French Onion Soup

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French Onion Soup is caramelized onions simmered in white wine and beef stock, topped with baguette slices and bubbly, golden melted cheese.  This is comfort food at it’s finest!

french onion soup

I’ve had a thing for French Onion Soup for as long as I can remember.  Who can resist that toasty bread on top with all that cheese melted on top?  Not me.  This was one of the first recipes we made at cooking school, and I thought I’d never tasted better French onion soup.  Funny thing was, I was taken aback when my instructor poured in white wine.  White wine??  I thought French onion soup was made with red wine all these years, especially since it’s also made with beef stock.  I asked my instructor if we could use red wine and she said, “Well then it wouldn’t be classic French onion soup.”  She got me there.  When people order it, they expect it a certain way, and that means white wine.  White wine it is. 🙂

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One of the key components to a great French onion soup isn’t the toasty bread slices and melted cheese. As good as they are, it’s those onions that can make or break it.  They have to be caramelized perfectly, and to achieve that, they’re cooked long and slow.  The onions need to be cut lyanese style, which will enable them to lie flatter in the pan so they cook more evenly.  Simply cut off the stem, then cut in half from the root.  Place the onion down flat, and cut the root off at an angle.  Cut the onion across with the lines nice and thin.

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Once the onions get into the pot, there is a trick to getting them to steam during cooking so they get nice and soft before letting them brown.  My instructor showed us how to made a lid out of parchment paper.   I hope these photos help!

parchment lid collage

Interesting right?  Basically, you want a circle in the middle of a sheet of parchment paper.  The lid fits into the pot right over the top of the onions.

parch lid6

Keep the onions at a nice low temperature so they don’t brown for the first 20 minutes under the parchment lid.  Once the lid is removed, the onions can cook for 20-25 more minutes, which is the caramelization process.  We want nice, soft, brown onions!

I have a confession to make….this soup isn’t as good as the one from cooking school.  What a let-down, right?  Why would I say that?  The other key component to a really great French onion soup is homemade beef stock.  There’s no comparison, but I don’t have time to whip beef stock up at the moment.  It’s time consuming — worth the effort, completely — but you have to have the time.  Next time I’m home on a rainy day, I’d love to tackle it.  This recipe is pedestrian, therefore, using store bought stock.  I’m not going to let a lack of homemade stock keep me from making this soup, because it’s still worth every single cheesy, oniony bite. 🙂

french onion soup3

French Onion Soup
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
French Onion Soup is caramelized onions simmered in white wine and beef stock, topped with baguette slices and bubbly, golden melted cheese. This is comfort food at it's finest!
Serves: Serves 6-8
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced (about 4½ cups)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoon all purpose flour
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 quart low sodium beef stock
  • 1½ teaspoons Kosher salt
  • ½ freshly grated pepper
  • ¼ cup dry sherry
  • small slices of bread, such as French or baguette
  • freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • freshly grated Gruyere cheese
  1. In a large sauce pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and cook slowly over medium heat with a parchment lid for the first 20 minutes to steam and soften the onions. Remove the parchment lid and continue cooking another 20-25 minutes so the onions caramelize. Don't stir the onions too often as it will cool off the pan and the onions won't brown. If the onions begin to cook to quickly, lower the heat.
  2. When the onions are soft and caramelized, lower the heat and add the garlic, cooking 1 minute. Stir in the flour until combined. Cook 3 minutes, or until the flour is slightly brown. Stir in the white wine, stock, salt, and pepper, and simmer 30 more minutes. Stir in the sherry and simmer 10 more minutes. Add more salt and pepper, if needed.
  3. Just before serving, preheat the broiler. Ladle the soup into ovenproof bowls on a rimmed baking sheet. Top with bread slices and the grated cheese. Broil on the middle rack of the oven 1-2 minutes, or until the cheese is golden and bubbly. Serve immediately. Enjoy!
See blog post for photos regarding how to make a parchment lid.

For best results, cut onions lyanese style. Cut off stem, then halve from the root. Place flat side down, then cut off the base of the root at an angle. Slice the onions thinly along the lines. This helps the onions lie flatter so they cook more evenly.

Recipe from Tante Marie Cooking School, San Francisco, CA.

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