Tonight I’m headed to a “Soups and Stews” party - a sort of soup potluck party co-hosted by several of my friends. In an effort to avoid doubling up on soup, I decided to bring French onion soup. Unique for a get-together like this, but not too out-of-the-box.
This take on French onion soup is a little different than most. Instead of covering the bowl with cheese and baking it, a piece of cheese-topped crostini is placed right in the bowl. This is a practical alternative to baking individual bowls in the oven.
Gruyere cheese is one of the best-melting cheeses, perfect for topping French onion soup. However, it’s also very expensive. Try substituting a cheaper cheese such as Fontina, Gouda, parmesan, smoked mozzarella, or a combination of any of these. I found a Swiss/Gruyere mix at Trader Joe’s for about $5 and only used about 1/4 of the bag.
How to Caramelize Onions
When onions are cooked low and slow, they brown, soften, and their natural sugars are released. The result is sweet, buttery, and decadent caramelized onions. Caramelizing onions is a great way to make a flavor impact without spending a lot of money. While the process of caramelizing onions isn’t hard, it takes a long time – about an hour between chopping and cooking the onions. Below are basic instructions for caramelizing onions. For a more detailed and comprehensive guide, check out this site.
- Start out by cutting off the ends and removing the outer layer of the onions. It doesn’t matter how you cut the onions. For this recipe, I used a food processor which yielded small and uniform slices. However, you can chop the onions into small pieces or slice them into rings.
- Place chopped onions in a heavy-duty frying pan. Place about one tablespoon of butter per two onions into the frying pan. Turn on heat to medium-low. Stir onions every couple of minutes for the first 10 minutes or so.
- After about 10 minutes, add a pinch of salt and a pinch of sugar to the pan and stir. The onions should soon start browning. Once the bottom layer of onions starts browning, stir again. Continue heating and keep stirring onions until the entire batch of onions is brown. This should take another 20 to 30 minutes. If the onions start to burn, turn down the heat. You can add a little water to the pan to prevent burning and sticking.
- After about 40 minutes total, the onions should be a uniform, dark brown color. Add a bit of water, white wine, or balsamic vinegar to the bottom of the pan to deglaze. Some of the best flavor is concentrated in the bottom bits of the pan!
Caramelized onions freeze very well – consider making extra for later use on pizza, sandwiches, or make a caramelized onion dip.
How to Roast Garlic
- Cut the very top portion of a garlic bulb off, so the tops of the individual garlic cloves are exposed.
- Place the garlic bulb in a piece of aluminum foil. Drizzle a bit of olive oil on the exposed garlic cloves. Wrap the garlic bulb in foil.
- Place in a 400F oven and bake for about 45 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Squeeze garlic out of individual bulbs. It will have the consistency of a paste.
French Onion Soup Recipe
Yield: 4 servings
While it isn't absolutely necessary to caramelize the onions and roast the garlic, it's worth the time and effort flavor wise.
Use a dry white wine such as Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc. A too-sweet white wine may spoil the flavor of the soup.
For caramelized onions:
4 to 5 small yellow onions, sliced
2 tablespoons butter
Pinch of salt
Pinch of sugar
For cheese crostini:
1 small French baguette
2 garlic cloves
1 cup shredded cheese (see cheese recommendations above)
For French onion soup:
2 tablespoons butter
1 bulb roasted garlic (see above for directions)
32-ounce container beef broth (or for a cheaper option, use boullion cubes)
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 teaspoons white sugar
Additional salt and garlic powder, for seasoning
Caramelize onions and roast garlic (see instructions above).
To make crostini, preheat oven to 400F. Cut baguette into 1/2-inch slices. Brush each side with olive oil. Place on a large baking sheet and bake for about 8 minutes, or until bread is toasted. Remove from oven and cool slightly. Cut a large garlic clove in half and rub on the toasted bread. Top each slice with a heaping tablespoon of shredded cheese and return to oven. Bake for additional 2 to 3 minutes, or until cheese is melted.
To make French onion soup, heat butter and roasted garlic in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook for about 2 minutes to infuse flavors. Add beef broth and heat to a simmer. Add wine, sugar, and caramelized onions and stir. Season with salt and garlic powder if desired.
To serve, top each bowl of French onion soup with a cheese crostini.