I fell in love with French onion soup in 2005 on our family trip to Paris. Back in those years, I wasn’t a very adventurous eater and honestly don’t think I’d tried it until taking a bite of one my parent’s bowls in Paris.
That trip came to be when my dad bought a raffle ticket at my school’s annual silent auction to win a week in a Paris apartment. It wasn’t necessarily the main prize of the night, but a favorite of every family. People would buy multiple tickets to better their odds of winning. My family always had eyes on other staples like Cardinals tickets and restaurant gift cards, but couldn’t pass up the chance at free housing in Paris. Sure enough, we won.
There are a few things I remember about that trip:
- the onion soup at a corner bistro near that apartment and Notre Dame
- taking a coach bus from one NYC-area airport to another to make our connection
- endless chocolate crepes because it was all my then 9-year-old brother would eat
- it rained the whole trip
- we met other Cardinal fans at the Arch de Triumph thanks to my sweatshirt
- the trip was planned for spring break, but being more Jewish than Christian, we didn’t look a the calendar hard enough and happened to be staying on the block of Notre Dame the week of Easter — oops
When I went back to Paris solo in 2012, I’d sort of forgotten about the French onion soup. I wish I’d gone back to find it, but since we spent so much time in that neighborhood, I didn’t feel a need to go back. I had other things on my eating itinerary — croissants written about in Bon Appetit, falafel at L’As, moules frite, wine and cheese, etc.
Since getting back from Spain last summer, my husband and I been eyeing 2020 as our return to Europe, unless a flight deal to Paris is too good to pass up before then.
In the meantime, I’ve been making French onion soup in my own kitchen. It’s a great cold night meal, packable lunch and reheatable dinner, whether solo or together. I go with homemade croutons and shredded gruyere instead of doing the whole-bowl-under-the-broiler thing. However, that’s mostly due to not owning broiler safe bowls…
French Onion Soup
What you need:
- 5 large onions, thinly sliced, mix of yellow and sweet
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 cup of white wine
- 1 tablespoon of fresh thyme leaves
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 cups of low sodium beef (or veggie) broth
- 2 cups of water
- 1 small baguette
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 3 tablespoon olive oil, divided
- salt and pepper to taste
- In the bottom of a heavy dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat and add sliced onions and a generous pinch of salt.
- A 5-quart pot should be almost filled to the brim with onions, which will cook down to about an inch or inch-and-half of caramelized onions.
- Carmelize onions, stirring every three minutes or so. The first 20 or so minutes will be cooking down and sweating out the onions, then they will begin to carmelize. Don’t worry if it’s taking longer, it will happen.
- When stirring, be sure to be moving onions from the top of the pot to the bottom by sliding your spoon down the side of the pot and scraping to the middle as if you were folding beating egg whites.
- Once onions start to carmelize, add chopped garlic and a few cracks of fresh pepper. Cook, still stirring every 3-5 minutes, until onions are a deep and consistent golden brown. Taste for seasoning and adjust salt and pepper. You should want to eat the onions out of the pot or as a topping to pizza, salt or sandwich.
- For an even caramelization, the onions at the bottom of the pot need time against the heat. As those onions caramelize, mix them in and let a new batch caramelize. Repeat this process and you’ll notice the golden onions give off a golden liquid, which will encourage other onions to caramelize.
- This can take up to 45 minutes so be patient, but don’t wander off to avoid going from caramelized to brunt.
- Add wine, scrape up any golden bits on the bottom of the pot which will melt into the onions. Most of the liquid will evaporate.
- Add thyme and stir. Once fragrant, about 2 minutes, add the beef broth, water and bay leaf. Bring to a boil for 5 minutes, then lower the heat to medium-low and let simmer for 30 minutes.
- In the meantime, make the croutons: preheat the oven to 375 and cut the baguette into 1-inch cubes. Toss with a remaining tablespoon of olive oil, Italian seasoning, garlic powder and salt and pepper to taste.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes until lightly golden brown, shaking the baking sheet halfway through. Great cheese and set aside.
- Taste soup for salt and pepper. If not soupy enough or too punchy, add a cup of water and let simmer another 5 minutes.
- Serve bowls of soup topped with croutons and cheese.