French Onion Soup (Soupe à l’oignon gratinée)
Onion soups were popular even during the Roman Empire times.
It was poor people’s food: onions were inexpensive and easy to grow, therefore, there was plenty of onions to feed people.
The modern version of onion soup brings us to the 18th century France. It was time when cooks began to caramelize the onions and to prepare beef broth. Nowadays the onion soup gratin can be found in every French bistro.
This delightful soup is very popular in French homes, as well as in many houses around the world as well. In the United States it became famous in the 1960-s – the time of the French cuisine boom.
The soup is very easy to make, but, definitely, the success of the dish depends on the proper preparation of its main ingredient – the onions. Caramelizing is not a quick process, but it is a very important step which will affect the final result. Therefore, some patience is required to cook the soup but you will be rewarded by the pleasure of melting in your mouth soup.
A touch of brandy, sherry, wine or vermouth gives the soup even more complex flavor.
The onion soup becomes tastier on the next day, so I like to cook it in advance.
Mouthwatering, rich and warming French onion soup is definitely an autumn-winter pleasure. So, now it is the right time to cook it.
French Onion Soup
- 3 large Spanish onions (approximately 9 oz each), finely sliced
- 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp butter (optional, but recommended)
- 1 tsp sugar (optional)
- ½ tsp dried thyme
- 2 tbsp flour
- ½ cup dry white wine or dry vermouth (or 4 tbsp brandy)
- 2 quarts beef, chicken or vegetable broth (I used half beef and half vegetable)
- Black pepper
- 1 ½ cups grated cheese (Swiss, gryuer, Comte, Emmental, Jarlsberg, madrigal and similar)
- Bread toasts, 1 large or 2 small per serving
In a heavy bottomed saucepan heat the butter and the olive oil. Add the onion, salt, and cook covered on medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. The onions should be soft, almost translucent, and slightly change their color to golden.
Add the garlic, sugar and thyme. Cook uncovered over medium heat for 35-45 minutes, stirring often. The onions should significantly change their color.
Sprinkle the onions with flour, stir well. Add the wine and cook for 1-2 minutes.
Add the broth and cook for 25-30 minutes.
Preheat a broiler or an oven to 450-500 F (225-250 C).
Ladle the soup into heat resistant bowls, top with the toast (or two), sprinkle with the cheese. Broil for 3-5 minutes until the cheese melts, starts to ‘boil’ and forms a golden cheese crust.
Cook with pleasure!