O is for (French) Onion Soup

The closest grocery store was fresh out of octopus, and since I’m not Southern, okra was out of the question.  With the weather outside being so cold I can’t feel my fingers through my fleece-lined gloves, soup became the most appealing option.     


I’ve never actually eaten a bowl of French onion soup, despite traveling to France on two separate occasions, so I began by Googling what a traditional serving should look like.  The cheese on top surprised me—the name “French onion soup” doesn’t allude to anything about dairy!


Next came the Google search of the perfect recipe.  Although customarily topped with gruyere, I was utterly disappointed to find that nearly every single one called for Swiss instead.  I can’t stand Swiss.  Ever since I was little, I’ve always picked it off sandwiches.  To avoid a taste bud mutiny, I decided to slice a bit of Parmesan from the wedge sitting in my fridge instead.


Two other slight problems presented themselves.  First, every recipe I found served 6-8 people.  Last time I checked, I only counted as 1.  To prevent having enough leftovers to feed an army, I ended up dividing an 8-serving recipe by 4.  Second, the soup took 2 hours to simmer, longer than any timer will go in my kitchen, so I had to remember to add an additional 21 minutes to the timer after the first 99 were up.   (Has anyone else ever felt completely silly punching in “99:00” on their microwave timer??)


I managed not to tear up chopping the onions—an absolute miracle—and they turned a wonderful golden brown as they caramelized.  After letting the onions and broth simmer for the full 2 hours, I poured a bowl, topped it with toasted bread and Parmesan, and placed it under the broiler.


Although unconventional, the Parmesan added the perfect amount of saltiness to the delicious soup, and I wanted to eat the second bowl I had reserved for my dinner the next night!  If I ever make it back to France, I’m definitely going to try their version, but in the meantime, I’m going to make many more batches of this French onion soup.


French Onion Soup

taken and modified from Cooking Light’s French Onion Soup

serves 2 as a side, or 1 as a meal

Be sure to let the soup sit for a few minutes before serving.  The broiler really heats up the bowls so they’ll be hard to handle (and you’d burn your tongue), but the soup will stay steaming hot!

¼ – ½ tsp olive oil

1 red onion, sliced vertically

¼ tsp sugar

¼ tsp ground black pepper

⅛ tsp salt

1 (14 oz) can beef broth

⅛ tsp dried thyme

1 slice French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes

4-5 thin slices of Parmesan cheese (enough to cover the top)

  1. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add onion and sauté for 5 minutes, or until it begins to turn translucent.  Add sugar, salt, and pepper.  Turn down the heat to medium and continue to sauté for around 20 minutes.  Increase heat back to medium-high and cook until onions turn golden brown, stirring often.
  2. Add thyme and sauté an additional minute.  Add broth, cover, and reduce heat to medium-low.  Let the soup simmer for 2 hours.
  3. Preheat broiler.  Toast bread cubes for 4 minutes, turning them over halfway through.
  4. Divide the soup into two bowls and top with toasted bread.  Lay the cheese on top, and put back under the broiler for 3 minutes until the cheese is bubbling and golden.  Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.


January 9, 2011. Tags: , , , , , . Alphabet Adventure.


  1. C. replied:

    Wow! Your soup looks beautiful in the ramekin. Extra credit on presentation!

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