15 November 2011

Onion soup, French-style

A few days ago I went to the supermarket to get some things. Before leaving the house, I looked in the downstairs pantry to see how we were doing with onions. I didn't see any, and there were just a couple upstairs in the kitchen. So I bought a two-kilo bag of onions, among other things, at SuperU. That's 4½ lbs.

When I got home, Walt looked in the market basket and said "What, you bought more onions?" Yes, aren't we out? No, there's a whole bag of them down in the pantry, on the floor over by the wine. Well, I hadn't looked there.

Soupe à l'oignon gratinée

When life hands you bags of onions, what do you do? You make onion soup, of course.

All you have to do is slice up about 1½ pounds of onions. You could probably do it really fast using a food processor — it doesn't really matter whether the onions are sliced or diced. Then cook them on low heat in a little butter or oil (or a mixture) in a big pot with a thick bottom for about 45 minutes to an hour. Don't salt them. Stir them fairly frequently, and if they seem to be sticking to the bottom of the pot or getting too browned, pour in a couple of glugs of white wine.

Slicing two pounds of onions

When the onions have turned a nice golden color — not really brown, but yellow — sprinkle one or two tablespoons of flour over them and stir it in well. After letting the flour cook for two or three minutes, pour on two liters (quarts) of broth (chicken, beef, or vegetable) or even plain water. If the broth isn't already seasoned or you plan to use water, add a bay leaf or two and some black pepper to the onions as they cook.

Cook the sliced onions until they turn golden brown.
It'll take nearly an hour. Turn the heat down
progressively as they start to take on color.

After pouring on the broth, let the soup cook for 20 minutes more. Taste for salt and season as needed. The soup is ready to eat. The melted cheese is both optional and, at the same time, essential.

Some examples of French cheeses you could enjoy
with French onion soup.

The way I like to do the final stage is to pour the soup into individual oven-proof bowls — larger or smaller depending on whether the soup will be served as an appetizer or a main dish — and then float slices of stale or toasted French bread on top of each. Put a handful of grated Swiss-type cheese on top of the floating bread slices. It doesn't matter if some of the cheese just falls into the soup.

Toast some bread slices for the soup and
some croutons for the salad.

Then put the bowls of soup under the broiler — maybe 6 or 8 inches below the heating element — and leave them there until the cheese is all melted and the bread is starting to get really brown around the edges. Serve hot. The bread will soak up some soup liquid and you'll be able to cut into it with a soup spoon. There's no need for more bread or cheese with onion soup. Just have a green salad.

You can eat the soup like this, or with some cream added, or,
best of all, with toasted bread and melted cheese.

We normally eat this soupe à l'oignon gratinée as a main course. A full serving is about half a liter (two cups) of soup, so the two liters of broth and onions will give you four generous servings as a full meal (with salad after).


  1. Delicious. Last time I was in Paris, that combination of sweet, salt and comfort was exactly what I needed to cope with feeling a bit off-colour: French penicillin!

  2. Looks gorgeous! I'm inspired to make some of my own now! I'm also a big fan of a Covent Garden soup recipe where you make the soup and then pour it over buttered, stale baguette, grate cheese on it, bake - like a savoury bread-and-butter dish. Tears, here I come!

  3. I'm reading this and two things go thru my mind (and taste buds).
    I love French Onion soup and the second is - where does Sue put things in the pantry because I never know.
    I'm methodical, Sue isn't - but thats life.

  4. Oh well... your soup looks delicious. I love French Onion soup mmm...
    By the way, I doubt Leon even knows we have a pantry. Food just appears on his table as if by magic. Maybe not so much in the future. He might have to learn where the pantry is. Not a bad move eh?

  5. LOL you two. Sue and Leon I mean. Sue, draw him a map.

    Patrick, yes, penicillin of the best kind.

  6. Sue and Leon :)))

    I want to make some onion soup, now, too. I've never made it! Thanks for the good directions.


  7. The raw. whole onions are pretty; sort of pink.

  8. Judy, do it!

    Chris, it's hard to tell if that's an effect of the camera and the light or the real color of the onions.


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