Wednesday, September 17, 2008

French Onion Soup - So Good it Will Make a Mime Chatty

What a great time of year for a crock of French onion soup. Who can resist that bubbling raft of Gruyere cheese covering the rich, aromatic broth? It's too bad you get to experience one of life's great culinary treat so rarely. That surge of excitement, and saliva, that comes with seeing it on a menu is both welcomed and infrequent.

So, make it yourself! French onion soup has to be one of the easiest soup recipes ever. To make it the right way you do need a few hours, but it's probably raining out anyway. There are many great ways to spend a rainy fall afternoo
n, but few are as satisfying as listening to the rain, while smelling onions slowly sweetening in warm butter.

Do yourself a favor and throw out every French onion soup recipe that calls for those expensive "sweet" onions - you know, Walla Walla, Maui, Vidalia, etc. Those varieties are "sweet" because they have lower levels of the sulfuric compounds that give onions their sharp, strong taste when raw. These mild onions are awesome when eaten raw in salads, or on sandwiches, but when cooked, do not taste any better than your basic yellow onion. If you don’t believe me, email Alton Brown, whom I stole this rant from. Enjoy!





Ingredients:
3-4 large yellow onions, cut in large dice
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1 tsp kosher salt
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
fresh ground black pepper to taste
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
1/4 cup dry sherry wine
3 cups high-quality beef broth
2 cups high-quality chicken broth
1 cup water
toast
shredded Gruyere cheese

Mime photo (c) Leesa0502


51 comments:

Daivd said...

Im going to try this soup today LOOKS GREAT THANKS!

Anonymous said...

What? No snails? How can it be French if it has no snails? Don't you know that if it has no snails, the French won't eat it?

Anonymous said...

This is something I won't be trying of yours. Sure it looks tasty, and I love gruyere, but I really don't like the taste of onions.

I've grown up and changed my opinion of many foods I didn't like as a kid. I even buy seemingly obscure fruits and vegetables just to try them. Now nearing 29 I still can't agree with the taste of onions, raw or cooked. I will eat them in food prepared for me, but I won't cook with them. People have argued, "You can't even taste them?" I argue back, "What did you put them in there for?" Enough ranting, on to my question.

Is there any food/ingredient you, as a chef, really dislike?

The TriniGourmet said...

I love love love French Onion soup :) I make it with veggie broth :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Chef. Nice recipe for French Onion--thanks I will have this tomorrow nite! I have to ask--is there a 'creamy french onion soup' you know of? I have had two incredible soups I will remember forever..one was a minestrone from an italian bistro that was worth a 2 hour drive to get. The other was a 'creamy french onion' soup that I had as a teenager almost daily for an entire summer and its creator died before I could get a recipe. It was like sipping a 'liquid' gruyere cheese, cream and sweet onions with a hint odor of spice I can only say is like a sweet paprika & cinnimon with cardamom or garam masala. The thick sweetness, slight bit of salt, spice and onions that melt in your mouth was heaven for an onion lover like me. I have tried for years to make my own, find recipes and try to make a recipe using cream or yogurt or milk--nada. I could eat it every day for ever. Any ideas?

Chef John said...

the secret to your cream soup is...creme fraiche. A big spoon of creme fraiche (i have a recipe video on the site) in this recipe and you'll have the best cream of FOS ever.

Chef John said...

if you don't like onions, and make this soup, and still don't like onions, then you don't like onions.

I don't like turmeric very much, or escargot.

Anonymous said...

This is soooooo great! I would also love to learn how to make a lovely mushroom soup. Pretty please.

Anonymous said...

Funny, didnt you have an escargot video?.. Anyways great recipe and video! But wouldnt the toast get really soggy and nasty?

Greg said...

The soup looks very good.

That picture reminds me why I hate mimes.
I'd punch my monitor except it is new.

Chef John said...

soggy and nasty??

Soaked with delicious broth, yes! Nasty? Hardly.

Jonathan said...

hey chef, the only diference between yours recipe and mine is that i flambe the onions with a splash of cognac gives it a little extra sweet flavor

love your videos hope you keep up with them :)
hugs from Brasil

Onionhead said...

The soup looks really wonderful, and the music was soothing - or is the soup soothing and the music wonderful? Either way, the video is a hit!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Chef! I will give it a try I have never cooked with creme fraiche before. Having trouble finding the recipe in the list but I will keep looking. Hopefully that is the missing ingredient I have been looking for to make that creamy FOS! many thanks!

Jairus said...

wow i love how much you understand the horrors of most french onion soups. great idea for cutting. now all the scaldee veterens can come out and shine once again!

Jairus said...

can i substitute sour cream for creme fraiche? is that the same thing?

Chef John said...

sour cream will separate in the hot soup - you can use heavy cream though

Noz said...

I added a little tarragon and fennel to give the soup a unique side...also I used Calvados.

I love this soup...I usually make about 10 lbs of onions at a time and it takes a good few hours to make...oh but it's so worth it.

Chef John said...

Love it, sounds great.

Connie said...

I just made some from a show I saw of tv. They said to use sweet onions, but I thought it didn't have much onion taste. I will try your recipe.

Anonymous said...

I have successfully subbed Mexican Crema Fresca (in a small white plastic jar in the Mexican section of most groceries) for creme fraiche. It does fine heated.
Luisa Vacaville

Anonymous said...

