Mom in Paris

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  47. What a lovely soup, Sam! Dark with flavor and oh that cheese! My sister always says to me: have a little soup with your cheese!
    Happy New Year to you!

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  48. Sam, Happy New Year! The French onion soup looks fabulous, love it specially during this time of the year...so comforting and so tasty :-)

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  49. Happy New Year, Sam!

    Thanks for the tip about not salting the onions. I'm not terribly skilled at caramelizing onions and will try that trick next time.

    The soup looks heavenly and I love your soup crocks!

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  50. What a perfect meal to kick off the new year!

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  51. After a multitude of onion soups that I've made through the years...I had finally fallen on a great combination that was concocted through experimentation.
    However, that's not to say that I'm not willing to try another version with cognac ;o)

    Sam, here's wishing you the very best for this newest year.

    Flavourful wishes,
    Claudia

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  52. oh how i love a good french onion soup. that cheesy toast on top just draws me in every time!

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Sam