The Way out here: in the kitchen

Crying over French onion soup

Posted 9/23/20

I was in tears. Not because I was upset, but because I was laughing. Why was I laughing? Well because my wife was crying. Before you think ill of me, she was also laughing but unable to quell the …

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The Way out here: in the kitchen

Crying over French onion soup


I was in tears. Not because I was upset, but because I was laughing. Why was I laughing? Well because my wife was crying. Before you think ill of me, she was also laughing but unable to quell the tears as she sliced pungent and yet savory onions. As she passed the guard of the mandoline back and forth, the tears rolled down her comedically distressed cheeks as she struggled to wipe them away on her shirt sleeve and finish the task. Having been under the weather with a touch of fall allergies, I initially thought she was making onion tea—a go-to cure-all for any sinus-related illnesses in our household that is simply chopped onion in boiling water. However, this was not her objective.

As she sliced the onions, she dumped them into a ceramic-coated dutch oven. On low heat, the onions began to caramelize and turn a delicious looking shade of brown as they steamed the room with onion vapor and kept both my wife’s and my waterworks a flowin’. The juices from the onions began to build in the bottom of the pot, and as they reached an even caramelization after about 20 or 30 minutes, she added a little olive oil to keep them from burning and sticking. A touch of garlic from the neighbor’s field was minced and added to the caramelized mixture. Then came the flour and a half a cup of white wine to de-glaze the surface of the pot. After cooking and stirring until the flour was well integrated, she reached for the beef stock and additional spices to begin what would become the broth of the soup. By now, I was getting thoroughly hungry and only then contemplated the benefit of baking a fresh loaf of bread to be toasted and made into a crostini with melted cheese for the soup, but unfortunately, it was too late to start a dough.

With the lid on, the soup simmered for an additional 10 minutes or so before the onions were completely cooked and the soup was ready. While the name and robust flavor of this soup may intimidate some, this bountiful broth is far more achievable than your doubts would have you believe. Not only does it take less than an hour to prepare from scratch, it requires only a handful of basic ingredients readily available here in reaches of our cozy woods. For anyone with a bumper crop of onions, it is a great idea, especially as the days shorten and the nights snap colder with every passing day. For you folks working to close up the garden and make the most of the fall before it decides to end in a hurry, keep your bones warm with a thermos of this on hand or just a bowl at the end of a long day. As I briefly mentioned before, it goes best with a nice thick piece of toast with melted cheese on it floating in the bowl. We use a thick-cut piece of French bread, oven-roasted with some Muenster cheese on top.

Trust me, the way out here tastes a lot better with some cheesy toast. My wife wants me to clarify: this is called a crostini. I want to clarify that what I lack in fancy words I make up for with a food critic’s resume—aka my belly.

French onion soup

4 pounds yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons butter (or olive oil)
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup dry white wine
6 cups beef stock (or veggie stock)
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs fresh thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
Baguette or French bread
Sliced cheese (Gruyere, Asiago, Swiss, Gouda, or Mozarella)

The first step is to caramelize the onions. In a large heavy-bottomed stockpot, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté for about 30 minutes until caramelized (but not burnt), initially stirring every 3 to 5 minutes, then about once a minute near the end of caramelization to prevent burning. Add garlic and sauté for 2 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook for an additional 1 minute. Stir in the wine to deglaze the pan, using a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan.

The second step is to simmer the soup. Add the stock, Worcestershire, bay leaf and thyme and stir to combine. Continue to cook until the soup reaches a simmer. Then reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for at least 10 minutes. Discard the bay leaf and sprigs of thyme. Taste the soup and season with salt and pepper as needed.

Then, toast the bread. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. While the soup is simmering, slice the baguette into 1-inch thick pieces and arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes until the bread is toasted and golden around the edges. Remove and set aside.

Finally, broil the topping. Switch the oven to the broiler. Once the soup is ready to serve, place your oven-safe bowls on a thick baking sheet. Ladle the soup into each bowl, then top with a baguette slice and your desired amount of cheese (I used about 1/4 cup shredded cheese for each). Place on an oven rack about 6 inches from the heat and broil for 2 to 4 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. (Keep a close eye on them so that they do not burn.) Remove from the oven and serve immediately while the soup is hot and bubbly.

Recipe courtesy of


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