Better than Restaurant Food: French Onion Soup

When I was growing up, if I wanted something delicious, it was most likely going to come from a restaurant. Neither of my parents were really into cooking, and due to the various diets some of us were perpetually on, scrumptious things rarely emerged from the kitchen. (They were/are fantastic parents on many other levels! Just not so much with the tasty food.) I am, to put it mildly, a self-taught cook.

Which is why, upon first tasting the French onion soup I’d made myself, the thought, “This is better than what I could get in a restaurant” was truly mind-blowing for me. I always assumed there was some sort of magic going on in restaurant kitchens, using tools and ingredients not accessible to home cooks. The idea that food made at home could be tastier than food made by professionals was honestly surprising. It was the first time I’ve had that thought, though the more recipes I get under my belt, the more common it becomes. Still, I had never really understood the appeal of a home-cooked meal until I had that first spoonful of soup.

Seeing how fall is suddenly upon a lot of us, it is soup season once again, so I thought I’d share this recipe. The recipe I use is a mashup of smitten kitchen and The Pioneer Woman. (I have lots of feelings re: Pioneer Woman, but she’s still useful for the basics. Which this is! This is not a hard soup.) Also, this is a great dinner party soup ““ everyone feels special getting their own little bowl of joy, and who doesn’t enjoy onion soup!? You can make the soup the day before, and reheat it just pre-serving as well, if you’d like.

So. Take a decently-sized pot ““ one able to hold at least 3-4 quarts ““ and melt 3 tablespoons of butter and a tablespoon of olive oil in it over low heat. While that gets all melty,  slice a bunch of yellow onions. You either need two softball-sized ones, or 4-5 baseball-sized ones. Slice them kind-of thinly. (This is a perfect job for a mandolin if you have one, but please do not slice off any bits of your fingers.) Depending on the quality of your knifework, your butter should be melted right as you’re done with the onion slicing, so toss all those onions into the pot. Coat the onions in the butter/oil, and, keeping the heat low, cover the pot and leave it completely alone for 15 minutes. No stirring needed!

Come back, add a teaspoon of salt and a ¼ teaspoon of sugar to the onions, and turn up the heat a bit. Then put your laptop somewhere visible from the stove, and get ready to watch an episode of something from Netflix or wherever. Because for the next 42 minutes or so, you need to stir these onions pretty frequently. You’re done when they turn a lovely golden brown, and are pretty mushy ““ they should only have the tiniest bit of bite left to them.

After they’re nicely browned, add 3 tablespoons of flour, cooking and stirring for 3 minutes, and then pour in a cup of dry white wine. Pour one for yourself as well, if you’re of a mind. Also, skip this step if you’re alcohol-free, no pressure.  Next, pour in 4 cups of beef broth and 4 cups of low-sodium chicken broth. (If you wanted to use mushroom stock or vegetable stock, you could definitely make this vegetarian.) Dice up 2 cloves of garlic very finely, and toss that in, along with a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce and a splash of cooking sherry. I have this compulsion that sherry makes every soup better. Seriously, every soup.  Yes, I know we already added some wine earlier. I don’t care. Add the sherry.  Salt and pepper to taste, and then let it all simmer for 45 minutes or so. (Another episode of whatever you were watching on Netflix before, perhaps? You don’t need to be right by the stove the whole time, but check in every 10 minutes or so, at least to skim off anything grody if necessary, and make sure the onions aren’t sticking.)

Now it’s time for the fun part! You need some stale baguette slices. This recipe should probably start “the day before you want to make this soup, buy a baguette and cut a bunch of ½ inch slices from it,” but too late now. So you’ve got stale baguette slices, right? If you want true deliciousness, spread butter thinly on the slices and sprinkle them with garlic salt. Buttered or not, put enough slices to cover the surface of however many bowls you’re using into the oven on broil, just for a minute, to get them nice and browned and crispy. While, as I said earlier, this is a fantastic dinner-party dish, I’ve been known to make a big pot of this and just eat it a bowl at a time. There are about 6 servings here, so I tend to freeze 2-3 individual servings, along with stale bread slices and grated cheese, for an instant frozen dinner.

But anyway, back to the soup at hand. Ladle the soup into bowl(s), making sure to get a decent amount of both broth and onion.  Cover the surface of each bowl with the toasted bread slices. And now. CHEESE. Both of my recipe sources swear by gruyere, but swiss or provolone or mozzarella have never let me down. I always grate my cheese directly over the soup bowls, so as to best ascertain the amount of cheese needed. Put your bowl or bowls on a cookie sheet, and (carefully!) put them in the oven to broil for just a moment. Once the cheese is bubbling and starting to brown, you’re all done!


By CherriSpryte

CherriSpryte wants you to know that The Great Pumpkin loves you.

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