Anita's French Onion Soup

A Little Background:


French Onion soup originated in Paris in the 1800's. The soup created with beef broth and caramelized onions has certainly stood the test of time. I have been making French Onion Soup for the last 40 years. It is truly a favorite of mine and I have tweaked this recipe many times over the years. It can be decadent with the imported Gruyere running down the sides of the bowl or on the healthier side with just a little toasted bread and minimal cheese. Always imported Gruyere though. Onion soup warms the soul. It is truly a one-pot wonder and you can have it ready for guests in about 30 minutes. Keep some large yellow onions on hand, a wedge of Gruyere in the fridge, a little beef stock in the pantry or freezer and a beautiful bottle of Madiera in the wine cabinet and you will always be ready for an impromptu dinner opportunity. On your way home from work pick up a loaf of french bread, a bottle of Chardonnay and you will be ready for dinner quests. No quests - just cut the recipe in half as I do for my husband and I. 

What You Need:                  

Stove Top & Broiler       45 minutes

  • 4 Large Yellow Spanish Onions

  • 2 boxes organic beef broth - (32 ounce containers) or of course, homemade is best.

  • 4 -6 ounces of beef Demi-glace ( I purchase mine at Palmer's in Henrietta, NY or you can purchase this item online)

  • 1 cup of aged Madiera Wine

  • 1 cup Pinot Grigio or dry Chardonnay ( Kendall Jackson - a beautiful and versatile California wine - truly a favorite of mine)

  • 3 bay leaves - (I always use bay leaves in multiples of 3 so I always know how many I need to find to remove from my recipes)

  • 1 tsp. dried thyme OR ( 2-3 sprigs of fresh)

  • 1 tsp. dried sage or 3 large fresh sage leaf

  • 1 tsp. dried rosemary or 1 long stem of fresh rosemary

  • 2 pinches of freshly ground nutmeg

  • 1 large pinch salt (this will depend on your tastes and of course the beef broth you used)

  • 2 tablespoons butter (I use Kerry Gold or Finlandia)

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (use to caramelize your onions)

  • parsley to sprinkle on top (for appearance)

  • 6-8 slices of dense french bread or sometimes I use

    pumpernickel bread slices ( 1 large or 2 small pieces per bowl)

  • Enough imported Gruyere to add to top to broil


How to Make It:

  • Turn oven to 350 F to toast bread for 10 minutes - leave oven on, remove bread and set aside.

  • In a 3 qt. or larger sauce pan - heat your beef broth and Demi-glace to a simmer so when you add it to your onions it won’t cool everything down. This is helpful but not mandatory if you chose not to dirty an additional pan.

  • Heat a large 4 - 5 quart heavy pan to medium and add butter and oil. Add onions to pan and cook onions until lightly brown, and beautifully caramelized. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Stir often - be patient, you cannot rush this step. It may take about 10-15 minutes. At this point I usually sprinkle with thyme because I just love the earthy aroma it creates as it hits the hot onions. 

  • Once onions are caramelized, add white wine to deglaze the pan, and then begin adding beef broth, Demi-glace, sage, bay leaf, nutmeg & the Madiera.   Turn heat to a simmer and let flavors blend - about 30 minutes. 

  • Taste to be certain your level of seasoning is to your liking - you may need to add more salt at this point.

  • Remove any whole herb sprigs or leaves that you may have used - bay leaves - thyme - rosemary

  • Turn oven temperature to Broil

  • Laddle soup into bowls. Add a splash of Madiera into each bowl, add bread, then cheese, then parsley then broil till golden brown on top. (I place bowls on a cookie sheet)

                                (serves 4 - 6 - total cook time 45 minutes)

I know this is a lot - I know what you are thinking - but, it is totally worth it.  Once I complete the video, it will all become much more clear.  Also, I must mention, this recipe is a bit pricey to be made correctly.  Onions of course are reasonable enough, but the Demi-glaze will cost $16 per pound - you will be using approximately 1/4 of the container. The aged Madiera may run about $25 per bottle of which you will be using 1/2 cup. There are approximately 3 cups of alcohol in a bottle, so you will at least get 5-6 soups out of that one bottle.   Imported Gruyere runs about $16 per pound - you will be using at least half of that.  Let me just say if you can afford the initial expense, you will be rewarded greatly once you taste your soup.

Additional Information:

I have used two terms in this recipe that look similar but are completely different - Demi-glace and deglaze

Demi-glace is an amazingly flavorful dark brown reduction sauce made from beef that you add to your recipe for intense beef flavor. More on this at a later time. It is a bit time consuming to make - we’ll tackle that in a future lesson.

Deglaze - To deglaze is a technique whereby you are removing the browned bits (fond) from the bottom of the pan by using an acid, usually a wine or a stock. This is an important technique to learn!

Also, I always cook with wine worthy of drinking. Any left over wine from dinner or a party goes in the fridge to be used later for my recipes. I usually always have a dry red and a dry white on hand which will work with most of my recipes. Wine Blog Post coming soon!

I truly hope you give this recipe a try. Be fearless - have fun!   Anita

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