In the past week, I have made two different soups. Seriously, who does that? At any rate, French onion soup was first up and, my oh my, you’ve got to give the French a lot of credit here. While we all know the cheese is the main reason anyone orders this soup at restaurants, this week, I was having a hard-core hankering for the broth. That sweet oniony and beefy broth is just so warming, and since I’ve finally figured out how to properly caramelize onions (see my caramelized onion panini for the full procedure), I figured I’d try my hand at this soup.
Actually, whilst caramelizing the onions (yup, I said “whilst”) I realized that I actually preferred not to take them down all the way to beautiful dark brown oniony jamishness. Those were great for my paninis, but for soup, I wanted texture. I wanted to actually see the slightly white and translucent onions swimming in the dark broth. I needed to see the proof, man! And trust me, after slicing up two pounds of onions, you need to see the rewards of your labor lest you go crazy. (As an aside, make sure you sharpen your knife before embarking on this onion crusade. The sharper the knife, the cleaner/fewer the cuts, the less damage you’re inflicting on the onion’s cellular structure, which would cause it to release the sulfur compound responsible for our eyes’ unpleasant waterworks.)
I’m going to tell you a secret about the onions I used in this soup. I had planned on using a full 2-lb. bag of yellow onions. Well, when I opened up one of the buggers, the darn thing had rotted out in the center. I was short at onion before I even got out of the gate, so I had to improvise and fill in the gap using…a red onion. Now, I know red onions aren’t traditional, and it certainly looked odd during the cooking process, but you can’t really tell the red onion from the yellow onion in the picture, can you? Didn’t think so. Look, a girl’s gotta use what a girl’s gotta use, and let’s just be thankful I didn’t reach for another member of the onion family, like leeks or scallions…..that would be weird.
Another break from tradition is the type of cheese I used. This time around, I used smoked Gruyere. In the past when I’ve made French onion soup, Gruyere seemed to come up frequently on the recommended cheese list for this application. However, whenever I order French onion soup at a restaurant, I feel like I’m usually given a more “American” melting cheese, like provolone or mozzarella. Whatever your cheese of choice, I’d like to echo Ben’s words of wisdom regarding proper cheese procedure: Be sure to build “the cheese wall.”
The cheese wall. The wall of cheese. The complete and continuous coverage of cheese from soup bowl end to soup bowl end. I used shredded cheese here, which probably didn’t result in the best cheese wall. For better coverage, I’d encourage sliced cheeses. Though don’t get me wrong, any melted cheese is fine in my book. I’m hardly a cheese snob.
Honestly, when you’re digging into melty cheese, the last thing I’m thinking about is adequate cheese coverage. I just want to focus on getting the gooey cheese strands into my mouth before they fall on the floor and become fodder for the cat. Priorities, people!
In other news, I just wanted to let everyone know that my pumpkin latte seemed to go over quite well with a few of the Internet folks. I encourage all of you to check out Top 10 Kitchen’s Creative Pumpkin Recipes round up. My latte is featured, as well as several other fun pumpkin-inspired dishes. Roasted pumpkin seed hummus, anyone?
This French onion soup has surprisingly few ingredients for the basic broth, yet is packed with luscious flavor and wall-to-wall cheese...very important!
- 2 lbs. yellow onions, cut into half moons and sliced
- 1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 tsp dried thyme
- 32 oz. unsalted beef stock
- 1 tbsp kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
- 4 1/4-1/2-inch baguette slices
- 2/3 lb. Gruyere cheese, grated
- In a large dutch oven or stock pot, add 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil and heat on medium until the oil is hot and starts to ripple. Add the onions and thyme and stir constantly for 15 minutes. After that, reduce the heat to medium low and cook for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft, translucent, and a light brown color.
- Add the beef stock, salt, and black pepper. Turn the heat up high to boil the soup. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes.
- While the soup is simmering, turn on the broiler.
- On a small baking sheet (a quarter sheet pan will work) lined with aluminum foil, lay out the baguette slices. Use a brush and paint each side of the baguette with the tablespoon of olive oil. Turn them over and pain the other side.
- Pop the baguettes under the broiler until the first side is toasted, about 1-2 minutes. Remove them, turn the baguettes over, and repeat on the other side, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Be sure to watch them carefully so as not to burn them!
- When the soup is done, ladle it into soup mugs or bowls and place one toasted baguette in each bowl. Top each baguette with about 1/4 cup grated cheese, spreading it evenly to all edges of the soup bowl.
- Pop the soup bowls under the broiler for about 2-3 minutes, until the cheese is melted and bubbly, and starting to brown on top. Again, keep an eye on it as anything under the broiler can burn before you know it!
- Serve immediately, being mindful of the hot soup bowls.