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The Ultimate French Onion Soup

Posted on: January 10th, 2014

French Onion Soup wasn’t invented by a fancy French chef, rather it was a mom with a lot more love and cooking skill than money.  OK, so I can’t prove this, but I’m sticking to my story!

When made correctly, this soup is beyond compare, but unfortunately I’ve never had a great bowl in a restaurant (even on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris – but it was probably a tourist restaurant). Usually cooks take way too many shortcuts and use cheap and very salty stock.  To make it right you only need a few great ingredients, and a little patience; but trust me, it’s worth it!

The ultimate bowl of French Onion Soup, well worth the time it takes to make!
Great Ingredients
This soup only has a few ingredients, and when there are fewer singers in the choir, each must sing more sweetly. Here are some tips.

My favorite brand of stock
Stock
Firstly you’ll need GREAT stock with very little sodium. I always save my meat bones and scraps to make my own stocks, but there still is never enough. My solution is More Than Gourmet brand stocks, in this case I suggest the Glace di Viande (a classic reduced brown stock), Glace de Veau Gold (classic veal stock), or a combination. Whatever you use, just make sure it’s very low in sodium and has a great natural taste.
Saute the Onions
Next, and every bit as crucial is proper sweating and sautéing of the onions. First the onions are sweated over low to medium heat for about 30 minutes (‘sweating’ is slow sautéing with a lid on, softening without browning), I use a timer to remind me to stir them every 5-10 minutes, taking care not to smash the onions.
The onions just starting to sweat in the Dutch Oven.
After about 30 minutes sweating, time to remove the lid and brown
When the onions are nice and soft, remove the lid and sauté attentively until they reach a golden brown. During this stage I don’t even leave the kitchen!  The browning happens
on both the bottom and sides of the pot and needs to be scraped away with a wooden spoon lest they burn. This step takes about 10-15 minutes and needs almost constant attention, the browning can get out of control in a matter of minutes.
Between the slow sweating and careful browning you will build an incredible sweet onion flavor that MAKES the soup. This sweating and browning step cannot be rushed, and usually takes me about 40-60 minutes, but I can prepare other foods in the mean time.
After about 10 minutes browning and lots of pan scraping to capture the sweet flavor before it scorches
Bread
A firm, crusty and chewy bread is the next important key. I am convinced our Demi Baguettes are the best choice possible for French Onion Soup,
but any firm and crusty bread you love will work.  Day old rustic bread is perfect because it’s extra firm and chewy.
Cheeses
This is no time to skimp on the cheese!  A full flavored, aged Swiss cheese such as Gruyere is my first choice.  If you like it milder, consider Fol Epi Swiss or even Baby Swiss Cheese.  You’ll also need Parmigiano Reggiano, for which there is no substitute!
French Onion Soup Recipe
This simple soup depends on quality ingredients and patience.
6 medium yellow onions
4 TBS butter
1 tsp sugar
pinches of salt
1.5 TBS flour
1 cup dry white wine or vermouth
4 cups low sodium beef stock/broth – More Than Gourmet Brand suggested
1/4 tsp white pepper
French baguette
2-3 cups grated Gruyere Swiss
3-4 TBS grated Parmigiano Reggiano, to taste
paprika
Split onions and slice. In large Dutch oven over medium heat, melt butter. Add onions, sugar, and a pinch of salt. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until onions are tender but not colored, about 30 minutes. Uncover pan, increase heat and continue to cook, scraping the bottom and sides of the pan regularly with a wooden spoon until onions are rich caramel color (10 to 15 minutes). Do not let the pan scorch!
Sprinkle in flour and stir until well blended. Stirring constantly, gradually add wine and bring to a boil, dissolving any lumps that may form and deglazing all the browning from the sides of the pot.
Stir in beef broth and pepper and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer 15 minutes, taste and adjust to taste (more stock
concentrate, more salt, more pepper). Preheat oven to 425°.
Ladle soup into oven proof bowls. Top each with bread slice; sprinkle with Swiss cheese, then Parmigiano-Reggiano, then paprika. Place bowls on baking sheet and broil until cheese melts and begins to brown – don’t walk away, it may burn!

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