The chill lingering in the air this week has prompted many thoughts of warm, comforting soups. Bistro French Onion Soup has its place on such temperature-deprived days like today. My references for this masterpiece were Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking and The French Chef (Season 1, Episode 2) available on YouTube. The soup itself is timeless. Why do I say this? The French Chef episode aired on January 1, 1963. I was barely 4 years old, the age of my youngest grandson. That put a perspective on this classic that obviously existed well before my time for it to be so enduring. A little time-consuming? Maybe, but so worth the effort and wait! It’s not complicated, so anyone could be successful at completing this masterpiece and owning it as yours via Julia. My suggestion would be to start the process mid-afternoon so the broth is ready to finish up in the oven at your desired evening serving time.
The YouTube video is in black and white, but it’s chockfull of advice as to how to cut and dice onions, knife-sharpening skills, egg poaching tactics, as well as how to remove the onion odor from your hands. I found the latter fascinating so I tried it out and it worked! Rub table salt on your hands. That absorbs a lot of the residue/odor. Rinse the salt off with cool water followed by soap rinsed off with hot water.
Ahead of starting, the baguette can be sliced and toasted in a 325 degree oven for 20 minutes. These can be brushed slightly with olive oil before baking. Rub both sides with peeled garlic cloves upon removing from the oven. They smell so good! Obviously, the number of baguette rounds are probably more that what we will use for the soup, but there will be no waste in this house! The extra pieces can be cut into croutons for salads.
I use Better than Bouillon Roasted Beef Base for the broth used in this recipe. Quick and tasty! I love this brand and use their Chicken Base, Vegetable Base, and Clam Base for many recipes on my blog. In the long run, they are cheaper and make more tastier broths and take up less space in my fridge than those quart containers. Of course, I recycle when their contents are gone….then go buy more!
Now, time to get busy. Peel the onions, cut off root and stem ends, slice in half pole to pole. Thinly slice the halves. This was about 6 cups of sliced onions. They weighed a little over 1.5 pounds before slicing.
Sprinkle the salt and sugar over the onions. The salt will pull moisture out of the onions to help them caramelize faster. Increase the heat to medium. Stir frequently for 30 minutes until onions acquire a golden brown color.
Mix in 3 tablespoons of flour and cook until flour is golden brown, about 2-3 minutes.
Remove from heat and blend in 1 quart of the bouillon using a whisk. Add in the remaining broth with the bay leaves and thyme sprigs. Return to the heat to simmer for about 30 minute, partially covered. Remove bay leaves and thyme sprigs.
Ladle the Bistro French Onion Soup into desired soup crocks or mugs. Anything oven-proof will work. Place baguette rounds on top of soup with generous handfuls of Gruyere cheese. Julia uses a combination of Swiss and Parmesan cheeses. Somewhere in my past, I chose to use Gruyere so I opt to differ here. Gruyere has a buttery flavor and is stringy when melted. That gives you the perfect bistro effect when spooning it to your mouth! The cheese just literally stretches to your mouth! I guess you could continually wrap it around your spoon until the cheese breaks, but what is the fun in that?
Drizzle a little olive oil and a spoonful of broth on top of the cheese. Place in a 325 degree oven for about 20 minutes on a metal tray. For the last 2 minutes, broil to slightly brown the tops. Now you are ready to enjoy! Place soup crock on a small plate and allow it to cool a bit before devouring! Stages of this process are shown below.
Oh my goodness! This French Onion Soup hit the spot on this bitterly cold night!
Serves: 6-8 servings
- 1 baguette, sliced ¾"- 1" thick
- garlic cloves, peeled
- 5-6 c. thinly sliced yellow onions
- 2 T. butter
- 1 T. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 t. Kosher salt
- ¼ t. sugar
- 3 T. flour
- 2 quarts Beef Bouillon*- I used Better than Bouillon Roasted Beef Base brand.
- *2 quarts boiling water plus about 3 T. Better than Bouillon Roasted Beef Base)
- ½ c. merlot
- 2 sprigs of thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- salt and pepper to taste
- 8 oz. Gruyere cheese, shredded
- Slice baguette and place on parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
- Bake at 325 degrees for about 30 minutes, turning over halfway through.Lightly brush each side with olive oil.
- Rub both sides with fresh garlic. After preparing soup, any unused bread may be sliced into croutons for salads. Yum!
- Peel onions and trim off root and stem ends. Cut pole to pole, then thinly slice.
- In a Dutch Oven, melt butter and combine with oil. Toss onions in oil/butter mixture. Cook covered over medium low heat for approximately 20 minutes.
- Increase heat to medium and add in salt and sugar which will help the onions brown. Cook, stirring frequently for about 30-40 minutes until acquiring a golden brown appearance.
- Sprinkle flour over onions and stir for approximately 3 minutes. Flour should obtain a brown coloring.
- Add the red wine
- Remove from the heat. Whisk in 1 quart of bouillon until well blended. Blend in the remaining bouillon. Taste and season as desired. Be careful not to oversalt!
- Add the bay leaves and thyme sprigs.
- With a lid partially covering the broth, simmer for 30-40 minutes.
- Remove thyme and bay leaves. Adjust seasoning, if needed.
- Ladle soup into desired soup crocks or mugs. Place toasted baguette slices on top of soup topped with a generous handful of shredded Gruyere cheese.
- Place soup on tray. Drizzle olive oil on top of cheese with a splash of broth spooned over top. Bake for about 20 minutes in a 325 degree oven. During the last 2 minutes, broil to slightly brown the top.