Food Friday: French Onion Soup
Soup season continues! This classic will keep you warm in the most delicious way.
This recipe serves 4 people…here is what you’ll need:
2 medium size yellow onions sliced into thin julienne cuts, as uniform in size as you can
2 T butter
3 1/2 -4 cups of stock (I used a mix of beef and chicken here, but feel free to go with your favorite)
½ cup red wine
¼ cup of brandy
1 T apple cider vinegar
1 T Italian or Thai fish sauce
Grated Gruyere or Swiss cheese
Bread for croutons
Using a Dutch oven or thick bottomed pot, set the burner on medium high. Allow for your pot to pre-heat for a couple of minutes. Once the pan is ready to go, add 2 T of butter and sliced onions. Stir onions over the medium high heat until they start to get a little color on them, usually around 3-4 minutes. Although it would be fun to keep trucking with the heat on high and bring these home in the next 10 minutes, it unfortunately doesn’t work that way.
If you don’t turn the heat here to all the way low, between 1 & 2 on the stove, the onions will likely burn (at least some of them) and you will surely have a batch of very uneven cooked onions. So, after the initial 3-4 minutes in the pan, bring the heat to all the way low, spread the onions out evenly in the pan and let them cook like this for usually around 45 minutes.
Check in every 5 minutes or so to move the onions around and then smear them flat in the pan again for maximum exposure. If you’re getting a little antsy and want to turn the heat up a touch, go for it, but make sure you don’t neglect stirring them a little more. If the pan seems too dry at any point along the way, feel free to add some more butter or cooking oil.
After the stirring and waiting, waiting and more stirring, you should have some beautiful, dark brown caramelized onions like in the photo. At this point, bring the heat back up to medium and add ½ cup of red wine. Stir in the wine and let it reduce for a minute, then add brandy. Pour the brandy into a cup or glass as opposed to pouring it straight in from the bottle, brandy is very flammable. The pan shouldn’t be too hot at this point so it’s unlikely to ignite, but leaning away just in case it flames up is a good idea. Stir the brandy in for about a minute, and then add the stock. Once the stock is added, bring the pot to a simmer. When it reaches a simmer, turn the heat back to low and add fresh thyme, some salt and pepper, fish sauce and cider vinegar. Let the flavors blend at a simmer for 15-30 minutes and get ready for plating.
As we all know, the finishing touches of French onion soup are an important part of the process. I put my bread/crouton in the toaster to get it nice and crisp. Once I place my crouton a top of the plated soup, then it’s time to sprinkle the grated cheese over the top, now is not the time to be frugal, so don’t skimp on the cheese portion here. The last step is getting some caramelization on your cheese. A trusty blow torch works great here to melt and brown the cheese. For those without, I would suggest putting the soup in the microwave for 20-30 seconds to melt the cheese, and then in the oven with the broiler on high, to brown it, which shouldn’t take more than a minute. If you have some parsley or chives on hand, feel free to chop some up and garnish the soup.
Read the notes:
*As mentioned above, the slow process of caramelizing our onions is the key to the process here. This recipe isn’t something I would take on unless I had some time to focus on it.
*When your onions are caramelizing, be sure you are using a good wooden spoon to move them around every few minutes. At the later part of the process, be sure your spoon is scraping the brown bits off the bottom of the pan, that’s how your onions get brown and we prevent burning.
*Flavors - there’s a lot going on and you will notice after your first bite. You’ll have the sweetness of the caramelized onions, The savory flavor of the stock and cheese, and the tartness of the cider vinegar. This is where the fish sauce comes in handy. It provides what chef’s call “umami.” When you find yourself taste testing food that your making and you say, “hmmm, it needs a little something,” that’s usually where I find myself adding fish sauce. It bridges the gap between sweet, tart, and salty flavors. I prefer Italian fish sauce, or some of the more subtle Thai brands. The really funky ones have their place in good Thai cooking, but are a little too over the top for applications like this.