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french onion soup

A while back, we made Julia Child’s french onion soup. It was delicious, but a serious undertaking. First you make a beef stock, then you caramelize onions for a few hours, and then you make the soup. This recipe is less time intensive and uses homemade chicken stock instead of beef, which I usually have on hand. (Whole roasted chickens make up a rather large portion of our meat consumption and their little frozen carcases become stock about once a month). This soup turned out beautifully and while I don’t know if it is better than Julia’s, it’s certainly just as good.

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French Onion Soup, from Tartine Bread
6 large yellow onions, cut into slices
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon duck fat (use another tablespoon of butter if you don’t have duck fat)
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups dry white wine
2 cups rich chicken stock
4 slices day old bread
5 oz gruyère cheese, grated

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Preheat an oven to 400 degrees F. Combine onions, cream, butter, duck fat and salt in a large saucepan. Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat until the onions are translucent, about 15 minutes. Adjust the heat so that the onions and cream are at a slow boil. Spread the onions over the bottom of the pot and cook, without stirring, until the onions begin to brown, about 10 minutes. Stir the onions and scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the pot. Add 1/2 cup of wine to deglaze. Continue cooking the onions without stirring for another 10 minutes, until they brown again. Add another 1/2 cup of wine and scrape the bottom. Repeat this process two more times, until the soup takes on a deep caramel color.

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While you’re caramelizing the onions, toast the bread. Spread the bread in an even layer on a baking sheet and toast until dry and brittle. About 15 minutes in a 400 degree oven.

Pour in the stock and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook until the broth is well flavored by the onions, about 15 minutes. Season with more salt if needed.

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Ladle the soup into ovenproof bowls, float a piece or two of toasted bread on each serving and top with the grated gruyere cheese. Put the bowls on a baking sheet and carefully put the sheet into the oven. Bake until the cheese is bubbly and caramelized, about 20 – 30 minutes.

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This soup is delicious—simple and satisfying. I wholeheartedly recommend you bake the soup for 20 minutes with the cheesy crouton on top, instead of just topping the soup with a piece of cheesy bread. Something magical happens when you bake the soup and bread together for a while, you don’t want to miss out on it.

-Emily

By The Answer is Always Pork

Cooking and Eating in San Francisco

3 replies on “french onion soup”

This looks delicious and I will have to try it. I have to say though… I am skeptical about not using really good homemade beef stock. Yes, it’s a 4+ hour task, but it too has a magical and distinctive flavor of its own, especially when cooked with a good red Rhone. (And most of the 4+ hours is inactive.) The beauty of Julia’s recipe is that the soup base itself is relatively low fat, while still pounding with flavor. A cup of cream is a lovely shortcut, when combined with the wine and the browning and reduction of the onion mixture. But is is still a shortcut that contrasts to a classic French technique, that while slower, yields a rich floral aroma worth every minute of browning, simmering and caramelizing.

Julia’s method for caramelizing the onions should take no more than an hour. It’s intensive, but shouldn’t take a few hours.

Yep, I agree, the cream is most definitely a short cut, but one I’m glad to have when I really want french onion soup but don’t have the time (or, more likely, the foresight) to make Julia’s beef stock. You are right though, hers is indeed something else. Let me know what you think when you try it with chicken stock. Using homemade chicken stock does yield a surprisingly deep flavor, but I wouldn’t bother making this with store-bought/boxed chicken stock. With store stock it would just be disappointing.

awww!! cute little ramekins!! i think they are my favorite part of french onion soup… i like the taste, but you know my deal with onions. X_x!

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