This is another example of a dish that I wasn’t planning on making for this blog specifically, but since I was making it for dinner anyway and it turned out really good, I thought I should go ahead and share it! Also, I didn’t think it was really from France! I guess I just assumed it was one of those American dishes that was made to sound French and fancy! :0)
There are examples of onion soup dating back many years in history, at least as far back as the Roman times. Onion soup, specifically, was considered “Poor Man’s Food” because of how cheap onions are and how easily they could be grown. The onions were often boiled with water and seasonings and served just like that.
The more modern style of French Onion Soup with the meat-based broth and cheese was created around the 18th century in France. No one seems to know who exactly created the dish. In the 1960s in the U.S., there was a great interest in French Cuisine, causing a resurgence in the popularity of this soup. It is still very common to see on restaurant menus.
I’ve never really been a huge onion fan, but I’ve always liked French Onion Soup. The caramelizing of the onions brings out their natural sweetness and the savory beef broth and worchestershire sauce has such a rich flavor. And of course, who doesn’t love bread and cheese?! This soup is perfect for cold, rainy nights, like we’ve been having the last couple days here in Southern California.
There are about as many recipes out there for this soup as there are chefs making it, but here is my very own:
French Onion Soup
2 medium-sized brown onions, sliced thin
3 T butter
3 whole bay leaves
1 t salt
2 cloves garlic
2 t dried thyme
1 32 oz carton beef broth
2 t worchestershire sauce
loaf of crusty bread
In a heavy-bottom pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onions and stir around, coating in the butter. Add the bay leaves and salt. Cook, covered, until the onions are soft and caramelized, stirring frequently. This should take at least 20-30 minutes. It will seem like a lot of onions at first, but they will cook down.
(You’ll see a sprig of rosemary here that isn’t in the ingredient list. I tried adding it in, but the aroma was overwhelming so I took it out after a couple minutes. I didn’t want the rosemary to take over the dish).
Once the onions are done, add the thyme and garlic. For the garlic: rub two cloves over a microplane and add to the onions. I like to do it this way because then the garlic is really small and just melts into the onions. You get the flavor without big pieces of garlic. Stir to combine.
Add the beef broth and worchestershire sauce and bring to a boil. Stir to combine, making sure to get all the brown bits from the onions. After the soup has been boiling for a minute or so, reduce heat to simmer.
While the soup is simmering, cut of a few thick pieces of bread and slice the cheese. I used Gruyere this time, which is the traditional cheese to use, but in the past I’ve used mozzarella and provolone and both are delicious.
Under the broiler, toast up the bread. It is important that you do this because it is going directly in the soup and will absorb all that yummy broth. If it is too soft when you put it in the soup, it will just turn to mush in your bowl. Watch this carefully, though, because the bread can easily go from not ready to burnt before you know it. Don’t ask how I know this.
Once the bread is ready, ladle the soup into oven-safe bowls. Add the toasted bread and top with cheese. Put the bowls on a baking sheet because the cheese will get all melty and drip over the edges of the bowl. This is a good thing, but not if you have to clean it up off the bottom of your oven. Put the baking sheet with the bowls under the broiler until the cheese is ooey and gooey. Mine took about 5 minutes or so, just keep an eye on it.
That’s it! Be careful because this will be really hot and it is really yummy, so you don’t want to burn your taste buds off!