I don’t like that thick, gooey layer of melted Gruyère over top of a steamy bowl of onion soup gratinee.
There. I said it. I know most people adore that bubbly cheese crust, but I think that molten cheese situation is unpleasant and chewy and simply too much. It overpowers the fabulous sweetness of the soup itself. The only thing worse than the dense cheese barrier between me and my soup is the underlying layer of soggy bread. Seriously, what could be appealing about soggy bread?
But I love French onion soup. The deeply flavorful salty-sweet broth and the silky onions are warm, comforting, and delicious. And while I am no fan of the usual soggy bread/cheese crust combination, a few shavings of cheese and a handful of crisp croutons are a welcome topping. I like to serve up the piping hot soup and then pass around bowls of homemade croutons and thin shavings of Swiss cheese. The idea is to add the croutons to your bowl in the very last moment, so they retain their crunch.
As for the soup itself, the ingredients are simple. What you’re really dealing with here is some onions and some beef stock, so the quality of the beef stock is really key. Of course, as with most things, homemade is best. But I will admit that I rarely have homemade beef stock on hand (I do usually have homemade chicken stock, but that’s a whole different discussion). But beef stock in a can is pretty terrible stuff. It’s more or less just brown salty water. However, I’ve recently discovered that good local markets will often house-make and sell their own stock. And if you can’t find the real deal, there are some decently flavorful store-bought options. In a pinch, I like Penzey’s soup base.
This recipe freezes extremely well, so I usually make a double batch. Enjoy!
French Onion Soup
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons olive oil
4 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced
2/3 cup finely chopped celery
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
11/2 cups dry white wine
8 cups beef broth
3 cups cubed french bread
1/4 teaspoon dried parsley
2 ounces shaved Gruyère cheese
In a large soup pot, over medium-low heat melt the butter in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onions and celery and cook, stirring every so often, until th onions are very soft and starting to brown. This should take about 30 minutes. Be patient! Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper, and wine and stir well. Add the broth, and increase the heat to medium. Let the soup simmer for 30-45 minutes. Meanwhile, make the croutons. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss the bread with the remaining two teaspoons of oil, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and the parsley. Spread the bread on a baking sheet in an even layer. Bake until the croutons are golden brown, about 8-10 minutes. To serve, ladle the soup into bowls. Top with the cheese and croutons.