For years before I knew what I was doing in the kitchen, I avoided making French onion soup at home. I used to think that it was either very difficult or overly time consuming to make. I probably assumed this because it was a French soup. Since then, I’ve learned that French food is a) incredibly easy to cook and b) French onion soup doesn’t have to take hours and hours to make.
This is my streamlined recipe for a very good, and simple French onion soup. If you want to make it even better, use a gelatin rich stock made from scratch - it’ll add more dimension and flavor to the soup. Otherwise, in the words of Ina Garten, store bought is fine.
French Onion Soup with Thyme & Gruyere Cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 large yellow onions (about 1.5-2 pounds total), peeled and thinly sliced
2 bay leaves, fresh or dried
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, plus more for garnish
2 tablespoons Marsala wine (sweet preferred but dry works fine)
1/2 cup dry white wine (or vermouth)
4 cups beef stock
black pepper, freshly ground, to taste
kosher salt, to taste
4 slices of French bread (about 1-inch thick slices)
1 cup Gruyere cheese, grated
Heavy bottomed pot
Baking sheet & oven broiler
In a heavy bottomed pot, heat the olive oil and butter over medium-high heat. Add the onions and some kosher salt. Sauté for 20-30 minutes, stirring often, and cooking until the onions have caramelized. They should take on a rich deep brown color by the end. It’s okay if some of the onions have stuck to the bottom of the pot – we’ll remove them during the deglazing step.
Add the minced garlic, and sauté for 30 seconds to 1 minute (we don’t want the garlic to burn).
Add the Marsala wine to deglaze the pan. Scrape off as much of the browned onion bits as possible. Add the white wine or vermouth, and continue to deglaze for a couple of minutes.
Add the thyme, black pepper, and bay leaves, and cook for a minute. Add the stock, and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook for 30 minutes, uncovered.
While the soup simmers, pre-heat the oven broiler. Grate the cheese.
After 30 minutes, check for seasoning: add kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Discard the bay leaves.
Divide the soup into bowls. Add a slice of toast to each soup, and top evenly with grated cheese. Place the soup bowls on a baking sheet, and transfer to the oven. Broil until the cheese is bubbling and golden brown, about 5-10 minutes. Garnish with fresh thyme leaves, if desired. Serve warm.