I don’t know how you feel about French onion soup.
Honestly, sometimes I don’t know how *I* feel about French onion soup. It can be delicious. Warming, rich, sweet and savory all at once. Sometimes it’s hugely disappointing. Flat, overly sweet, only passable because of the cheesy bread on top.
Generally speaking, the ingredients are pretty cheap. Onions, stock made from leftover bones. A few herbs or spices. So maybe it’s a lack of love, or an over-reliance on bad ingredients that has made so many French onion soups lackluster.
It’s easy to understand why you wouldn’t bother making it at home. It takes an age to caramelize onions, and there’s no point in making it with beef stock if it’s not real stock. (No cubes… seriously.)
But I’m going to turn it all upside down. I offer you my totally-not-traditional French onion soup made with chicken (!) stock and roasted (!!) onions. (If you don’t believe me on the chicken stock, what about Serious Eats?)
After comparing the taste of lovingly (read: impatiently) caramelized onions versus casually roasted onions, I can tell you there are differences. But they’re not deal-breakers, especially if you would rather make a soup without staring at onions cooking for an hour. The roasting takes the same amount of time, but it’s hands off. You could even boil a quick chicken stock while you wait.
So while this cold weather hangs around at the party for too long, why not make yourself a steamy pot of cheaty French onion soup, and think about all that effort you didn’t spend on it?
On the Counter
- 900 g onion
- 1.5 L (6 cups) chicken stock, preferably homemade
- 1 tbsp olive oil (separated)
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 100mL dry (NOT sweet) vermouth (You can substitute this with 3x as much dry white wine)
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 slice of crusty baguette or sourdough bread per person
- 25g (1 oz) of freshly grated gruyere cheese per person
What to Do
- Remove the outer layer of onion skin from each onion, keeping just the inner layer of papery skin. Cut off the pointy top of the onions so that just a small amount of onion is visible. Keep the root side on.
- Place the onions in a baking sheet, cut side up. Drizzle each onion with a total of 1 tbsp olive oil and top with a small knob of butter.
- Roast for an hour at 150C (300F)
- Let the onions cool slightly, then peel and slice them from pole to pole into thin strips.
- In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, melt 1 teaspoon butter over medium heat.
- Fry the onions on medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
- Add wine/vermouth. Raise the heat to high, and let it bubble away until almost all the liquid has evaporated. This should take 5 or 10 minutes (depending if you used vermouth or wine), but keep an eye on it.
- Add the chicken stock, thyme, bay leaves and Worcestershire sauce. Give it a good stir.
- Bring it to a boil, then lower the heat so that the soup is just simmering. Cook uncovered, until some of the liquid has evaporated, about 30 minutes. Taste it to be sure it's as flavorful as you want. Stir in a pinch or two of salt if needed.
- PS: Don't forget to fish out the bay leaves.
- If you're using slightly stale bread, don't worry about the next step.
- Lightly toast the bread slices under the grill (broiler). Turn once to ensure both sides are just crisp.
- Ladle soup into your bowls.
- If you have oven-safe soup bowls or big ramekins, put the bread slices on top and generously sprinkle the cheese on top. Carefully transfer the bowls to a rimmed baking sheet and put it all under the grill.
- Melt the cheese until it's bubbly and lightly golden.
- If you don't have oven safe bowls, sprinkle the cheese on top of your toast slices, and put them back under the grill (broiler) until bubbly and lightly golden. Transfer them on top of the soup bowls.