A steaming bowl of French onion soup topped with melted Gruyere cheese; classic comfort food and a dinner solution for the craziness of a holiday week. Historically considered peasant food, onion soups have been around since Roman times but it was the French who turned it into a classic. Made ahead, golden French onion soup reheats beautifully after a busy day of shopping, wrapping and getting ready for Christmas.
Golden French Onion Soup
Usually left to play a supporting role in everything from stocks, soups and stews, to salads and sauces, the humble onion becomes the star of the show in this soup. With slow cooking, onions become meltingly tender and sweet. When you start with sweet onions it’s even better.
Besides tasting great, an added benefit to cooking with sweet onions is they don’t make you cry. No more bleary, stinging eyes from running tears and stopping to blow your nose.
You will need 3 pounds of sweet onions. Cut them in half stem to root and slice crosswise into thin half rounds. For a rich flavor, I use both olive oil and unsalted butter to cook the onions. You can use all olive oil if you prefer.
Make the Soup
Cook the sliced onions over low heat in a heavy pot (like a Le Creuset Dutch Oven) with a little garlic, white wine, thyme sprigs and a bay leaf. After low and slow cooking for about 45-60 minutes, the onions are so tender they almost melt in your mouth. I use chicken broth versus the traditional beef broth for a lighter, golden soup.
Just before serving, top with toasted homemade croutons (regular or gluten-free), grated Gruyere and a little Parmesan. Melt under the broiler or use that blowtorch you only get out for Crème Brulee. Sprinkle with fresh chopped chives for garnish and fresh flavor.
Golden French Onion Soup
- 3 pounds sweet onions
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black or white pepper
- 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 cups low sodium chicken broth preferably homemade
- 4 slices crusty artisan bread
- 4 ounces Gruyere cheese grated
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- A splash of dry sherry
- A sprinkle of chopped chives
- Cut onions in half through the room and the stem ends. Peel and thinly slice into half moons. In a large heavy pan (5 1/2 quart), melt the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions salt and pepper. Turn heat to low. Slowly cook onions until soft and translucent, 45-60 minutes. Partially cover the pan with a lid during cooking. Half of the way through, add garlic, wine, thyme, bay leaf. Onions may caramelize and become a golden brown. If not, don’t worry. If they start to brown quickly, turn your heat down. You want a low, slow heat for onions that practically melt.
- When onions are completely tender, discard the bay leaf and what’s left of the thyme sprigs. Add the broth and heat until the soup is hot and flavors have incorporated, 15-20 minutes. If you want, add a splash of dry sherry but it's optional.
- To serve, heat up your broiler. Ready oven safe soup bowls. Cut a piece of bread so that it fits in the soup bowl. Toast the bread brushed with a little olive oil under the broiler (or in a toaster) until golden. Bread can also be cut into large cubes, tossed with olive oil and browned in a fry pan or skillet until golden. Homemade croutons really make this soup extra good.
- Place soup in the bowl, top with toasted bread or bread cubes and grated cheeses. Place the bowls on a rimmed baking sheet and place under the broiler to melt the cheese. Don’t use the top broiler rack. Use the level at least one below and watch carefully so the cheese melts and gets golden but does not burn.