It is a difficult thing for me to not order the French Onion Soup every time I see it on a menu. There is something so comforting and satisfying about the delicious broth, perfectly softened onions, with a toasty crouton and gooey cheese… Who wouldn’t want to try every single different chef’s take on this?
After I made a big batch of my bone broth recently, I decided to use some of it to make my own variety. And while I have never met a version of this I didn’t like, there is something more to be said for doing it yourself. Even if that “something” is just that now I don’t have to go out to eat to enjoy it!
Some notes first
- No, you don’t have to find French onions, as a certain uncle of mine asked. Your favorite yellow or white variety will do.
- You do need the right bowls…. Ok, so maybe need is overstating, but the bowl does have to be able to go into the oven under the broiler to melt and brown the cheese. And the right bowls (you know the ones I mean) really add to the overall experience.
- Use homemade beef stock or broth if at all possible. Store bought works in a pinch, but it’s just not the same.
- 8 – 10 cups of beef broth or stock
- 1 head of garlic, halved crosswise
- 4 lbs of onions, thinnly sliced
- 6 springs of thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 tablespoons of sherry
- light olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup of shredded or grated parmesean
- 1/4 cup of shredded or grated mozzarella
- 4 slices of havarti
- 4 thick slices of sourdough, french or italian bread
Heat the olive oil (just enough to coat the bottom) in a large pot over medium heat. Place the garlic, cut side down, in the pot and cook until golden brown. Transfer garlic to a plate. When cooled, remove the cloves from the skins.
Add the onions to the same pot, season with salt and pepper, and cook. Stir occasionally until the onions start to darken, then more frequently. This will keep them from overcooking. Cook till golden, but not mushy. This will take 60 minutes or so. If the onions are browning too fast, reduce your heat.
Add Sherry and stir, scraping up any bits from the bottom of the pot. Stir in the stock. Then add in the thyme, bay leaf, and garlic. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer until liquid is reduced by 1/4, stirring occasionally. Cook until onions are tender, about 45 minutes.
While the soup is simmering, you’ll prepare your croutons.
Heat oven to 250. Place your bread sliced on a baking sheet.
Then, place the minced garlic in a small bowl or ramekin with the two tablespoons of butter. Heat for 30 seconds to melt the butter and start infusing the garlic flavor into it. Brush the bread sliced liberally with the garlic butter. Then pile the shredded or grated cheeses on each slice. Bake the cheesy, garlic-y bread in the oven until the cheese is melted and the bread is crispy.
Divide your soup between bowls, top each once with a crouton, then a slice of havarti. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and broil until your cheese is melted, bubbly and starting to brown. Let cool for a minute or so before serving.
Feel free to play with this and use different breads, different cheeses, other herbs, add some shallots or leeks (or both!) instead of just onions. Mix it up!
Really, that’s one of my favorite things about soup. It never has to be done just one way, it’s not just one thing. It’s all things and everything, and it’s pretty hard to mess it up beyond repair. You can always add a bit more of this, a dash of that, balance the flavors out, adjust the volume with some more stock, wine or water. Soup can be warmed back up the next day and eaten as is, or turned into something completely new.
Soup’s kinda like life that way.
“Writing is a lot like making soup. My subconscious cooks the idea, but I have to sit down at the computer to pour it out.”Robin Wells