French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup
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French onion soup
Deliciousness from a humble onion!

Sometimes the key to a recipe can be summed up in a single word. With Mac and Cheese, it’s cheese; with bread, it’s baking. In the case of French Onion Soup, it’s patience. Yep, simple patience, instead of technique, or even ingredients. If you don’t have patience, don’t even attempt making this at home; you’ll be disappointed with the results. For those who love French Onion Soup, however, it’s worth the time involved.

This particular version of French Onion Soup is nearly 100% made up by us. We do admit to looking in The Joy of Cooking, just in case we were forgetting anything, but then we almost immediately struck out on our own to create this version.

Makes 2 servings.

French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup


  • 3 Tbs unsalted butter
  • 2 large white onions, sliced very thinly
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 2-3 cups broth
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Slices of high-quality bread
  • 2 Tbs strong cheese, grated

Abbreviated Instructions

Melt butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over very low heat. When melted, add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until deep brown, but not burned, between 60 and 90 minutes. Transfer onions to a small bowl.

Add carrots to saucepan and cook over medium heat until tender, about 10 minutes. Add broth and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh sieve, reserving broth and discarding solids.

Place onions and broth back in saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.

Taste and season with salt and pepper, reduce to a simmer.

Toast bread. Top with cheese and place under the broiler until melted and bubbly.

Serve soup in bowls, floating the toasted bread and cheese on top.

Ingredient discussion:

slice onions
Slice the onions as thinly as you can. We use a chef’s knife because that’s what we have; plus, it’s always good to practice our knife skills.

This is a recipe that’s all about the method of cooking and not the ingredients. For the broth, we used mushroom broth left over from rehydrating mushrooms, but you could use any rich, flavorful stock. For onions, we just used plain white onions, not Vidalias, Walla Wallas, or anything special. Do use butter, and, for this, you could probably get away with salted butter in a pinch.

Procedure in detail:

cooked onions
The onions will cook down a bit. After about an hour or so, they take on a nice caramel color. Perfect.

Cook onions. Here’s where the patience part comes in. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat. When melted, add the onions and cook, stirring from time to time, until a deep brown color, about 60 to 90 minutes. Yep, 1 to 1-1/2 hours. Don’t rush it, either, because this long, slow cooking is what brings out the flavor and eliminates the harsh onion-y bite. Once nicely browned, transfer to a small bowl and set aside.

cooking carrots
The carrots add just a touch of sweetness to the soup.

Cook carrots. We’re going to add a bit of sweetness to the broth with carrots, so place the grated carrots in the same saucepan, add a bit more butter if necessary, and turn the heat up to medium. Cook the carrot pieces until tender, stirring nearly continuously, 5 to 10 minutes.

cooking broth
Add the broth to the carrots, along with any other vegetables that you may wish to incorporate.

Add broth. Pour the broth over the carrots, and feel free to add any other vegetables that will help flavor the broth, if needed. Since we started with mushroom broth, we also added some greens (amaranth; most farmers treat it as a weed, but it’s quite nutritious). Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer 30 minutes to extract the flavors.

Strain. Using a fine sieve, or a colander lined with cheesecloth, strain the boiling liquid to make a clear broth. Discard the solids. Once strained, return the broth to the pan and bring to a boil.

onion soup
After straining the broth, return it to the pan and add the onions.

Add onions. Add the reserved cooked onions to the broth and boil for a few minutes, then reduce heat to a simmer.

Taste and season. Taste the soup and add salt and pepper as necessary.

making croutons
We make the croutons separately by putting cheese on pieces of toast and running them under the broiler.

Make crouton. Traditionally, onion soup is put into broiler-safe bowls, topped with a toasted piece of bread, covered with cheese, and run under the broiler until the cheese is melted and bubbly. We don’t have broiler- safe bowls, so we did what we could. We toasted the pieces of bread, topped them with a generous amount of Parmesan (Gruyère is traditional), and placed the bread and cheese under the broiler until the cheese melted and became bubbly.

French onion soup
French onion soup. Such deliciousness from a humble onion.

Serve. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with your crouton, fresh from the broiler.

Yes, this soup takes a while to make, so we don’t make it very often, especially since we normally only make two bowls. Yes, we could make more, but then it would take even longer for the onions to cook down properly, so we content ourselves with onion soup perhaps once a year. Mainly when we have a surfeit of onions. The flavor of this soup is hard to beat: rich, dark, with a mild onion flavor, warming and nourishing. It’s perfect for those chilly days, when you’re willing to spend several hours cooking up a soup (you don’t have to be in front of the stove for the entire time). Because of the time constraint, we give this four stars.

Worth the trouble?

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