Classic French Onion Soup
Andy Anderson !
And as Summer slowly gives way to Autumn, and the promise of colder weather, this is a great soup to warm the hearts and souls of your friends, and family.
Occasionally, on a cold Winter’s eve, when I'm all by myself. I like to make this soup, pour myself a glass of wine, and put on some soft French music. And you know what… I close my eyes and it almost feels like I’m back in Paris.
2-3 mediumspanish onions, about 1 pound
4 cfresh beef consomme'
6 Tbspsweet butter, unsalted
·salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 tspflour, all purpose
4 ozdry white wine
1bouquet garni *see step 13
3 Tbspolive oil, extra virgin
8 sliceemmental, gruyère or jarlsberg, thinly sliced
3 Tbspport or madeira
How to Make Classic French Onion Soup
- I almost feel that I'm writing this recipe in reverse...
To make a really good French onion soup, you need a really good beef broth (about 5 hours), and then convert that broth into a consommé (about 3 more hours).
You can use the stuff from cubes or in a can, but it really won't be the same experience. I will post, what I think are two excellent recipes for homemade beef broth, and a consommé as soon as I can... But let's get on with the recipe.
- Place the beef consommé in a small saucepan, and slowly bring up to a slow simmer, and then keep hot.
- Melt the butter in a large saucepan over low heat.
Add the onions; stir well, and then season with a 1/4-teaspoon of salt, or to taste.
Cover and cook the onions on medium low heat for about for 5 minutes.
- After 5 minutes, remove the lid, increase the heat to medium and then cook the onions until light golden brown in color, about 12 to 15 minutes.
Stir frequently during this time and watch carefully toward the end of cooking, to prevent the onions from burning. You want rich brown onions, not black.
Chef’s Note: Don't skimp on the browning of the onions. Browning is necessary to giving the soup its color and deep, rich flavor.
- Add the flour to the pan, and cook for 2 additional minutes,
- Chef’s Note: Dry white wines are used for cooking when you don’t want to add any sweetness to the dish. As you cook, the alcohol will evaporate. This extracts the flavor of the wine and adds it to the dish.
Good examples of wines that pair good with this dish are: Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, and Riesling. The wine we used at Cordon Bleu was a Muscadet.
- Add the hot consommé and the bouquet garni, stir well and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes.
- Chef’s Tip: Why heat the consommé before adding to the onions?
One of the steps in making soups, and stews that many budding chefs miss, is the addition of cold liquids to hot ingredients. In this case, leaving the beef consommé cold, and adding it to the hot onion mixture, can actually change the flavor of the dish, making it taste a bit sour…
- Chef’s Note: What is a Bouquet Garni?
A bouquet Garni is a bundle of herbs tied together with string, or wrapped in cheesecloth, and used to add flavor to soups, stocks, and stews. It is placed in the simmering liquid, and removed before serving.
For this recipe, tie together, or wrap in cheesecloth the following ingredients:
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 dried bay leaves
Leafy greens from 2 celery stalks
6 sprigs fresh parsley
- While the soup is simmering, take the baguettes, and slice into large cubes. Place in a large mixing bowl, add 3 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, and toss until evenly coated.
Spread out evenly on a parchment-lined baking sheet and toast in a preheated 375f (190c) oven with the rack in the middle position, until nicely browned, about 10 to 15 minutes.
Chef’s Note: All ovens are a bit different (I call it fussy), and not all are calibrated to accurately reflect the proper temperature, so keep one eye on their progress, and remove (whatever the time), when they are brown.
- After the soup has finished simmering for 30 minutes, remove the bouquet garni from the soup, stir in the port or Madeira, and then season the soup to taste.
Chef’s Note: If you don't have Port or Madeira, you can use sherry or brandy, or leave it out altogether. Just remember what one my instructors once said: If it’s not good enough to drink… It’s not good enough to cook with.
- Ladle the onion soup into 4 “traditional” French onion soup bowls, and leave about 1/2 inch of space at the top.
- Place a generous helping of the toasted bread cubes on top of each bowl of soup.
For each bowl, place two pieces of cheese on top of the bread cubes.
Chef’s Note: I like the cheese to be in squares, slightly larger than the bowl, so the corners of the cheese slightly fall over the sides of the bowl. I place them at ninety-degree angles, like an 8-pointed star with the corners draped over the edge of the bowl.
- Use the torch to on the top of each of the bowls, until the cheese is brown and bubbly.
Chef’s Note: One of our instructors at the CIA, claimed that the only way to achieve the exact level of browning and crispness to the top of the soup was to use a torch… And I agree.
If, however, you prefer to use the oven, simply put the rack in the top position, set to broil, and remove when the tops are brown and bubbly, about 4 to 7 minutes.