Soul-Warming French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup After all the slurping, sighing, and, yes, even bowl-licking through tonight’s French Onion Soup, my husband put down his spoon (licked that clean, too), sat back in contentment and said, “Thank you, honey. That was soul-warming”.

He’s been generous with compliments these past 21-years, but that was his first “soul warming” comment. I figured, before I forgot how I’d created the soup, I’d better write it down ASAP. My blog is quickly becoming my recipe box, my laptop residing on a little corner of my center island.

Lately,the problem seems to be that I’ve become a little too free-wheeling and creative for my children’s taste, never making the same dish the same way. So many variations, so little time, is my viewpoint. Their viewpoint is less flexible, “Mom, this isn’t the same as Last Time, you know, The Time, when it was REALLY good?”

It would seem that continuity, consistency and tradition, are the most important ingredients to them, more than my creative-license, so on that note, I’d better type the recipe…

Oh, by the way – the foundation of this, at one time way-back-when, was Julia Child’s classic French Onion Soup. Wanting to refresh my perspective, I took a spin around the internet, hoping to find her original. Instead, it appears many lay claim to their recipe being Julia’s, but the variations are endless. Some contained sage, which doesn’t sound appetizing, as much as I love sage. Another contained red, not white wine. That sounded even less correct. When I found one with vermouth, synapses started firing in my brain, and other memory-tastes came back – Armagnac, thyme, and garlic, all of which made tonight’s soup so “soul-warming”, but still, not traditional “Julia”.

Soul-Warming French Onion Soup

  • 4 T butter
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 8 cups thinly-sliced yellow onions
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp raw sugar
  • 2 T all-purpose flour
  • 8 cups home-made beef stock
  • 2 cups home-made chicken stock
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme*
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/4-cup Armagnac (love it!), Cognac, (love it!) or Brandy (only if it is very expensive!)
  • 1 cup dry white French vermouth (do not go on the cheap as it will ruin the dish)
  • 1/2-inch slices lightly toasted real sourdough bread (enough for 1-slice per bowl)
  • Grated Gruyere Cheese (enough for 1/3-cup per 1-bowl)
  1. Slice onions with a 2mm blade if using a Cuisinart food processor
  2. Gently melt butter in a heavy-bottom dutch oven. I use a Le Creuset 7 1/4-Quart Round French Oven
  3. Add oil to the melted butter, followed by the onions
  4. Keep heat on low, occasionally stirring onions, making sure they don’t stick and burn to bottom, until they turn translucent, about 20-minutes.
  5. Stir in sugar and salt, and raise heat to medium-low (if using enamel cookware which does better with lower flames) or medium, if using stainless steel
  6. Stir onions frequently and cook until they are a medium-dark brown – approximately 25-40 minutes
  7. In the meantime, make sure at least 4 cups of stock is heated to a simmer.
  8. Sprinkle flour into the onions and stir for another 2-3 minutes, cooking flour.
  9. Stir in 4 cups of hot stock, stirring to blend into flour, cook for another 2-3 minutes.
  10. Add thyme, garlic, remaining stock and Armagnac/Cognac or Brand, plus Vermouth
  11. Cover loosely and simmer on lowest setting for 1 1/2 hours.
  12. If needed, add water if liquid reduces too much.
  13. The flavors become richer and more full-bodied if made the day ahead.
  14. When ready to serve, make sure soup is hot, ladle into oven-proof bowls, cover with slice of bread (remove crusts to fit), and sprinkle on cheese. Place under broiler for 1 1/2 to 3 minutes, depending on broiler, until cheese is melted and lightly bubbling.

Slightly reminiscent of French Onion Soup in “The Way to Cook”, Julia Child, Alfred Knopf, 1989. ISBN 0-394-53264-3