French onion soup is an absolutely classic dish that can be either wonderful or terrible. Thankfully, this recipe is the former.
The caramelised onions offer bright sweetness, the beefy base notes provide substance and warmth, and the herbs give a wonderful depth of flavour and perfumed top notes. Finished off with a giant cheesy crouton that is miraculously both crispy and moist at the same time, you’ve got yourself a little slice of heaven in a bowl.
On a cold day, few things can make you feel this warm and contented.
French Onion Soup
- 750 g brown onions
- 25 g unsalted butter
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 tsp fine salt
- 1 tsp caster sugar
- 2 cloves garlic (minced)
- 200 ml vermouth (or white wine)
- 50 ml cognac (or brandy)
- 1 litre beef stock (best quality available)
- 1 bay leaf
- a few sprigs of thyme
- salt and pepper
- 8 slices baguette
- 1 garlic clove
- 100 g gruyere, grated
- Peel, halve, and finely slice the onions.
- In a large flameproof casserole, heat up the butter and oil over a medium/low heat.
- Add in the onions and sprinkle over the salt and sugar.
- Stir the onions occasionally while they soften and brown. The goal is to caramelise the onions, not fry them.
- If the bottom of the pan becomes browned, simply add a splash of cold water and stir to deglaze.
- Caramelising the onions will take about 30 minutes, stirring every couple of minutes.
- When the onions are soft and a rich brown colour, they are ready.
- Push the onions to the side of the pan, and add another splash of oil.
- Fry the minced garlic for 1-2 minutes so that it softens and sweetens, then stir everything together.
- Add the vermouth and cognac, and allow the alcohol to boil away. Make sure that the liquid is reduced by at least half before you continue.
- Add the beef stock to the pan, along with a bay leaf and a few sprigs of thyme.
- Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and place on the lid.
- Simmer the soup for 15 minutes.
- Use a fork to remove the bay leaf and thyme sprigs, then taste the soup. Season with salt and pepper, being cautious not to over salt.
- Grill one side of the french bread until nice and crispy, then rub a peeled garlic clove all over it.
- Turn the bread over and cover generously with the grated gruyere. Return to the grill until the cheese is nicely melted.
- Serve the soup with two croutons placed directly on top.
- For garnish, you can sprinkle with a few thyme leaves.