Recipe: French Onion Soup

A few days ago, we made French Onion soup loosely based on Alton Brown‘s recipe. I’ll reprint his version here in case the link gets broken.

10 sweet onions (like Vidalias) or a combination of sweet and red onions
3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups white wine
10 ounces canned beef consume
10 ounces chicken broth
10 ounces apple cider (unfiltered is best)
Bouquet garni; thyme sprigs, bay leaf and parsley
1 loaf country style bread
Kosher salt
Ground black pepper
Splash Cognac (optional)
1 cup Fontina or Gruyere cheese, grated

Trim the ends off each onion then slice from end to end. Remove peel and finely slice into half moon shapes. Set electric skillet to 300 degrees and add butter. Once butter has melted add a layer of onions and sprinkle with a little salt. Repeat layering onions and salt until all onions are in the skillet. Do not try stirring until onions have sweated down for 15 to 20 minutes. After that, stir occasionally until onions are dark mahogany and reduced to approximately 2 cups. This should take 45 minutes to 1 hour. Do not worry about burning.

Add enough wine to cover the onions and turn heat to high, reducing the wine to a syrup consistency. Add consume, chicken broth, apple cider and bouquet garni. Reduce heat and simmer 15 to 20 minutes.

Place oven rack in top 1/3 of oven and heat broiler.

Cut country bread in rounds large enough to fit mouth of oven safe soup crocks. Place the slices on a baking sheet and place under broiler for 1 minute.

Season soup mixture with salt, pepper and cognac. Ladle soup into crocks leaving one inch to the lip. Place bread round, toasted side down, on top of soup and top with grated cheese. Broil until cheese is bubbly and golden, 1 to 2 minutes.

Like I said, my version was only loosely based on this. I had just watched Alton make it on TV, but I didn’t take notes when I went shopping — I didn’t even think to make it until I was at the store, so I forgot a few items. I didn’t want to make as much soup, so I started with only 3 onions, and I tried to adjust the other ingredients accordingly. I didn’t have any chicken broth, so I just used a little extra beef consume to keep the salt levels right. I didn’t have any apple cider, so I chopped up 2 apples and cooked those with the onions (my best change). I didn’t have any fresh herbs for a bouquet garni, so I just threw in some dried parsley, and a bay leaf. I didn’t have the right cookware (crocks), or the right cheese (I used provolone).

Surprisingly, with all of those changes it still turned out pretty good. Of course, the best onion soup I’ve ever had was in Paris, and mine wasn’t even close. If you can’t make it to France, you should make your own French Onion Soup.