For a time in my early 20’s I worked as a waitress at a place called LaRosa’s Pizzeria, an institution in the Cincinnati area. One of the things they offered on the menu was (and still is) Baked Onion Soup. I asked my manager once why we didn’t call it French Onion soup, and he told me that because they didn’t cook it with wine, it couldn’t technically be called French Onion. So the Champagne of soup, I guess? It’s entirely possible he was just making something up, but I’ve believed it ever since.
This soup, made with SO MANY ONIONS, cooked slowly and de-glazed several times to build flavor is definitely traditional French Onion Soup. It takes an entire afternoon, and you’re going to cry buckets while you cut 4 pounds of onions, but it is just so worth it. If you have the knife skills, or you want to work on your knife skills, I cant think of a better way to practice than on this dish. Just make sure to use your sharpest knife - the sharper the knife, the less you cry from cutting onions. On your next rainy weekend, take an afternoon and make this soup - you wont be sorry.
5 H & 30 M
Traditional French Onion Soup
- 4 pounds of onions, about 6 large, or 9 small, halved and sliced lengthwise, about ¼ inch thick.
- 3 tablespoon butter
- 2 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups of water, plus extra for deglazing
- ½ cup dry sherry
- 4 cups low sodium chicken broth
- 2 cups beef broth
- 6 sprigs of fresh thyme, tied together
- 1 bay leaf
- black pepper
- 1 small baguette, cut into ½ inch thick slices (cut to fit your cooking vessel)
- 2 cups gruyere cheese, shredded
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees, and place rack in lower middle position. Generously spray the inside of a large dutch oven (at least 7 quarts) with cooking spray. Add the sliced onions, butter and 1 teaspoon of the salt.
- Cook, covered, for 1 hour. Remove the pot, and stir, then return the pot to the oven with the lid slightly ajar, for another 1 ½ hours, stirring after 1 hour. Leave the oven on - you’ll use it again for the croutons.
- Remove pot from the oven, and place on a burner over medium high heat. Cook the onions, stirring frequently for 20 - 30 minutes, until the onions start to get very dark.
- Stir in ¼ cup of water, scraping the bottom of the pot to loosen any crust that has formed, and cook until the water evaporates, 5-7 minutes. Repeat this process another 2-3 times, until the onions are very dark brown.
- Stir in the sherry, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Stir in the two cups of water, beef broth and chicken broth, and add in the thyme and bay leaf, and the 2nd teaspoon of salt. Increase heat to high, bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
- While the soup is in the final simmering stage, arrange baguette slices on a baking sheet and and bake in the 400 degree oven until mostly dried out - about 10 minutes. Set aside.
- Adjust oven rack to 6 inches from the broiler.
- Set individual, broiler safe crocks or bowls on a lined baking sheet, and fill each with about 1 ½ - 1 ¾ cups of soup (or however much you need to fit the bowl you choose). Top with the dried baguette, and sprinkle with cheese.
- Broil for 3-5 minutes, keeping a close eye out to make sure the cheese doesn’t burn.
- Let cool for 5 minutes before eating.
After you get to step 6 in the soup making process, you will taste the soup and think it's not very good. This is totally normal. The magic happens when the bread and cheese is added in. They really do make the entire recipe work.