In this article, we’ll dive into the art of selecting the best onions for your soup, unlocking the magic of caramelization, creating a luscious base that sets the stage, and adding those extra touches to enhance the flavor. Get ready to savor the taste of pure comfort and warmth, and discover why this classic dish has stood the test of time. Whether you’re a seasoned chef or a beginner in the kitchen, our step-by-step instructions will ensure you make the best french onion soup every time.
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**DISCLAIMER: The recipe for our sourdough bread bowl was published on a previous post and can be found HERE. These will need to be started a day or two before you plan to make the french onion soup.Jump to Recipe
Choosing the Best Onions
To create the best French onion soup, it all starts with choosing the best onions. Just as a great dish relies on quality ingredients, the success of your soup hinges on selecting the right onions. But with so many varieties to choose from, how do you know which onions are best for your recipe?
When it comes to French onion soup, the classic choice is the humble yellow onion. Known for its versatility and deep flavor, the yellow onion provides the perfect balance of sweetness and pungency. As it cooks down, the natural sugars caramelize, lending a rich and complex flavor to the soup. So, when you’re at the grocery store, reach for those golden bulbs and rest assured that you’re making the right choice.
However, if you’re feeling adventurous and want to experiment with different flavors, you can try using other types of onions. The red onion, for example, adds a touch of vibrant color and a slightly milder taste to the soup. The sweet onion, on the other hand, brings a subtle sweetness that pairs well with the savory notes of the broth. White onions are an option as well. Ultimately, the choice is yours, and you can always mix different onion varieties to create your own unique blend.
Caramelizing the Onions
To begin, start by slicing the onions thinly and uniformly. This will ensure that they cook evenly and caramelize to perfection. As you slice, keep in mind that the size of your onion slices will determine how long they take to caramelize, so try to keep them as consistent as possible.
Next, heat a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add a stick of butter to the pot and allow it to melt and coat the bottom evenly.
Once the butter has melted and coated the bottom of the pot, add the sliced onions and stir to ensure they are well coated with the butter. Now, it’s time to exercise that patience we mentioned earlier. Over the next 30 to 45 minutes, you’ll need to cook the onions slowly, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking or burning.
During this caramelizing process, the onions will transform from their raw, pungent state into a rich, golden brown color. As they cook, the natural sugars in the onions will slowly caramelize, resulting in a complex and deep flavor that adds depth to your soup.
As the onions continue to cook, you’ll notice that they become increasingly soft and break down further. This is perfectly normal and desired. The longer you cook the onions, the more deeply caramelized and flavorful they will become. Just be sure to keep a watchful eye and adjust the heat if necessary to prevent burning. Once the onions have reached that perfect shade of golden-brown and have developed a jam-like consistency, they are ready to be used as the base for your traditional french onion soup.
Creating the Perfect Base
Now that you have your caramelized onions on hand, it’s time to take your French onion soup to the next level by creating the perfect base. To start, you’ll need a good quality beef stock and chicken stock. The broth serves as the foundation for your soup, so it’s crucial to choose one that is flavorful and well-seasoned. If you have the time and inclination, homemade beef broth is always a great option, but store-bought broth works perfectly fine as well.
Seasoning Your French Onion Soup
A classic combination includes a bouquet garni, which typically consists of fresh sprigs of thyme, bay leaves, and parsley stems tied together with kitchen twine. This aromatic bundle infuses the broth with earthy and herbaceous notes, further enriching the soup’s overall taste.
To give your soup an even more complex flavor profile, consider adding a splash of dry white wine. I usually add a little white/red whine or red wine vinegar to the pot to deglaze after cooking my onions. The wine not only adds a subtle acidity to balance the sweetness of the onions but also brings out the natural flavors of the other ingredients. Let the wine simmer in the broth for a few minutes to allow the alcohol to evaporate, leaving behind its delightful essence.
Adding Depth and Flavor
One way to add depth to your French onion soup is by incorporating additional aromatics. Consider adding a touch of minced garlic to complement the sweetness of the caramelized onions. This subtle addition will infuse the soup with an extra layer of flavor, adding complexity without overpowering the delicate balance you have achieved so far.
To further enhance the flavor of the soup, you can incorporate a splash of soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce. These savory condiments will deepen the overall flavor profile, giving your soup a satisfying richness. Be sure to adjust the seasoning accordingly, as these ingredients can contribute a slight saltiness to the dish. Another way to elevate the flavor of your French onion soup is by incorporating a hint of sweetness. Consider adding a small amount of balsamic vinegar or a sprinkling of brown sugar to balance out the savory elements. This touch of sweetness will bring out the natural sweetness of the onions and create a delightful contrast of flavors.
Serving and Enjoying
After all the careful preparation and simmering, it’s finally time to serve and savor your homemade French onion soup. Start by ladling the rich, caramel-colored soup into individual, sourdough bread bowl (or a ceramic bowl). Make sure each bowl is generously filled, providing your guests with a warm and comforting portion of this classic dish.
Now it’s time to add the finishing touch – the golden, melted cheese that make French onion soup so iconic. Next, sprinkle a generous amount of grated gruyere cheese or a slice of provolone over each hearty bowl of soup, ensuring that it covers the entire surface. Place your french onion soup bowls on a piece of parchment paper on a large baking sheet and transfer them to a preheated oven set to broil. Keep a close eye on them as they quickly transform into bubbling, melty perfection. Once the cheese is bubbly and slightly browned (approximately 3-4 minutes), carefully remove the baking sheet from the oven and allow your soup to cool for a few minutes before serving. The soup’s enticing aroma and visual appeal will be an instant hit at the next dinner party!
Our easy recipe with simple ingredients guarantees a delicious meal that will warm your soul on a chilly day. By selecting the perfect onions, mastering the caramelization process, and creating a rich base with depth of flavor, you can enjoy a bowl of your favorite comfort foods in no time! Experiment with your own additions and toppings to customize this classic dish to your likings. Remember, the ultimate comfort food is just a wooden spoon away.
French Onion Soup in a Sourdough Bread Bowl
- 3 large onions yellow are best
- 1 stick butter
- 32 oz beef broth
- 16 oz chicken broth
- 1 tsp garlic salt
- 1 tsp thyme
- 2 tbsp beef broth base
- 2 tbsp flour
- 1 tbsp red wine optional for deglazing pot
- Melt 1 stick of butter in a large pot.
- Thinly slice 3-4 large onions and place in the pot.
- Cook the onions on medium heat until they are golden brown stirring occasionally. This could take up to 45 minutes.
- Once onions are fully caramelized, deglaze pot with red wine. (optional). I just put a splash in and stir well until nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pot.
- Pour in beef broth and chicken broth.
- Add in beef base, garlic salt and thyme.
- Add in flour and stir allowing soup to thicken a bit.
- Turn on the broiler.
- Ladle soup into sourdough bread bowls or oven safe bowls and place on a baking sheet.
- Cover with cheese of your choice, provolone is our favorite.
- Allow to broil in oven for 3-4 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly.