French Onion Soup (Soup a l’Oignon Gratinee)

Soup a l’Oignon Gratinee is a true national treasure. Its origin is considered to be from Paris, where it is served everywhere. This heartwarming soup of onions, rich beef stock, and toasted French bread topped with bubbling-brown melted cheese has become a favorite not only of the French but beloved throughout the world.

There are a multitude of competing origin theories. Most of the stories point to French royalty, the palace of Versailles, and an inadvertent combining of ingredients producing this hearty soup. Besides being delicious, the best story for why it was so widely embraced was its effectiveness at masking the odor after a night of heavy drinking. This royal dish from the court of Versailles soon earned the moniker of “the soup of drunkards” and remains a preferred hangover cure in France.

Soup a l’Oignon Gratinée – French Onion Soup

This recipe caramelizes the onions slowly to help maximize its flavor. The addition of cider vinegar, fish sauce, sherry, and fresh chives take it up to another level. Add a piece of toasted bread topped with melted Gruyere cheese and you've created something really special.
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Course: Lunch, Soup
Cuisine: East-Central France, French
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 50 minutes
Servings: 4
Author: My Hungry Traveler

Equipment

  • Large pot
  • Rimmed baking pan
  • 4 – 6 ovenproof bowls

Ingredients

  • 6 tbsp Unsalted butter
  • 4 lb Yellow onion
  • ½ cup Dry sherry
  • 8 cups 4 cups each of good store-bought or homemade chicken and beef broths
  • 2 sprigs Thyme, fresh or dry
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • 1 tsp Asian fish sauce
  • 1 tsp Cider vinegar
  • 1 large Baguette or a rustic bread, cut into ½ inch slices
  • 1 clove Garlic
  • 16 oz Gruyere cheese, grated or shredded Swiss and Emmenthaller cheeses are decent substitutes

Instructions

  • In a large pot, melt butter over med-high heat. Add onions and cook until softened. Lower heat to lowest possible temperature. Cook until onions are sweet and golden brown, 1½ hours. Stir occasionally and add 1 tbsp water if sticking. Generously season with salt & pepper.
  • Deglaze pot with sherry, scraping up bits on bottom. Alcohol smell should be gone after 3 minutes. Add stock, thyme, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove thyme sprigs, if using, and bay leaf. Add fish sauce and vinegar. Turn off heat.
  • Toast bread slices, rub with garlic then butter. Preheat broiler and move oven rack to top position.
  • Assemble soup as follows: place 4-6 ovenproof bowls on a rimmed baking pan. Spoon a small amount of onions-broth on each bottom, then 1 slice of toast. Top with a little cheese and the remaining onions-broth. Submerge another toast and the rest of cheese over that. Broil until cheese is melted and beginning to brown. Sprinkle on chives and serve.

Notes

  • Garlic croutons may be used in place of toasted bread. 
  • A single large oven proof bowl may be used but is not as special as individual bowls. To use, assemble in same fashion. 

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