By Nancy Olah
On a bitter cold day, there is nothing better than a bowl of French Onion Soup. Unfortunately, this is one of the soups I can never order in a restaurant because it is always made with beef stock.
I’ve updated the recipe from Fool a Carnivore to include a terrific product that I didn’t know about in 2012 when I wrote my cookbook.
I’d love to introduce you to Better Than Bouillon No Beef Base.
Although it’s been a long, long time since I ate anything with beef stock, I think that this economical product makes a “beef broth” that tastes surprisingly meaty – and my carnivores last night agreed!
In revamping my recipe, I made some key changes from the recipe in my cookbook. I increased the amount of sliced onions to 8 cups (and used a mix of sweet Vidalia onions and yellow storage onions) . . .
and reduced the liquid to 6 cups.
I also realized that my original version didn’t use accurate times for sautéing the onions. I timed myself, and can tell you that it will take you about an hour to saute the onions in a covered skillet over very low heat,
and then almost another hour (uncovered, and over slightly higher heat) to get them to the golden brown hue – that is the point when the smell of the browning onions will permeate your home and begin to taste so complex and tantalizing.
This is a time-consuming preparation, but for me, there is no more rewarding way to spend a chilly winter afternoon than making this delectable soup for my family and friends.
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (divided use)
- 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (divided use)
- 7-8 large onions, very thinly sliced (about 8 cups)
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- ¾ teaspoon sugar
- 3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 cups vegetable stock
- 4 cups water
- 4 teaspoons Better Than Buillion – No Beef Base
- 1 cup red wine
- 3 bay leaves
- 3 sage leaves
- 3–4 sprigs thyme
- 3–4 sprigs parsley
- 2 tablespoons cognac (optional)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Baguette or a good quality loaf of French bread
- 4–5 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated
- 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- Heat a large, deep-sided skillet, and add 3 tablespoons of the butter and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the thinly sliced onions and stir to coat them with the melted butter and oil. Cover and cook over very low heat for about 60 minutes until the onions are translucent and very tender. Lift the lid every 5 minutes or so and give them a stir. They should reduce in volume slightly and give off an incredibly succulent aroma.
- Uncover the skillet and turn the heat up a few notches. Add the sea salt and sugar, both of which will help the onions caramelize. Cook for another 60 minutes or so, stirring until the onions are a lovely golden brown and greatly reduced in volume.
- Reduce the heat again, add the remaining tablespoon butter, and stir the flour into the nicely browned onions. Cook for a minute or two. While you're doing this, heat your stock and add the hot water and Better than Bouillon base. You should have a total of 6 cups of liquid.
- Add the liquid gradually and stir well to make sure the flour doesn't lump. Add the wine, bay leaves, sage, thyme, parsley, optional cognac, and freshly ground black pepper. Let the soup simmer for about 30-45 minutes (or put it in the slow cooker on low for a couple of hours). Remove the bay leaves, sage, thyme, parsley, and adjust seasonings.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Slice the baguette into ½-inch thick slices. Put the slices on a lightly greased baking sheet, and brush the slices lightly with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Bake them for about 15 minutes or so, until they are golden. Remove from the oven and let them cool on a wire rack. Julia Child says that these are called croûtes (similar to an overgrown crouton, but actually more like an Italian crostini in appearance).
- Lightly grease individual ramekins or ovenproof soup bowls with a little olive oil or butter. Put them on another baking sheet. Grate your cheeses and combine them.
- Put 1 or 2 of the croûtes in the bottom of the individual ramekins or bowls so that they cover the bottom. Sprinkle with cheese, and then ladle in a little of the delicious soup. Add another layer of croûtes, more cheese, and then more soup. End with a layer of croûtes and cheese at the top of the bowl. Put them in the oven for about 20 minutes until the cheese is bubbling. Remove them from the oven and let them cool for a few minutes. The soup will be scalding hot, so don't burn your tongue!
- Serves 4–6
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