Traditional French Onion Soup

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For this traditional French onion soup, I used the recipe of fellow blogger Stéphane of My French Heaven. Because I wholeheartedly agree with him that onion soup should be made from… onions! Of course we want to top it with a nice slice of toasted baguette with melted French cheese, but the ingredients of the soup itself are onions, water, salt, pepper, butter and a bit of flour. That’s all! This soup allows the beautiful flavor of the onions to shine, no meat stock or wine needed. The only drawback is that it requires quite a bit of patience, because you have to stir the onions forever until they brown without burning. Stéphane says it took him 30 minutes, but for me it took more like 90! This can be caused by the fact that I made a double batch, or because I should have used a non-stick frying pan. In any case, the wonderful onion flavor makes it all worth it. Even the tears. Kees said he liked it, but thought it would be better with beef stock instead of water. So I guess I’ll have to make this again and do a side-by-side comparison.

Ingredients

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For 4-6 servings

2 kilos (4.5 lbs) of medium onions (about 15-20 onions, Stéphane says to use smaller onions because they have more flavor and less water)

butter

salt and freshly ground black pepper

French bread, sliced

grated Comté cheese (or Gruyère if you can’t find Comté)

20 grams (2 Tbsp) flour

Preparation

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Peel the onions.

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Slice them thinly.

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Take a gratuitous sliced onion shot for Conor‘s benefit.

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Melt a generous amount of butter over medium heat in a large, wide, thick-bottomed frying pan or casserole with good heat distribution, preferably non-stick.

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Add the onions.

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Stir the onions over medium heat.

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This is what they looked like after 25 minutes…

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…after 40 minutes…

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…after 70 minutes…

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…and finally after 90 minutes. The onions could have been browned even a bit more, but after stirring them for 90 minutes my patience, of which I have very little to begin with, had really run out.

It is important to keep stirring the onions, as otherwise they will burn and the soup will be bitter. When you keep stirring, the onions brown evenly and develop a wonderful sweet taste with great depth of flavor.

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When the onions are brown to your liking, sprinkle 20 grams (2 Tbsp) of flour and stir to incorporate.

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Add 1.5 litres (6 cups) of water.

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Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, and simmer for 15 minutes.

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After 15 minutes, season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. You could add some water if you think the soup is too thick.

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Preheat the broiler. Butter slices of French bread on both sides.

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Put them under the broiler…

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…until they are golden brown on one side.

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Turn them over and return them to the broiler…

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…to allow them to brown on the other side as well. Watch them carefully, as at first nothing seems to happen, but when the browning starts they can burn in less than a minute.

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Ladle onion soup into oven-proof bowls. Put a slice (or two) of toasted bread on top, and top with grated cheese.

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Put the bowls under the broiler until the cheese has melted and is nicely bubbly and starting to turn golden.

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Serve hot and enjoy.

Flashback

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If you’ve made puff pastry from scratch, the best way to use it is for Beef Wellington (of course you could also make it with store-bought puff pastry). Beef Wellington is a classic, but one of my favorite dishes nonetheless. Tender beef with a tasty mix of mushrooms, wrapped in crispy pastry and served with a delicious red wine sauce.

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31 thoughts on “Traditional French Onion Soup

    • Why didn’t I think of that? Thanks for the link. After reading it seems it is not possible to make traditional onion soup sous-vide, but it definitely is something I’m going to try for other purposes!

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  1. I knew I saw an excellent French Onion Soup recipe this week… so maybe I saw the same recipe on My French Heaven. You did a great job photographing this Stefan – and soup is NEVER easy to photograph. I’m gonna PIN this – thanks for posting it!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I used my homemade beef stock and it came out wonderful! But yes, only homemade would do, the store-bought is horrible! I don’t know if you saw my recent recipe where I did most of the cooking of the onions in the oven. You don’t have to slave over the stove for 90 minutes and have time to attend to other things while they are in the oven. You might want to give that method a try in addition to the sous-vide method! Anyways, I thought I would throw that different method out there to you if you want. 🙂

    https://anotherfoodieblogger.wordpress.com/2016/01/02/classic-french-onion-soup/

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Kathryn, as a matter of fact I did see your recipe — you may remember we chatted in the comments section. I do think cooking the onions in the oven is a great idea, but I wanted to make my first batch the original way as a point of reference before I start experimenting.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes, saw this on Stephane’s also – you reminding us will make me seriously think of making a batch . . . the last one was so far back that I probably did use stock and not water . . .I find stirring risotto very therapeutic, but that is under 20 minutes: hmm, 90 would probably make me impatient also but am game to try 🙂 !

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  4. I agree with Kees: I would go with stock rather than water. However, when it comes to food, it’s always question of personal taste. The fact that there is no cheese in the quiche lorraine is well known but I put cheese in all my quiches and I’ll keep doing it. 🤓
    Your soup looks superb!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Perfection in a bowl, Stefan. I really enjoy a bowl of steaming onion soup, especially on days like today with wind chills below 0˚ F. It is definitely a favorite and I like that you don’t use a beef broth. I want to taste the onions. Period. Thank you, too, for mentioning that it took you 90 minutes to cook the onions. My cooking time for browning onions is never even close to the time specified in recipes. I don’t know how these cooks do it but I’m not going to rush the process. It’s “French onion soup” and not “burnt onion soup”. 🙂

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  6. This is very similar to Ruhlman’s soup in 20. He has you put a blast of sherry in at the end but his onion reduction is a bit different. It’s really slow – barely a simmer after the onions are initially translucent. In fact so slow (lid off ) that the reduction can take 5-8 hours. With that it is barely stirred.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. The timef rame for cooking the onions nearly made me lose heart! 90 minutes and you were becoming impatient. Another reader comments 5 – 8 hours.

    With great dedication I managed 2.5 hours over the lowest heat I could get on an induction cooker. And then I tasted one to be sure – it was a mouthful of bliss! I knew then the soup would be great – and it truly was.

    Thank you for the inspiration – and as always the detailed notes.

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    • 2.5 hours, that is dedication indeed! I’m going to do some more experiments based on reader’s comments (using sous-vide or oven), even though I suspect there is no substitute for the real thing.

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    • In the meantime I talked to Stéphane and he said that he had used a non-stick pan. So I am going to try with higher heat in a non-stick pan to see if I can cut down the time. Glad you liked the result.

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