Classic French Onion Soup

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Love makes us do crazy things. In high school, I convinced a boyfriend that my favorite musician was Bob Marley (after seeing his abundant reggae collection). Of course, I was really more of a boring folksy kind of girl, with an overflow of Joni Mitchell and James Taylor mix tapes packed in my Honda Civic. Alas, I learned the Bob Marley greatest hits just to impress him and by way of the ‘ole bait-n-switch, he married me ten years later.

Now I do other crazy things because of love, mainly in the kitchen and mostly relating to unseasonable ingredients; I sometimes like hot things in the summer and cold things in the winter and from there it gets really nuts with specially ordered dishware just so I can enjoy them. That’s how I roll with French onion soup: a feverishly good bistro staple that maybe isn’t very June-appropriate but is totally excusable after the first spoonful.

By way of luck, the day I made this it happened to rain and it also happened to be damp and sort of miserably windy outside. So, the deep broth layered with sherry and topped with an island of Gruyere cheese didn’t seem so out of place after all. I’m probably flattering myself but on this occasion, I looked around the table and saw several spoons clanging the bottom of the bowl and I also heard several unbecoming slurps. As we home cooks know, unbecoming slurps are the true measure of a great dish and so sharing this unseasonably delicious recipe ended up being an easy choice.

One thing I adore about French Onion soup is that it’s a simple, one pot situation. The first time I made it in culinary school, my instructor caught a glimpse of a student using two pots and had a bit of a conniption fit. As it turns out, unless you’re at the French Laundry, it’s as important to limit the number of dishes you dirty in a restaurant as it is at home.

Technically, you could go without the sherry in this soup but you won’t want to. It adds a lovely layer of sweet alcohol and it makes the final product taste far more complicated than the six ingredients it actually involves. I’ll understand if you bookmark this recipe for winter time but I promise not tell if you catch a summer chill and feel like indulging in a little warm-and-cozy kitchen fun.

(One note, don’t be as stingy as I was with the cheese and the crouton. I ran out of ingredients but you can still save yourself if you plan ahead.)


Classic French Onion Soup

Serves about 8, with leftovers


4 tbs. butter
4 large onions, sliced
2 quarts beef stock (homemade preferable)
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
2 oz. Sherry (optional)
French Bread, cut in 3/8″ slices
Gruyere or Swiss Cheese or a mixture, coarsely grated, to taste


Heat butter in stockpot over medium heat. Add onions and cook until they are golden. Stir occasionally. (Cook slow and evenly. Will take 30 minutes.) Add the stock to the onions and bring to boil. Simmer until onions are very tender and flavors are well blended, about 20 minutes.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add sherry if desired. Keep hot for service.

Cut bread into slices about 3/8” thick. You will need 1 or 2 slices per portion or just enough to cover the top of the soup in its serving crock. Toast slices in oven or under broiler. For each portion, fill an individual service soup crock with hot soup. Place 1 or 2 slices of toast on top and cover with cheese. Pass under the broiler until cheese is bubbling and lightly browned. Serve immediately.


{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

GoMariaGo June 22, 2010 at 5:36 pm

@Epiventures I’ve never had French onion soup, but that looks great!


Epiventures June 22, 2010 at 5:41 pm

@GoMariaGo it took me years to try it but when i finally did i never went back!


winemedineme June 22, 2010 at 5:39 pm

@Epiventures french onion soup: crazy simple, crazy impressive, crazy delicious. And why do I always want to make it in the summer?


Epiventures June 22, 2010 at 5:43 pm

@winemedineme maybe because the ingredients are usually already laying around somewhere? but you’re right, impressive with little effort


winemedineme June 22, 2010 at 5:54 pm

@Epiventures yeah, I pretty much always have onions and gruyere, and I grow thyme on my windowsill.


npenny June 22, 2010 at 5:56 pm

@Epiventures I’ve had a real crappy day so far… your French Onion post made me smile. Thanks :)


bshermcincy June 22, 2010 at 6:04 pm

@Epiventures that is almost dead-on to my recipe (Worcestershire sauce for Sherry). Now I need to make me some….


bshermcincy June 22, 2010 at 6:45 pm

@Epiventures it’s crazy how simple the really good things are. Good ingredients, and don’t screw it up.


Epiventures June 22, 2010 at 7:00 pm

@bshermcincy tho to be quite honest, i usually use the addition of a store bought beef or chicken base if i’m not using homemade stock


Jen June 22, 2010 at 11:26 am

How many servings does this make? I read it over a few times and didn’t see a serving amount. Thanks.


Courtney June 22, 2010 at 11:50 am

Thanks for the catch Jen, I updated the recipe.


Jen June 23, 2010 at 7:24 am

This is perfect for dinner parties then. Thanks!


Kristen June 22, 2010 at 5:39 pm

Courtney, I had French Onion Soup yesterday…at Panera (yes, laugh it up). I love it any time of the year. Thanks for the recipe. I am cracking up about your description of yourself and your budding romance in the 90s. We were all faux hippies back then.


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