Last week I promised french onion soup. This week I delivered. It’s currently slightly warm out for February but I promise you when I made this last week it was frosty the NO-man. French onion soup is one of those delicious dishes that reminds me of the best parts of my childhood. I took a trip to Quebec City with my family when I must have only been 8 or 9 years old. I remember loving it and I also remember having the BEST french onion soup. It’s basically a delicious onion gravy topped with bread and cheese. It’s the closest thing I’ll ever get to a poutine soup, and I like that about it. I also have a memory of staying at a Best Western on one of our family trips. I ordered the french onion soup and my sophisticated child palette said “Um, what the heck is this crap?!” It was watery yet overly salted and I don’t even recall any cheese on top. I learned a very important lesson of when and where it was appropriate to order french onion soup. Sorry Best Western, you didn’t make the cut!
I eventually learned how to make it myself and I must say this last batch I created was the best I’ve ever had. THE BEST. My boyfriend is not a huge fan of soup (but I make it all the time anyway because I love it and he can just suck it up. Literally and figuratively.) However, he couldn’t get enough of this stuff.
Julia’s Super Sexy French Onion Soup
Ingredients (Serves 4)
1 large cartoon reduced sodium beef stock (or be a hero and make your own?)
5 medium sized cooking onions, sliced
1 large shallot, sliced
5 cloves garlic, chopped
Glug of olive oil
1 tbsp dried thyme
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup red wine
Sharp cheddar, gruyere, emmental, asiago, mozzarella or whatever ya want.
Pre-heat oven to 400.
Pour a glug of olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Toss in the onions and shallots. Once they have some colour-about 5-7 minutes-turn down the heat and let them caramelize, stirring every couple of minutes. I let my onions cook for about 40 minutes, because I had time. The longer you cook them the sweeter they will be. I then added my garlic and let it go for another 5-10 minutes. I like putting my garlic in way later so it doesn’t burn and all the garlicky flavour doesn’t dissipate. Deglaze with a couple splashes of balsamic vinegar and add your thyme, a pinch of salt and a generous amount of pepper. Then add your wine and let simmer for a few minutes. This will get all the bits off the bottom of the pan. I even used de-alcoholized red wine for this (because I wasn’t drinking at the time and that’s what I had on hand) and it worked perfectly. Add your beef stock, bring to a boil and then let simmer on low for at least 10 minutes or until you’re ready to eat. At that point transfer the soup to oven safe bowls and top with a thick layer of crusty bread and a generous amount of the cheese of your choice. Put the bowls on a baking sheet (to catch any spill over) and put in oven for 10-15 minutes, until the cheese is beautiful and bubbly. Dig in and try not to burn your mouth. (I recommend making a hole in the cheese to let the steam out!)
The balsamic vinegar takes this soup to a whole new level and adds another layer of richness. It was so comforting, rich and delicious. This is totally something you could make ahead and serve at a dinner party as an appetizer.
I have a friend who urged me to make a vegan version of this. I think it would be very scrumptious made with vegetable broth and a sprinkling of nutritional yeast instead of cheese. I’d stay away from daiya vegan cheese because it just isn’t the same and I fear it would ruin the beautiful broth.
I hope you had a wonderful time eating with me! If you end up making this, let me know how it turns out. I love feedback and comments. Enjoy the warmish weather today because I have a feeling February will turn into a very cold beast.