French Onion Soup

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We are well into French Onion Soup (FOS) weather and I've made two batches already this winter. (Yes, I know, astronomical winter just started a couple of weeks ago, but don't get picky with me - winter starts right after Thanksgiving in Vermont...). FOS is one of my favorite foods and also one of my biggest frustrations. 90% of the FOS you are served in restuarants is dismal stuff filled with undercooked onions and bland broth. Chances are that they will plop mozzerella cheese on top, adding insult to injury. There are only two options - go to a good french restaurant or make it yourself.

I must say that I make a damned fine FOS. So here's my recipe, with all proper acknowledgements to Julia Child for the spice recommendation...


6-8 medium onions sliced in 1/4" slices
3 tbps olive oil
2 tbps butter
1 quart beef broth (make it from scratch if you've got all day and a load of beef bones, etc. otherwise use low salt canned broth)
2 bay leaves
a pinch of cloves
2-3 tbs brandy or cognac
gruyere cheese, thinly sliced
1 baguette

  • Heat the olive oil and butter in a 2 quart saucepan
  • Add the onions and cook over medium heat. This is the most important step. The trick is to carmelize the onions slowly and gently. It is, after all, onion soup and you want the onions to go through several phases - first they get hot, then they start to sweat, soon they become languid and relaxed, their color deepens and they give off and deep sweet smell. They need occassional stirrring - don't let them get too hot and scorch. There should be no burning that adds bitterness. All this will take 1/2 hour or more. Do it right and you will be rewarded.
  • As the onions near carmelization, heat the broth with the bay leaves in a separate saucepan.
  • When the onions are done, add the heated broth and stir gently, making sure to scrape all the intense carmelized bits off the bottom and side of the saucepan.
  • Add the brandy/cognac and the pinch of clove (make sure this is a small pinch of clove. You want the person tasting your FOS to realize that there is a spice there but have to concentrate to figure out what it is).
  • Allow this to return to a simmer for 15 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. At this point you can remove it from the heat and let it sit until you are ready for the final preparation.
  • Toast 8 thin slices from the baguette
  • Preheat the broiler and arrange the top rack about 6 inches from the flames/element
  • Place four ovenproof bowls on a cookie sheet or jellyroll pan
  • Place 2 baguette slices in each of the bowls
  • Ladle the FOS over the bread slices almost to the brim
  • Lay slices of cheese over the soup to cover the top
  • Heat under the broiler until the cheese is melted and begins to brown up
  • Serve with the rest of the baguette, butter, a big salad and a good red wine
  • There should be just enough left over for your lunch the next day if you don't let any of your guests know the pot isn't empty

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Robert: I too am an onion soup devotee and am delighted and amazed @ your wonderful recipe. I
have never made my own onion soup till now but with this recipe I intend to try. I will let you know how it turns out. Love Mother
Can I freeze some of the leftover ?

Yes, it freezes well and it's a nice surprise to remember you've got some in the freezer a week or two later.

can you come visit and make it for me? fos is one of my comfort foods, like mac and cheese, that tastes better when my parents make it for me.

We could make in a couple of weeks when we visit. favorites!!!!

I don't hear you offering to come over my house to make it. So what I am a thousands of miles away! :)

So much for sibling love, or is that an oxymoron?

Hey, you make it for your kids and I'll make it for mine...

and what's with the oxy addition to your nickname? Is that a southern thang??

Your loving northern (-6) brother


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This page contains a single entry by published on January 2, 2004 9:46 PM.

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