Tuesday, January 4, 2011

French onion soup

Happy New Year! Starting this blog was one of the best things that I did in 2010 (not the very best thing I did though - that would be marrying Andrew). It's been a wonderful experience so far - this space has truly helped me focus my interest in food, explore new recipes and ingredients, and develop my own ideas about responsible and healthful eating. I'm very much looking forward to this new year of cooking and blogging. I want to take a minute here to thank everyone that has visited this site. I was really nervous about putting myself out there in this way, and your comments and encouragement have meant a lot to me. I wish you all a happy and healthy year, filled with good things to eat.

There's no particular reason why this post is the first one of the new year. It just happens to be something that I made recently that is fitting for dinner on a cold winter night. Better make it a weekend night though, because it starts out almost 40 minutes of cooking onions...it's worth it though. This soup may not be much to look at, but it is gooood. The soup is tasty on its own, but the cheesy toasts on top really make it special. And locally grown onions are plentiful right now, so it's nice to let them be the star of the show for once.

French onion soup
Adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook 
Serves 4

I mistakenly used a pot that was too tall to fit under the broiler, so I didn't get the final browning on the cheese toasts. Make sure you check the size of your pot before you start. I also ran out of vermouth, and thus used less than the recipe called for - I trust that the soup would have been even better had I used the full amount.

For soup:
12 fresh parsley stems
1/2 tsp dried thyme
8 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
2 tbs unsalted butter
1 tbs olive oil
1 1/2 pounds onions, halved and thinly sliced crosswise
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of sugar
2 tbs all-purpose flour
6 cups beef stock or broth
1/3 cup dry vermouth
2 tbs Cognac or other brandy
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

For topping:
12-14 (1-inch thick) baguette slices
4 tbs unsalted butter, melted
1 garlic clove, halved crosswise
1 cup grated Gruyere (approx. 4 ounces)
1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1 ounce)

Special equipment: cheesecloth, kitchen string

To make soup: Wrap parsley, thyme, peppercorns, and bay lead in a small piece of cheesecloth, and tie closed with string. Melt butter and oil in a 3- to 4-quart ovenproof heavy saucepan (use one that fits under the broiler) over moderately low heat. Add onions, salt, and pepper, and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until onions soften, about 18 minutes. Add sugar, increase heat to moderate, and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until onions are caramelized and golden brown, 15-18 minutes. Add flour and cook for 3 minutes, stirring. Add stock, vermouth, and cheesecloth bundle, and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to make sure onions don't clump. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, partially covered. Skim off foam occasionally. Discard cheesecloth bundle and stir in Cognac and Worcestershire sauce. Add additional salt and pepper to taste.

While soup is simmering, make the toasts. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 deg F. Brush bread on both sides with melted butter, and arrange on a baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven until golden, turning once, about 15 minutes total. Remove from oven (but leave oven on) and rub the toasts with the cut side of the garlic clove.

When soup is finished simmering, cover the top completely with toasted bread. Sprinkle the cheeses evenly over the toasts. Bake in 350 deg F oven until soup is simmering, 15-20 minutes, then remove from oven.

Preheat broiler. Broil soup 4-6 inches from heat, until cheese is golden, about 1 minute.


  1. Happy New Year to you, too! I love French onion soup and this looks like a good recipe.

  2. Never mind the tears they bring on—onions are an ace ally in your fight against disease.


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