My French Onion Soup

Let’s get one thing straight. The difference in French and US culture and cuisine between the two ways of making this delicious soup is so severe, it ought to be two different things, with two different names. When my friend Kelley and I went to Paris a few years ago, she was thrilled to find it on the menu and horrified by it not being at all what she had expected.

The insanely salty, overly cheesy onion soup served up in U.S. restaurants and deemed French is anything but that. Here’s why: it’s too salty, too dark in color, and too cheesy, made worse when served with provolone which is hello… not French.

So today I’d like to invite you to my kitchen for a bit of show and tell. I’ll show you how to make French Onion Soup, and tell you why it’s so very different from the kind served up in the States. Ready?

4 – 5 medium to large onions thinly sliced

1 tsp of sugar
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of thyme
pepper (salt if you wish to ad)
1 tbsp of all-purpose flour
50 g (1.7 oz) of real butter
1 tbsp of olive oil

250 ml (1 cup) dry white wine (Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio works)
1.3 L (5 to 6 cups) of fat free beef broth

Gruyère cheese
Sliced baguette (3pp)
Extra Gruyère for the table

{Bren’s optional touch: smoked bacon, fat removed}

Melt butter, add olive oil. Add onions.
Sauté: taking your time, sweat the onions until they turn glassy. About 5 to 10 minutes over medium heat.

Add sugar. Slowly caramelize, while stirring. The onions should turn a nice caramel color over about 20 minutes, releasing the French Onion soup’s sweet and nutty flavor that takes an American audience by surprise.

Add flour and thyme. Stir well.

Add white wine. Stir (will thicken at this point. This is normal but will thin after adding the broth.)

Add broth. Season with pepper (and salt if needed.) Stir. Cover and simmer.
After 20 to 30 minutes, it’s soup!

This is where I take a shortcut, by avoiding having to put the soup under a grill in the oven. I tend to have accidents! Either soup spills in the oven, or I burn myself, or it doesn’t go fast enough before the bread drowns a soggy death at the bottom of the bowl. I prefer the toast a bit crunchy still when I eat the soup, and for it to stay afloat while serving. It’s prettier! So I toast my baguette in a skillet.

While the soup simmers, add some butter to a hot skillet. Add sliced baguette. Turn heat to medium.

[This kick is entirely optional, and is not the French way of doing things. It’s just a twist that I happen to like: add small pieces of bacon for crisping alongside the toast. Consider vegetarian guests, prepare a few pieces without the bacon.]

When toasted on the bottom side, turn over the bread. Heap grated Gruyère atop each slice [and a piece of bacon to garnish.] While the bread toasts on the bottom, the cheese will melt [incorporating the bacon.]

Ready to plate and serve!
Scoop the delicious onion soup into small bowls and add a piece of baguette to garnish.

Plate the rest of the toast for the table, and offer an extra bowl of Gruyère for those who want more cheese. To give dinner guests the option to have more, or less cheese, is a considerate thing to do. There is such a thing as too much, actually! First, Gruyère is an expensive cheese in the States. Also, it has a nutty flavor all its own. Allow the flavors to compliment one another, rather than one to overwhelm the other. Serve with a glass of dry white wine, super chilled.