Recipes Soups

Mom’s French Onion Soup

Is French onion soup allowed to be this good? My mom thinks so. And, my justification for homemade stock.

My mom makes really good French onion soup. You know the kind I’m talking about.

Served in the traditional brown ombre crock pots, you spoon into a molten cap of cheese with those golden, crispy cheese bubbles on top. The broth is piping hot, scattered with droplets of beef fat that float and slide easily into your spoon. The crispy cheese pieces that are baked onto the dish call your name as you near the bottom of the bowl.

The flavor can be incredible when you make onion soup the right way. It should be.

As with any good stock-based soup, you have to prioritize your stock. It bears repeating because sometimes I get complacent, and go with what’s convenient. By complacent, I mean using store-bought cartons. It happens more often than it should. But I figure, if I’m making French onion soup, there’s a strong chance I have time to make homemade beef stock, too.

A recipe for beef stock from Bon Appetit shows us how simple making beef stock can be. Just remember to grab a few pounds of cattle marrow bones the next time you go to the grocery store. The butcher will have them. Everything else – trust me, you already have lying around.  Celery, carrots, garlic, an onion or two? That’s it. Really!

Drawing from a sermon of mine in an earlier post on making chicken stock – don’t worry too much about getting the proportions perfect, according to some recipe. At least I don’t. The sheer act of making homemade beef stock is deserving of a high five.

French onion soup always had a special occasion vibe to it – it’s a process. That overfilled pot of onions? That’s going to cook down to almost nothing before you do anything else with it. My mom thinks of it as therapeutic cooking, and I totally agree with her. It’s a satisfying feeling seeing those heaps of onions do their thing and cook down into pure onion goodness.

So mom, how did I do?!

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 4.

  • 3 Spanish onions, peeled and sliced crosswise
  • 4 stems thyme, tied into a bouquet garnier (tied together with kitchen twine)
  • 6 cups beef stock
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons garlic, minced
  • 1 bay leaf, dried or fresh
  • 4 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 3 – 4 cups Gruyere cheese, shredded
  • 1 baguette
  • Salt, as needed
  • Pepper, as needed
  • Olive oil, as needed

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat the oven to broil.
  2. Coat the bottom of a large dutch oven with olive oil. Add the butter and allow to melt. On medium heat, sauté the onions, adding a large pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper. Add the garlic, bouquet garnier as well as the bay leaf to the pot. Continue to cook, stirring often, until the onions begin to darken and caramelize.
  3. Once the onions are a deep brown, add the Worcestershire sauce and raw flour. Cook for a couple of minutes to allow the flour to absorb into the mixture.
  4. Add the beef stock, remove the thyme bundle and bay leaf, and bring the soup to a boil.
  5. In small oven-safe bowls, ladle in the soup, leaving about an inch of space at the top. Layer enough 1 / 2 inch slices of baguette to cover the soup – 2 or 3. Top each dish with 3 / 4 to 1 cup of the Gruyere. It will melt down.
  6. Place the soup bowls on a sheet pan, and place under the broiler for 8 to 10 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling and browned.
  7. Serve hot, with extra torn baguette on the side for dipping.

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