Is there anything more comforting than tucking into a bowl of hot French onion soup? Beautiful slices of good quality toasted bread, loaded with melted Gruyere and caramelized onions. It is a simple, rustic and delicious dish. And yes, while it takes some time, it’s easy and so worth the effort. There is however one essential component of a good French onion soup—properly caramelize the onions. Caramelizing can take 30 – 40 minutes.
Caramelization is the browning of sugar, a process that results in a sweet nutty flavor and brown color. So don’t rush caramelizing. For the chemical process to occur, and produce a wonderful caramel flavor, it takes a little time. The more the onions are caramelized, and the deeper the color, the greater the flavor.
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4 tablespoons butter
2 pounds onions, halved, thinly sliced
3-4 fresh thyme sprigs
2 pounds crimini mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
3 tablespoons Cognac or Brandy
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
4 garlic cloves, minced
8 cups beef stock or bone broth
1 cup dry white wine
1 baguette, sliced 1-inch-thick slices, toasted
1/2 pound Gruyere or Comte cheese, grated
Melt 2 tablespoon butter in heavy large pot over high heat. Add onions and thyme; sauté until onions begin to soften, about 8 minutes. Reduce heat to low; cook until onions are caramelized, stirring occasionally, about 25-30 minutes. Don’t raise the heat, it will burn the onions. Transfer onion mixture to medium bowl.
Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in same pot over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms; sauté until soft, about 12 minutes. Add Cognac, balsamic vinegar and garlic; stir 20 seconds. Stir in onion mixture, then broth and wine. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low; simmer until onions are very tender, about 45 minutes. Discard thyme sprigs. Season soup with salt and pepper. Keep the soup warm on a low stovetop heat.
Preheat the broiler. Arrange the baguette slices on a baking sheet in a single layer. Sprinkle the slices with the Gruyere or Comte cheese. Broil until bubbly and golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Ladle the soup in bowls and float croutons on top of the soup.
Alternative method: Ladle the soup into oven-safe bowls, top each with 2 slices of bread and top with cheese. Put the bowls into the oven to toast the bread and melt the cheese.
Second Alternative: Preheat broiler. Place baguette slices on large baking sheet. Spread 8 ounces of soft fresh goat cheese (room temperature) on baguette slices, dividing equally. Broil goat cheese croutons until cheese begins to brown in spots, about 30 seconds. Top soup with croutons among divide bowls and serve.
- Category: Soup
- Cuisine: French