Food + Wine

Brown Butter French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup is my favorite soup.  I don’t even like soup.  Which means I should change that sentence, probably… And yes, I know my friends who are reading this are like… um… you serve us soup ALL THE TIME!!  Yuh. I love making soup.  I just don’t love eating it that much.  I’m super picky about the soup I’ll eat and there’s not really a rhyme or reason to the ones I like. I like bisques and pureed soups, but not the cheesy ones.  (That’s fondue.)  I like chunky soups, but not potatoes in them because potatoes get mushy and I don’t care for a mushy potato… unless it’s mushed with butter and sour cream (but don’t then turn that mush into a soup… cuz that’s just thinned out mashed potatoes).  I do like chunky soups, because there’s generally meat involved.  And I do love me some meat.  But then I just pick out the meat and then everyone gives me the stink eye.  Chunky vegetable soups, I do not care for… And yet, vegetables are some of my favorite things…

So.

Bottom line- I will rarely order soup at a restaurant and never get excited about eating it.  However… This soup is great for me because it’s barely about the soup.  It’s really just the cheesiest of thickest toasts that gets partially soggy in some yummy liquid.  So it’s the best of both worlds, really… crispy and crunchy and ooey and gooey, then soppy and sloppy and soaked.

That’s the name of my part-time punk band, by the way- Soppy, Sloppy and Soaked.

We play the Applebee’s circuit.

Basically, I’m just here for the cheese and bread.

French Onion Soup is just the best! Right?! And I gotta say… guys, ummmm… my French Onion Soup is the best.  I’m sorry.  I had to say it. I know that’s a bold statement and all, and you’ve heard me say it before about other stuff, but you gotta believe me!  I’m so picky about what makes classic dishes ‘the best’, so if I say it, I believe it.  And here’s why mine is the best:

  1. brown butter. duh
  2. sherry
  3. secret, surprising, subtle spices
  4. gruyere
  5. onion bun

Whaaaa?!? Did she say onion bun?!  Yes.  Yes, I did.  Not challah or ciabatta or any other C bread. Nope. Those onion buns that are generally reserved for burgers and such in your grocery bread aisle happen to also make the best bread for French Onion Soup.  It’s not fancy, it’s not homemade, it’s easy to find and it’s delicious.

And brown butter just makes every damn thing better.

Especially this.

But also brown butter white chocolate cranberry oatmeal cookies… brown butter cake with salted caramel buttermilk frostingpineapple cake with brown butter caramel frosting and buttermilk whipped creambuttermilk mascarpone panna cotta with brown butter cranberry compote and gingersnap crumble

Not to mention scrambled eggs, ice cream and anything potato…

But yeah, mainly this.

BROWN BUTTER FRENCH ONION SOUP

AND LEMON ARUGULA SALAD WITH TINY TOMATOES AND EGG

serves 4

serves 4

. s o u p .

In a large pot, on medium heat, place…

  • 4 TB unsalted butter

Allow it to melt, then bubble, then pop, then brown.

Once it’s brown and quiet and fragrant, add…

  • 4 large yellow onions, thinly sliced

Toss with the brown butter so all the onions are coated.

Season with…

  • several pinches of kosher salt (to taste, and you can adjust as you go)
  • 1 TB light brown sugar
  • lots of freshly cracked pepper (the peppercorn medley is fantastic here if you happen to have that- the kind with pink, green, white, black, etc.)
  • a couple pinches allspice
  • freshly grated nutmeg (a couple pinches…)
  • 2 bay leaves

Stir well, reduce heat to low and cover.

Cook on low, covered, for 45 minutes to an hour… or until the onions are completely softened.

Remove lid, bump heat back up to medium so the liquid begins to bubble.

Add…

  • 3 good glugs of dry sherry (marsala can be used, also brandy works as well if you only have that)

Let the sherry bubble for a few seconds, then pour in…

  • 32 oz (4 cups) good quality beef stock (the sodium level is up to you, but I prefer to buy a beef stock that’s flavored well and doesn’t contain too much salt, then I can adjust it if need be at the end)

Bring to a boil.  Then cover again and simmer on low for about an hour.  Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary… I like to add (1-2) beef bouillon cubes instead of salt if I feel the sodium is lacking.  And sometimes I’ll add more pepper, allspice and nutmeg.

. b r e a d / c h e e s e / a s s e m b l y .

  1. Shred 1/2 lb good quality gruyere cheese – this will equal about 2 cups.  Set aside. (You will also need some asiago, romano or parmigiano – enough to sprinkle on each.)
  2. Ladle soup into 4 oven-safe personal crocs (I’ve used ceramic and metal – all good).  Make sure to get equal amounts of soup and onions into each.  Place on a foil or parchment/wax paper lined cookie sheet.
  3. Separate 2 onion rolls into 4 halves and lay them out, cut side up (I’ve used Cobblestone Mills brand before, and I’ve used the bakery department of my grocery store before – all good.)
  4. Sprinkle the sliced side of each half with some dried sage, enough to lightly sprinkle the entire surface (when I have fresh, I finely chop it and use it instead)
  5. Lay each seasoned onion roll piece over each croc, sage side up (it will likely rest on top and not fall into the croc, depending on the size of your croc, all fine)
  6. Lightly cover each bun topped soup croc with a layer of the asiago/romano/parmigiano cheese
  7. Then mound on the gruyere cheese in equal portions onto each. (Let it reach the edges of the buns, so you get some good drip action when it melts in the oven. And don’t be shy!)
  8. Sprinkle the top of the gruyere with more grated nutmeg and fresh cracked pepper
  9. Bake on the cookie sheet at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the edges are golden brown. Watch it closely as it reaches the 15 minute mark!

Carefully remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes so you don’t burn a hole into your tongue like I do

every. single. time.

Break through that thick and cheesy bread layer and dip down into the hot and silky soup below…

And enjoy the hell out of yourself.

I happen to be an ‘eat the soupy onions first before I get into the cheese bread’ person, but you feel free to mix and match your way through your bowl.  It’s all good.

This is the ultimate cold weather meal.  It just is.  I know people say chili is.  But no, I really think this baby wins, hands down. It is so comforting and hearty and interesting and just plain yummy. The creator of this here soup deserves a prize.  And also a hug.

Then probably a smooch.

Plus, with me you get a salad on the side to make everything pretty and balanced.

. a r u g u l a   s a l a d

w /  l e m o n   d i j o n   d r e s s i n g .

In a medium/large mixing bowl, add…

  • the juice from 2 lemons.
  • 2 tsp (ish) dijon mustard
  • 2 fat pinches kosher salt
  • lots of freshly cracked pepper (the peppercorn blend is nice here as well)

While whisking, drizzle in…

  • extra virgin olive oil (just enough to make it thick… I don’t believe in the 3:1 / oil:acid ratio, so I just drizzle and taste until I like it.  Sometimes I’m only using a couple tsp of oil.)

Add in…

  • about 1/4 cup thinly sliced onions

Mix the onions into the dressing and allow their flavor to infuse for several minutes.

Add in…

  • 4 big handfuls of baby arugula leaves (this would be 1 handful per person as a serving.  yes, it’s a science)
  • a couple handfuls of halved cherry/grape tomatoes 

Toss with your fingers only right before serving, making sure to coat all the leaves in the dressing.

Serve up and top with…

  • 2 hardboiled eggs, sliced and separated between the 4 bowls

Season the eggs with a bit of kosher salt and pepper as well.

EAT!

Thanks for reading, y’all.  Enjoy your Sunday! Much love. xo

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