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French Onion Soup (Soupe à l'Oignon Gratinée)

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

On particularly cold and snowy Colorado mid-February days, we crave steaming hot bowls of French onion soup made from Julia Child’s original cookbook—and there will always be cheese. 

However, in the 2018 spirit of testing new ways of preparing cherished dishes, we decided to try an interesting recipe that still adheres to Julia’s lengthy caramelizing of yellow onions before slow cooking with homemade chicken or beef broth and quality sherry.

Daniel Gritzer’s French Onion Soup recipe was just what we were looking for. This favorite food blog provides audacious, inventive, well-made, and delicious recipes, along with some hard-core food science and trailblazing techniques. Daniel includes a small amount of Asian fish sauce and apple cider vinegar to his French onion soup, which added new layers of umami depth and complexity to this classic cold weather soup. 

We promise you will add SeriousEATS to your list of website recipe favorites, if you haven’t done so already. We also promise that you will enjoy the founder Ed Levine’s weekly podcast conversations with well-known foodies about cooking, recipes, nutrition and other stuff.


Ingredients for six servings

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for toasts

3 pounds yellow or mixed onions, sliced 1/8-inch thick 

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup dry sherry

2 quarts homemade or store-bought chicken or beef stock, or vegetable stock for vegetarians, however I find it tastier with chicken or beef stock, or a combination of both

2 to 4 sprigs fresh thyme

1 bay leaf

1 or 2 teaspoons Asian fish sauce 

1 or 2 teaspoons cider vinegar

8 bowl-size slices rustic bread, toasted until crisp

1 medium clove garlic

1 pound Gruyere cheese, grated

freshly minced chives, for garnish


In a large stainless steel or cast iron saucepan, or two large skillets, melt butter over medium-high heat until foaming. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about eight minutes. Lower heat to medium low and cook, stirring frequently until onions are very sweet and a rich golden brown color, one to two hours. 

An aside: We knew Daniel was on the right track when his recipe suggested slowly caramelizing the onions for that length of time, since in true Julia form, this part of the flavor-building process can never be hurried.  

If browned onion juices on the bottom of the pot threaten to burn, add one tablespoon of water, scrape up the browned bits, and continue cooking. Season with salt and pepper. Add sherry and bring to a simmer, scraping up any browned bits (if using two skillets, divide sherry between them, then scrape onions and liquid from both pans into a pot or Dutch oven to continue). 

Cook until alcohol smell is mostly gone, about three minutes. Add stock, thyme, and bay leaf, raise heat to medium high and bring to a simmer. Lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

Add fish sauce and cider vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Discard thyme stems and bay leaf.

Preheat broiler and move oven rack to top position. Butter toasts, and rub with garlic clove until fragrant. Spoon a small amount of broth into the bottoms of four oven-proof serving bowls, then top with half the toasts. 

Sprinkle some grated cheese on top of toasts, then spoon more soup and onions on top, nearly filling the bowls. Set the remaining four toasts in each bowl, pushing to nearly submerge them. Top with remaining grated cheese and set bowls on a rimmed baking sheet. Broil until cheese is melted and browned in spots. Garnish with chives and serve.

This properly made, cold-winter-day soup is exciting, emotional health dense, tender and comforting, and it stimulates friends, family, and any Valentine's Day crush to want to sample more of your layers of flavor food this special week. 

Ellen Troyer, with David Amess and the Biosyntrx staff