I’ve wanted to make French onion soup for a while now. It’s so delicious with those sweet touches from the caramelized onions and omg that baguette with cheese! It’s amazing what you can achieve with such simple ingredients.
Here in Santiago, it’s much colder than a month ago. With Javi now we probably have had about 5 soups/creams which means that it’s officially soup season! I love that warm feeling you get in your stomach when you have soup and there’s really nothing like it. That feeling of having a small fire inside is just unbeatable. I have to say that I get the same feeling from mulled wine, also, lol!
French onion soup
This soup brings back some memories. I studied French cuisine in London (you can read more on my story on my career change post) and this was one of the first dishes we made in class. I think it was in the second or third class that we made it and you could see me cutting those onions while sweating to get them perfectly sliced, lol! For this recipe, it’s actually easier to use a mandolin and cut the onions to 2mm thick using that. But if you don’t own one, you can certainly use a knife.
French onion soup is typically made with beef stock. Beef stock takes time but it’s completely worth it because its flavour is superior to those you can find at a store. The most important thing in the process is to really get those bones and veggies charred before adding the water. It’s these golden bits that give the stock its deep flavour. The stock is cooked over low heat for 6 hours and then it’s used in this recipe. I recommend that you make the stock the day before, pass it though a colander and then store the stock in the fridge overnight. The net morning you will notice that the fat is floating on top and has solidified. This makes it so much easier to remove! If you want to make it on one go you can skim the fat from the top using a spoon and removing as much as you can. If you don’t eat red meat, you can do the same procedure with chicken wings or bones. The flavour isn’t as deep but it’s still delicious.
For a classic French onion soup, serve it with baguette toasts with Gruyère cheese, which is a French cheese. You can also use a mix of mozzarella and parmesan cheeses or just one of them if you prefer. The truth is that this onion soup plus these toasts make a perfect marriage. Oh, also, always make extra! You will definitely want more as you eat your soup :). I first slice the baguette and dry it up at 140°C/284°C for 10-15 minutes until it’s crispy but not toasted. If your baguette is a bit old, then don’t do it if it’s already hard. Then I grate cheese on it, a bit of pepper and it goes into the oven on broil mode or to the max temperature to melt and get the cheese golden.
For the beef stock
- 350 g beef bones If you can't get any it can be replaced for chicken wings or chicken bones and make a golden chicken stock instead! It's not ideal but delicious nonetheless!
- 150 g carrots chopped in large chunks
- 150 g white onion chopped in large chunks
- 150 g celery chopped in large chunks
- 2 bayleaves fresh or dried
- 1½ litres water at room temperature
For the onion soup
- 50 g butter with or without salt
- 1 kilo white onion
- 1 bayleaf fresh or dried
- 3 thyme sprigs only the leaves
- Stock from above
- Salt and pepper to taste
For the baguette toasts
- ¼ baguette in ½ a cm slices
- 30 g Gruyère cheese or a mix of mozzarella and parmesan or only one of them
- Pepper to taste
For the beef stock
- Add the beef bones to a medium-sized pot. They usually have bits of meat and fat stuck to them. Place them over medium heat and leave them still for about 5 minutes so that the fat renders.
- Increase the heat to medium-high and let them get very charred. Don't stir for a couple of minutes and then flip them until they're charred all around. If you have a pot that can go into the oven, then you can roast the bones at 200°C/400°F until very golden as well.
- Remove the bones from the pot and reserve them. Add the vegetables and bay leaves and use them to scrape the golden bits that the bones left at the bottom of the pan. Char the veggies as well.
- Add the bones and veggies back in as well as the water. Still over medium-high heat, wait for the water to break into a boil and put the lid on. Reduce the heat to a minimum and let it cook for 6 hours.
- Pass the stock through a colander or sieve. You will see fat floating on top. You skim it off using a spoon or, alternatively, you can place the stock in the fridge overnight. This makes it easier to remove the fat because it solidifies on top.
For the onion soup
- Slice the onion in 2mm thick slices. You can use a mandolin or a knife.
- Add the butter to a large pot over medium heat. Once melted, add the onions, bayleaf and thyme leaves plus a pinch of salt. The salt helps the onion sweat a bit faster.
- Mix every 3-5 minute to make sure it's not sticking. You will notice that the volume of onions will rapidly reduce.
- Pay more attention to the onion once there's no liquid left because it could stick to the bottom of the pan and burn. Be patient, the caramelization of the onions takes time but is really worth it! If you see golden bits stuck to the bottom of the pan you can use the onions to scrape them off. If at any time there are too many stuck bits or they look like they could burn, add a drizzle of water and scrap everything down. Do this only when necessary because you're stopping the caramelization process every time you add water.
- Once they look deeply golden (like the colour of the final soup), stop.
- Add the stock and mix. Still over medium heat, wait for the mix to come to a boil.
- From the moment it breaks into a boil, decrease the heat to a minimum and let it simmer without a lid on for 30 minutes.
- Add pepper before serving and adjust the salt level, too.
For the baguette toasts
- Place the baguette slices in a preheated oven at 140°C/280°F for 10-15 minutes or until they're crispy but not golden.
- 10 minutes before the soup is ready, grate cheese on top of the slices and finish them off with a pinch of pepper.
- Place the toasts in a preheated oven at 200°C/400°F or use the broil mode of your oven. Pay close attention to them as they can burn quickly.
- Serve the soup hot with one or two baguette toasts on top. I also recommend that you serve extra toasts at the table.