French Onion Soup

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French onion soup is one of those cheesy, carb-y, savory indulgences that you dream about diving face first into a bowl of after being outside on a cool day. It’s also the kind of dish that you can whip up out of some onions from the pantry, boxed beef stock, stale bread and some cheese and herbs. Those Frenchmen… so smart and surprisingly thrifty!

This is one of those dishes that could easily appear to be intimidating. But in reality, all you’re doing is carmelizing onions with thyme, then simmering with beef broth and some other savory items, and then melting cheese on top of a small bread round before serving. I have a few suggestions for how to do this, depending on if you have oven safe bowls or if you’re freezing the soup.

Traditionally, you would place a round piece of old/dry baguette in an oven/heatsafe bowl, top it with Comte, Gruyere or Emmenthal cheese and either blowtorch the cheese (yikes! let’s leave that to the pros) or place in the oven to melt. If you have oven safe bowls, then 100% this route is delicious. I don’t personally have an oven safe bowl set (but I’ve linked some below in case you’re in the market!), so I do mine one of two cheater ways:

  1. Dry out a hunk of baguette in the oven until it’s basically rock hard and petrified. I do this by accident quite often trying to make bread to put dip on:(. Place your soup in a microwave safe bowl, top with your hunk of bread and then cheese. Microwave it to melt the cheese and soften the bread, then eat.
  2. Cut regular white sandwich bread into sticks, then place on a baking sheet and top with your cheese of choice and bake until the cheese is melted. You can serve these across the top of the bowl (not submersed) and they’re really nice “dippers”.

I think it’s important to note that Swiss cheese and mozzarella are both more affordable options than the traditional artisinal cheeses used for this soup. Mozzarella will also be more palatable to those who aren’t as adventurous with cheese or for kids, but still gives that delicious ooey-gooey cheesiness that you want. Swiss is a great option if you do love a stronger cheese taste but don’t have the extra $$$ to get fancier with the cheese.

French Onion Soup

Serves 4 for $5.80 or $1.45 per person

5 yellow onions- $0.75

3 sprigs of fresh thyme or 1.5 tablespoons of dried thyme- $0.33 to $0 (dried thyme is a pantry staple)

2-3 cartons of beef stock- $2.50

1 cup of grated cheese- $2 (priced out for Swiss Cheese)

4 baguette rounds (~1/4 of a baguette)- $0.22

Pantry staples: salt, pepper, 2 bay leaves, butter, Worcestershire sauce and Dijon mustard.

Optional: 1/2 cup of red wine (recommend Cabernet Sauvignon) to deglaze pot. Add $1.67 to the recipe, this makes it a bit fancier but is a nice to have, not a need to have. It’s a good way to pair a wine to an otherwise inexpensive meal if you’re having guests, though.

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Start off by chopping up your onions. Now traditionally you’d cut your onions into delicate half moons. But if you’re me, you’re just going to chop them up into a medium-large dice because they are easier to eat that way! Put them in a pot with a pat of butter and start softening and then caramelizing them. The trick to this is to put in a decent amount of butter and don’t bug the onions too much- if you’re constantly stirring, they won’t caramelize. So grate your cheese or something (drink wine!?) to keep your hands off of that pot. I like to use this time to carefully strip the thyme leaves off of the sprigs and put them in the pot (and drink wine). It should take between 30 and 40 minutes to caramelize the onions.

Once the onions are caramelized, deglaze the pot with either your wine or some beef stock. Then add in about a half of a tablespoon of Dijon, a dash of Worcestershire, and two bay leaves and pour in the remainder of your stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and taste test your soup. You’ll likely want to bring in a good amount of black pepper and a dash of salt- if your soup tastes flat, consider adding a small amount of either lemon juice or balsamic vinegar. Once it tastes perfect, put it in your bowl of choice and add your cheesy crouton topper, however you’re doing it.

Shop the Post:

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OXO Box Grater • OXO •
Food NetworkTM 3.5-qt. Hard-Anodized Pour & Strain Soup Pot •
Michael Symon by Ergo Chef 6″ Chef’s Knife •
Juliska Berry & Thread Handled Soup Bowl • Juliska •
Sur La Table Pearl Stoneware Onion Soup Bowl • Sur La Table •
Le Creuset French Onion Soup Bowl, Flame • Le Creuset •

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What’s your favorite way to make french onion soup? Do you use oven safe bowls or another trick? Let me know in the comments!


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