Food + Wine

I’m Not French Onion Soup

I am a sucker for French Onion Soup.  It doesn’t really have to be fancy French Onion Soup, it just has to be good.  And by good, I really mean cheesy.  Who are these people kidding when they bring you French Onion Soup with a tiny bit of cheese on top?  Don’t they know the only reason we ordered the soup was to eat the cheese?

I’ve made French Onion Soup many times, but just like my Chicken Pot Pie recipe I recently posted, I have never written down what I’ve done because I figure you all have your own way of making this dish and adding another one into the mix would just simply overcrowd the internet.  When I’ve made French Onion Soup in the past it’s always come out well, but some nights it’s better than others.  So, I decided to really pay attention to what I was doing this time and see how it turned out.  Well, it turned out Good.  Like, really good.  I will forever now be making this version of French Onion Soup.  Forever.

There are a few things I did differently this time around that I think made it stellar.  I decided to use butter, which I haven’t done before.  And not only did I decide to use butter, I decided to use brown butter…which is like butter crack.  It’s my trick when I want a lot of butter flavor, without using a ton of butter.  I do it in my Avocookies too.  And I’m not even using a lot of it, just enough to give the soup an amazing butter flavor.  I’m also using brandy.  Mmmm…brandy.  I use brandy in my 40 Clove Garlic Chicken recipe, which I think makes it better than others.  You can use a fortified wine like Marsala or Sherry if you didn’t have the brandy on hand.  But the brandy is awesome.  The third thing that sets this French Onion Soup recipe above the rest is the bread I use.  No, it’s not a fancy artisan loaf.  No, it’s not sourdough garlic toasts.  No, it’s not even homemade.  But it is killer.  I use Onion Rolls.  You know, the kind you’ve used for hamburgers?  Yes, those.  After past barbecues and cookouts I have found myself with many a leftover Onion Roll.  It has sat in my fridge for weeks just taking up space.  But now I have given the Onion Roll a new life.  It is sooo good in this soup.  I don’t even toast it beforehand, it’s simply perfection combined with the cheeses on top of the soup.

So, here it is- My recipe for French Onion Soup.  May it not get lost in the shuffle.

*Abbey’s Brown Butter French Onion Soup with Sage Gruyere Toasts
(makes 4 servings for me, this depends on your bowl size) 

-In a large soup pot, melt 2 TB unsalted butter on medium heat.  Allow the butter to crackle and foam.  Swirl the pan a couple of times.  Once the foam disappears, you are left with brown butter.  Add 1-2 TB of extra virgin olive oil to the brown butter and then add in 4 large onions* that you’ve thinly sliced. Toss well in the oil and butter.  Season with 1 TB of light brown sugar, a few good pinches of kosher salt, lots of freshly cracked black pepper (I really love the tri-colored peppercorns for this if you have them), several pinches of both freshly grated nutmeg and ground allspice.

Turn the heat down to low, cover and cook for 30 minutes.  Every now and then, give the pan a good shake to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom.
-Remove the lid and cook for another 15 minutes.  The onions should now be buttery and spreadably soft.

-Bump the heat back up to medium and pour in 3 good glugs of brandy (a good, inexpensive brand to keep on hand for recipes is Korbel.  You can find it at most liquor stores. I’ve also used Marsala when I was out of brandy and it is still delicious. Sherry could also work.)  Stir well and simmer for a minute.
-Throw in 2 bay leaves.
-Add 1 32 oz carton OR 2 14.5 oz cans of low sodium beef broth and 1 beef bouillon cube (if you don’t keep low sodium broth on hand, you may not need the bouillon.  Just check your seasoning at the end).
-Let this simmer, on low, for 1-1 1/2 hours.  (If you’re in a hurry, you can boil it harder for 30 min or so.)
-Discard the bay leaves.**
-Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil.  Place your oven-safe crocks on the sheet and evenly distribute the soup into each.  (The crocks I used are 2 cup size, and I was able to get 3 big servings out of each, but could have easily gotten 4 if my husband and I weren’t so greedy.)
-Sprinkle some fresh, minced sage leaves onto the inner halves of your onion rolls (dried sage is fine) and top each half with 2 slices of swiss or gruyere*** (1 1/2-2 oz total), then sprinkle with a good amount of grated Parmesan.  Top each crock with the sage/cheese buns.

-Place the cookie sheet in a preheated 375 degree oven for 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese is golden brown.

-Serve with a simple green salad.

(*I always buy the bags of yellow onions at the store.  I can get 3 lbs. of onions for under $2 that way.)
(**now is when you could stop and store for later.  Then, at dinnertime, all you need to do is add the cheese bread to the tops of each bowl and bake.)
(***I’ve made this using equal parts Old Amsterdam Aged Gouda and Parrano and it was outstanding…I always have a random mix of cheeses in my fridge!)

Because I follow these TIPS, this entire batch of French Onion Soup, along with the salad we ate with it, cost me only $4.

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  • Reply Everyday Champagne October 27, 2011 at 10:07 pm

    I've never tried to make my own french onion soup… this looks easier & cheeper than I thought. I'll have to try it soon

  • Reply Lizzy November 3, 2011 at 11:56 pm

    I adore French onion soup…and it IS the cheese that makes it! Love your recipe…and hope to try it soon 🙂

  • Reply Swapna November 4, 2011 at 9:45 am

    Love your blog.. you have a great way of writing it too..:)

  • Reply Everyday Champagne November 7, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    Thank you everyone! It really is very easy to do, Quinn..I hope you give it a try!
    To Lizzy and Swapna, thanks so much for reading, I love making new friends! Take care!

  • Reply Chef E November 17, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    YUM!!! Aren't those bags of onions cheap and good. I got through one every four days! Yikes I should invest in an onion farm 🙂

  • Reply Everyday Champagne November 17, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    Oh yes, the onion bags are the only way to go!

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