Classic French Onion Soup Topped With A Twist
There are few soups which have the sweet mellow depths of French onion soup. Easy and fast cooking, gently caramelized onions are stewed in a rich broth with an almost imperceptible hint of wine running through it.
Traditionally topped off with a crunchy crouton and cheese grilled until it crisps at the edges, this is the best French onion soup recipe I’ve ever tasted and it comes from Helene, a French friend and colleague who shared it with us a few weeks ago.
Do give this recipe a try – it really is as super delicious as Helene promised – eating it feels like a big warm hug.
Have I got your mouth watering yet?
Don’t be fooled by the length of the post – this really is a French onion soup recipe easy to make and divine to eat, but here I’ve included how to make croutons plus the method using pastry as a topping so the post got kinda looong!
Try my alternative twist of using pastry rather than croutons – even faster to finish and really satisfies a winter appetite, sprinkle cheese over the soup then top off with crispy light puff pastry as pictured top right. Note I was being careful with calories when I made this version, so I skipped the caramelizing with sugar step and gently sweated the onions instead, so the soup is noticeably lighter than the full fat version pictured below.
The soup takes about an hour and a half of cooking time but you really only need to attend to it for about 30 in total including the prep. If you make this in advance and cheat like I did with shop bought frozen puff pastry dough, it can be on the table in 25 minutes – and do you know, I think it gains a lot of flavor for being left overnight to mature.
To Serve 6 Hungry People
- Make the croutons either first or whilst the onions are caramelizing and you’ll reduce your time spent actually working this meal up.
- You’ll need a thick slice of bread, one for each person, crusts off
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 1-2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
- To make crispy croutons take 1 tablespoon of olive oil and combine with 1 clove of well crushed garlic
- Spread over foil or a silicone baking mat – you need a flat surface
- Gently lace down on the oil and garlic mix then flip and coat the other side
- If you want small croutons cut into squares
If you want one large crouton, cut ½ an inch smaller than the size of the bowl so it fits neatly inside. Now bake in the oven on a medium heat for about 30 minutes until golden and crunchy – do keep an eye on them, ovens vary as we know.
- 1 ½ lb of onions very thinly sliced (a mandoline slicer is perfect for this)
- 2 pints of really good beef stock
- 2 tblsp olive oil
- 2 cloves of crushed garlic
- 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar – brown if you have it
- 12 fluid ounces of dry white wine
- 2 oz of butter
- Black pepper freshly ground if you can
- Add both tablespoons of oil and all the butter to a saucepan and put the heat on high
- When the oil is hot add the sliced onions, sugar and crushed garlic
- Turn constantly and cook until the edges of the onion begin to color dark brown and reduce the heat to its lowest setting (usually 4-5 minutes)
- Continue to cook very gently with the lid on for another 20 – 30 minutes depending on how thinly you sliced the onions – if the mixture looks like burning add a tablespoon of stock, but this shouldn’t be necessary (make the croutons while the soup cooks)
- Add the white wine and season with freshly ground pepper
- Return the soup to a simmer and put the lid on, now leave to gently cook for an hour
To Serve With Croutons
- Put the grill on high – you’ll need heatproof serving bowls for this
- Put the hot soup into pre-warmed bowls and float the crouton/s on the top. Divide the Gruyere cheese evenly and sprinkle on the top of each then put under a hot grill until the cheese has melted and is bubbling – I set the fire alarm off by the way.
- Serve immediately – please warn your guests that the bowls have just come out from under a grill and are super hot – no touchy!
To Serve With Puff Pastry
To serve as pictured top right with puff pastry, put the oven onto a medium heat and add an allocated portion of grated Gruyere cheese to each bowl then top each bowl off with puff pastry – put immediately into the oven and bake until risen and golden brown.
Unlike the croutons I tried not to let the pastry touch the onion soup, so half a spoon less in each bowl and remember the level will rise when you add the cheese.