Don't you hate those frozen french onion soups where you have to cook it. On the top it tastes ok, then as you get to the bottom it's just murky and ew.

Trumbull73 said...

Made that soup! Delicious - great recipe -- no mystery!

Mare said...

Chef, I couldn't find sherry wine vinegar at the store tonight can I substitute it with something else? Or, can I just use the Sherry wine I have and add vinegar to it?

Suggestions please?

thanks.

Chef John said...

yes us the wine and just a touch of vinegar.

kkmickleson said...

John, have you ever frozen the onion soup? (Obviously, not with the bread and cheese, just the soup part...) Does it lose anything?

K

Chef John said...

freezes fine!

chicagowillie said...

Chef John, made this a few weeks ago and had some fresh and also froze it - both were 'just like downtown!' However I didn't have sherry vinegar so I slipped in some malt vinegar and we survived. It is satisfyingly sweet without being overdone - and as you say, quite easy. I'm a recent follower and enjoying your site immensely - thanks.

Timur said...

Tried 4 different recipes off your site for Valentine's day, yet this soup came out on top as a winner! So simple to make and so delicious - it was wonderful! Great success in the kitchen comes easy with Chef John!

Please, post more videos for breakfast items, if possible - always looking for new ideas on how to cheerfully and optimistically start Monday mornings (and Tue,Wed, Thurs and Friday ones as well).
Thank you!

wgspools said...

Can you substitute sea salt for the Kosher salt

Chef John said...

yes, all salt tastes the same.

a somewhat nervous french cook said...

!!french onion soup is the best! especially Julia Child's French onion soup! I tried it recently, and it was delicious! it didn't really taste like one thing or another, but more like a rich blend of an amazingly rich vegetable, and beef. it didn't taste too oniony at all, and i am NOT an onion person. Read blogs! they can change the world!

John said...

Ok, I'm gearing up for my first Christmas dinner and I really want to use this recipe! How many people can this serve? I'm going to be using 6 oz ramekins and have 10 dinner guests.

Chef John said...

Never measured, but I think this makes about 6 cups x 8 = 48 oz. Should be fine.

Briana said...

I've used this recipe repeatedly and it's fabulous each time. The onions are almost done right now, in fact, and it smells great. This site is awesome. :)

Dr. Rice said...

I'm making it now and all I can say is that the house smells amazing! I love warm soup in autumn and the smells of the broth, the sherry, the wine vinegar and the onions is awesome!

Anonymous said...

Delicious! Thank you.

Mike LaVigne in Charlevoix, Michigan.

Anonymous said...

I know this might be a stupid question. But I'm neither a cook or native English speaking person. I would like to know if it would it be possible to use your home made chicken stock and home made beef stock instead of chicken broth and beef broth in this recipe? In my dictionary they seem to be the same, but I have a hunch that they are actually not.

Chef John said...

yes!! they are the same

Anonymous said...

Thank you for answering my question. And so fast too! It means a lot.

Peter from Sweden.

Dave said...

Hi chef, if I can't find Gruyere cheese, what other cheese can I use?

Esther said...

Hey so I made this before which is awesome but I don't see any sherry vinegar available at Luckys so is there anything equivalent? Maybe a dash of vinegar? haha its taste good with just the sherry cooking wine but I want to try everything step by step! Let me know! And would regular rustic french bread be okay for the soup?

Chef John said...

Id just omit, or go to another store!

Joshua said...

Just got finished making and having some of it after 2 days of stock making, turned out VERY good. Only changes we did was to double the salt and used balsamic since we didn't have sherry vinegar. Can't wait to try another of your recipes!

Anonymous said...

Hey Chef John,
I've been wanting to try out this recipe for some time now but for the life of me I can't seem to find sprigs of fresh thyme anywhere. Would I be alright omitting it? ....or could I sub in some ground thyme?
p.s LOVE your site, thanks you!!!

-Shannon

Chef John said...

sure a pinch of dried is fine. the leaf kind is better than ground.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful!!! I'm not a huge onion fan but i love FOS so i served mine with the onions strained out (yes I know all that work for just the broth, bread, and cheese), and served the guests with the onions left in. Big hit! and more importantly I didn't have to fish out all the onions while trying not to scald myself on the cheese! Brilliant! No more going out for FOS for me :-)
Thanks as always Chef!

Ed Adams said...

Chef,

I have looked everywhere here for Sherry and they have no Sherry or Sherry Vin. I'm not really sure of the taste, acidity or dryness of Sherry so could you recommend a good substitute please. This is my wife's favorite soup and I want to surprise her but am frustrated with the groceries here. Thanks for your help.

Ed

Chef John said...

Did you check a liquor store? Any store that sells wine should have sherry!

Ed Adams said...

I did check a liquor store. We live in Aviano, Italy and just don't have that big of a selection. I even used some very rudimentary Italian that a toddler would be ashamed of to ask if they had any and they didn't. They are probably thinking there's another wino american, LOL. I found the dreaded cooking sherry in the commissary. After looking there and the liquor stores in the area I went with the cooking sherry. I'm trying this soup out tomorrow I think. Tonight is "feel better" chicken soup without shitake mushrooms cause that's another item that's just not here. We do have other shrooms that are good though.

Chef John said...

Sorry its such a challenge! its only a splash and i've done many times w/o wine and still quite good.