French Onion Soup
I know that onions aren’t everyone’s bag.
Luckily for me, they are my cuppa tea and the knees to my bees and all that jazz. If you don’t like onions, this soup will most likely change your mind. I’m 94.7 percent certain!
I think this is probably a meal that you’ll want to make on a weekend night, or on a night when you have a bit more time than usual, as it does take a while to cook all those onions down.
Although it may take a bit of time, making french onion soup is a process that inspires contemplation. You get to watch a little miracle of life: onions transforming themselves from fresh, white, sharp smelling little slivers into their silky, rich, caramely little selves while you just stand there and stir. And contemplate:
- Why does a student who professes to hate you with their entire being on Monday come in to see you before school on Tuesday and Wednesday, just because they’re “bored” and then draw you a picture and ask you to hang it up on the wall?
- How does a family of two manage to have to run the dishwasher every single day? And how do families of more than two handle this pressing issue?
- Why did Ava barely care when I came home from San Francisco after being gone for a weekend, yet freaked out to the max when I came home from work after being gone for 11 hours?
- How did my stovetop get so dirty? And why can’t I afford to hire someone to come clean it for me?
There aren’t really answers for these contemplations, except maybe those last ones. The answers being: “Because I didn’t clean it after cooking last night” and “Because I’m a lowly high school English teacher.”
Luckily for this lowly teacher, onions are cheap. Contemplative moments, on the other hand, are priceless.
French Onion Soup
4 yellow onions, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus additional to taste
1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar (helps the onions to brown)
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
8 cups beef or mushroom stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
Freshly ground black pepper
Melt the butter and oil together in the bottom of a large saucepan or Dutch oven over low heat. Add the onions, toss to coat them in oil and cover the pot. Reduce the heat all the way to low and let them slowly steep for 15 minutes. This is a good time to begin your contemplations, or perhaps to unload the dishwasher, yet again.
After 15 minutes, uncover the pot, raise the heat slightly and stir in the salt and sugar. Cook onions, stirring frequently, for 30 to 40 minutes until they have turned an even, deep golden brown. It takes a bit of time for this to happen, but you definitely want to be patient, as their caramelization will be the foundation of flavor for the entire soup.
After the onions are fully caramelized, sprinkle them with flour and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. Add all the wine, then the stock, a little at a time, stirring between additions. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and simmer partially covered for 30 to 40 more minutes, skimming off the top if needed. Taste to check for flavor. Go easy on the salt in this step – the cheese will add in plenty of salt.
To finish [Gratinée]
1 tablespoon grated raw onion
1 to 2 cups (to taste) grated Swiss or a mixture of Swiss and Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1/2 baguette, thinly sliced and toasted until hard
Preheat oven to 325. Arrange six ovenproof soup bowls or crocks on a large, foil-lined baking sheet. Bring the soup back to a boil and divide among six bowls. To each bowl, add 1/2 teaspoon grated raw onion and a tablespoon of grated cheese. Stir to combine. Dab your croutons with a tiny bit of butter and float a few on top of your soup bowls, attempting to cover it. Mound grated cheese on top of it; how much you use will be up to you. Bake soups on tray for 20 minutes, then preheat broiler. Finish for a minute or two under the broiler to brown the top lightly. Remove from oven with pot holders and serve immediately.