Golden French Onion Soup

I inevitably begin the fall and winter seasons with an abundance of good storing onions. It's rare that I need to purchase more until March or even April, given a generous CSA share at the end of the season, along with my own garden and friends and family sharing the bounty of theirs as well. And when I have lots and lots of onions and winter's handing some of the worst weather of the season, it's time to make French onion soup.

Now, beware recipes that imply you can build up the glorious base of this soup - perfectly caramelized onions - in under an hour. I've even seen recipes that suggest you can do so in 20 minutes. Now, you can give some onions a bit of color in that time, but to make a softened, sweet, golden mass of onions, you need butter, low heat, and patience. They should barely look like onions by the time you're done with them. The batch pictured below is only about halfway there … stop rushing things.

I like making my soup with chicken or turkey stock. Therefore, what I'm making is technically golden French onion soup. If you want something beefier, substitute about half of the stock with beef broth and continue with the rest of the recipe as outlined below.

You can use full slices of bread for this soup, but I think the croutons are prettier and make eating the soup much easier. I opted for a whole grain sour dough loaf that sported a delightfully seedy crust. Choose good bread and good cheese. You've spent a fair bit of time making this beautiful soup - crown it well!

Golden French Onion Soup

  • 6 large yellow onions
  • 6 T. butter, divided
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 2 T. flour
  • 1 c. dry white wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme leaves
  • 9 c. chicken stock
  • Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 1 loaf crusty bread
  • 2 c. shredded gruyere
  • 1 c. shredded parmesan cheese

Peel the onions and slice them very thinly. Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a large stockpot oven over medium heat; add the onions and salt to the pot and cover.

After 5 minutes of covered cooking over medium heat, remove the lid and stir the onions so the bottom layer doesn't burn. Place the lid back on and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and remove the lid. Continue to cook over low heat stirring occasionally.

After about 40 minutes, you'll start to see the onions caramelizing. If you notice the onions getting dried out or the bottom of the pan darkening too much, you can add some water or a little white wine to avoid that.

Once they've reached a deep golden brown (this will take an hour or more), add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter to the pan plus the flour. Cook over low heat for 3-5 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the dry white wine and cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes.

Add the bay leaf, fresh thyme, and chicken stock to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20-30 minutes. The onions should be very soft and the broth flavorful. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Discard the bay leaf and thyme; the soup is done.

To make the croutons, cube the loaf of bread and toast in an oven at 425°F for 10-12 minutes (leave the oven on after you've removed the cubes). Shred the cheese and get ready to assemble.

Fill oven-safe bowls halfway with soup. Then add a layer of bread cubes, a layer of cheese ,ladle more soup over the top, add another layer of bread cubes, and finish with a final layer of cheese on top.

Place the oven safe dishes on a baking sheet for easier transport and put them in the top rack of the 425°F oven for 10-15 minutes or until the tops are golden, crisp, and bubbling. Allow the dishes to cool for a few minutes prior to serving, as they can be very hot!

  • Yields: 6 servings
  • Preparation Time: 90 minutes