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Easy Restaurant Style FRENCH ONION SOUP – but at home

December 11, 2014

Hi Guys…  me again…

So there were a few extra unused onions and shallots left over from Thanksgiving…  If they sit around long enough…  well…  you know..  they start to grow sprouts…  or worse, spoil…  Here’s a delicious way to use them up!

Do you love French Onion soup at a restaurant on a cold, gray, even rainy day?; oooh… with the crostini (crouton in French) floating on top smothered with melted Gruyère cheese, in a deeply rich tasty broth of beef and onion flavored with sherry???  MMMMmmmmmm…

It is SO EASY !!!  Just Apply Heat and Eat !!!  Let me show you…

Do you remember the ‘mis en plas’ in the “Knife Skills Needed” post?  If not, check it out…

This is for about 8 servings…

To start, take about 4 onions (in my opinion, the best for this are Vidalias, but truly any onion will do…  You can see that I have three sweet yellow onions, half of a red onion, and some chopped shallots…  use up what you have…), Cut off the stem end and the tail end, cut in half cross-wise, and peel off the first layer of skin…    Then slice once in half, then do thin to medium cross cuts (slice horizontally and then vertically. This is where the “Knife Skills Needed” and “Correct Knife Usage” posts come in handy if you need ’em).

This is what you want to see for a more rustic feel…    I like 3/8 inch slices…  They hold up well in the final product – the soup!

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You can see that the mise en plas also includes salt, fresh ground black pepper, and a bit of dried thyme…   some Worcestershire (my add) and some sherry…

Once you have everything ready (as shown)  You’ll need a deep, wide, covered pan (or a small stock pot).

 

Start the pan on medium-high heat… (we’re about to saute’)…   once the pan is hot, add 4 tablespoons (2 oz) of olive oil (Rachel Ray calls it EVOO) and a pat of butter (1 tbsp)…

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Just butter would taste AWESOME!!!   But the butter fat would burn at that high of heat, so adding the olive oil (which also tastes great) raises the burn temp of the butter…   Once the butter is about to bubble, toss in all of the onions  and give them a stir to coat all with the oil and to get them to “sweat,” (this means exactly what it sounds like…  the heat works on them just like you if you were in a sauna).  They start to give of their moisture – like you do when you sweat,,,  the moisture adds steam, helps cook the veggies [any veggies] and also releases the natural sugars in the product to help them start to brown [caramelize].

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Next, add the salt, pepper, and thyme…    you can see the fresh onions, then with the SP&T, then how, in just a short bit of time, the onions start to sweat and create a hot tub of flavor !!onionsoup2b

 

This is about 5 minutes in…   The onions are starting to break down and soften…   Perfect…  They’re even starting to show some color…  more perfect…

Oh! At this point you can throw in a little brown sugar – maybe about 2T. It really sweetens the onions and helps them to carmelize. Forgot that in the mis-en-plas, but I threw some in after the sweating started happening.

 

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So just about now…  (when the hot tub starts to get dry) (10 – 12 minutes in or so) it’s time to add life to the party…   Turn up the heat to MH (medium high) again… For this sized batch, add about 3 tablespoons of worchestershire and  a 1/4 cup of sherry…    This stage in a saute’ brings deep flavor to the mix, helps darken the color of the finished product, and the sherry adds a new element of flavor…  It’s called layering your flavors…  Once these wet ingredients are in the pot, after about a minute, turn the stove down to medium low…  stir, of course, and then just let it sit a bit…

This is a crucial step to be sure your soup looks like it does in a restaurant…  The onions need to carmelize for a rich flavor, and for that deep brown color…

When I was in 8th grade, I took a class called International Cooking.  We spent the whole semester having food from all over the world on Fridays, all prepared by classmates…  My first assignment was French Onion Soup…  I followed the recipe, but didn’t let the onions get color…  So the soup ended up very light in color and flavor…  only got a “C.”.\  Lesson learned…

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After about 5-7 minutes at medium low, you’ll see and smell that the mix is beginning to really caramelize and get “roasty.” Half of the liquid will be gone…  the edges of the onions will be browned… the room will smell like an onion/sherry cocktail…   (it might be a good time to have a cocktail…) and now we’re ready to turn this mix into soup…

 

 

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This it what it should look like after you’ve added 2 quarts of your favorite beef stock (you can get it at the grocery store…  it makes life easy.. but I’ll do a “Make-Your-Own-Stock” post soon).

So at this point, you’ve prepared your mise en plas, sauteed, seasoned, layered flavor, added stock… Now we bring the party to a boil – briefly –  on high to get it going, then down to medium high so it won’t burn.

 

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Boiling the mix at this point is for the purpose of marrying all of the flavors in the pot quickly…  the heat further softens the onions, and helps the flavor of the herbs, spices, condiments, sherry, and of course the beef stock  become “one.”  Let it boil for about 2-3 minutes at medium high, then turn off the heat.   Your soup is done!

Next, it’s time to set up the presentation like a restaurant.  Oh yeah,it’s time to turn on your broiler or toaster oven…

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So, if you have nice 16 oz ramekins like these (or like a restaurant) ladle up a serving or two…  Make sure you leave room from the top brim for croutons and cheese… (remember, you should be heating up that broiler)…

 

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In this post we’re using Thansigivng left overs…  We had some “stuffing mix” that wasn’t used for Thanksgiving dinner, which is basically large seasoned croutons (thyme and sage).  so I added a small handful to each bowl… (broiler is still heating and waiting). Professional kitchens have what’s called a “salamander”, which is a constant broiler that’s used for the purpose of top-browning on plates, and pans and melting cheese…Yum.

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This is when you top the croutons, or stuffing mix with the soon-to-be-gooey cheese…  just before you put it in your broiler…

 

 

 

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It takes about 3-5 minutes in my toaster oven…  …be patient !!

What you’re looking for is for the cheese to just begin to bubble and slightly brown in a few spots…  It melts all over the crusty croutons… When this finally happens…  Grab some spoons (and some hot-pads to handle the hot-hot-hot ceramic) and  begin to savor the richness… the deep onion/beef flavors…  and the fact that you didn’t spend an extra dime on this, because you had extra onions, stuff in the pantry & fridge, and a bit of time to share with the kitchen;  the place where your efforts can express your love for another by simply applying heat…   then eat !!

Happy Heating!!!

 

4 Comments
  1. Perfect timing for this soup! Another recipe I can’t wait to try. Keep them coming

    Liked by 1 person

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