French Onion Soup: A Short Cut to Comfort

by Karen on Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Post image for French Onion Soup: A Short Cut to Comfort

This classic is one of my favorite dishes to have when the weather turns cold.  But it's often a disappointment– overly salty broth and undercooked onions and rubbery cheese.  Like most rustic French dishes, the dish celebrates humble ingredients but makes them truly sing with a lot of care and a lot of time.

It is very unlike me to ever take any shortcuts, especially when it comes to something that involves stocks and broths.  But this recipe is something you can make in a little over an hour which really beats making this soup from homemade beef stock– practically a day long undertaking.  And the results were delicious but more importantly you can enjoy them immediately, which nowadays is key for me.

The recipe still requires some patience in caramelizing the onions but doesn't need much babysitting, just a stir of the pot here and there.  All those brown caramelized bits that develop on the bottom of the pan are a good thing, so don't worry about needing to pay close attention to your onions.


– 2 tbsps of unsalted butter
– 5 medium red onions, sliced thin
– 5 cups of low-sodium chicken broth
– 2 cups of low-sodium beef broth
– 1/4 cup of dry red wine
– 2 springs of parsley
– 2 springs of fresh thyme
– 1 bay leaf
– 1 tbsp of balsamic vinegar
– kosher or sea salt
– freshly ground black pepper

Bread crust:

– 1 baguette, sliced 1/3 inch thick
– Swiss cheese, sliced
–  Aged gruyere, grated
* Use whatever cheeses you prefer, Asiago instead of Gruyere.  The combination of Swiss and aged Gruyere is a perfect mixture of stringy cheese and nutty and sweet Gruyere.

Heat the butter over medium-high heat in a dutch oven or thick bottom pot and add the onions.  Add a pinch of salt and stir to incorporate.  Place a lid over the onions so they start to sweat.  After about 5-10 minutes remove the lid and continue to cook the onions, stirring occasionally.

Cook for another 30 minutes until the onions become deep brown and caramelized.  Let the brown bits develop on the bottom of the pan.

Add the chicken and beef stock, bay leaf, thyme, parsley and wine and deglaze the bottom of the pot.  Bring to a boil and lower the heat to a simmer and cook for another 20 minutes.  Throw away the herbs and stir in the balsamic vinegar.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Turn the broiler on and ladle the soup into bowls.  Place two slices of bread on top and a slice of Swiss cheese on top.  Add the grated Gruyere cheese on top.  This creates a nutty surface and the Swiss underneath gives the soup its melty gooey goodness.

Place the bowls on a tray and place them under a broiler for about 10 minutes or until the top becomes nice and lightly browned.


(Recipe adapted from The New Best Recipe)



Belinda @zomppa November 15, 2011 at 6:05 am

Ooo so perfect for chilly nights – it’s perfect.

Lan November 15, 2011 at 6:59 am

i would take a serving of this, sans cheese, now that the weather has turned to crispy autumn.

Valerie November 15, 2011 at 9:39 am

You’re killing me Buster.

la domestique November 15, 2011 at 10:10 am

I’ve had French onion soup on my mind since a chilly fall breeze blew into Colorado, and this post has pushed me over the edge. I must have it as soon as possible. 🙂

Joy November 15, 2011 at 10:24 am

This sounds so perfect. My type of comfort food too!

Nadia November 15, 2011 at 10:57 am

This is one of my favorite soups, I just made it last week. I used red wine in mine too, it adds a wonderful richness. Love your photos, they’re some of my favorites. 🙂

Deana November 15, 2011 at 9:24 pm

Love it!

Caroline November 16, 2011 at 12:24 pm

Looks yummy! And simple.. my kind of meal!

Karen November 18, 2011 at 1:02 am

Thanks everyone for all your lovely comments– hope you make it soon!!

mycookinghut November 20, 2011 at 2:27 pm

This is my all time favourite!

Malvina November 21, 2011 at 5:30 pm

I LOVE onion soup. Your recipe looks delicious!
Unfortunately i’m in Brazil and it’s already hot as hell in here. I’ll have to wait until it’s winter again so I can try this 🙁

Susan November 22, 2011 at 10:32 am

That’s something I’d never think to make myself, thanks for this!

deana@lostpastremembered November 24, 2011 at 6:14 am

How perfect for cooler weather. I remember the first time I made onion soup from scratch. Took forever, tasted awful. Nothing like the ambrosial headiness of the Les Halles original meant to fortify on a dark early morning working at the market. Never tried it again!! I have a suspicion this recipe will change my luck… perhaps I will be brave and give it a go!

Christine November 28, 2011 at 7:27 pm

Hey Karen and Valerie, your French Onion Soup is a Recipe Guessing Game on Knapkins. Think your friends can win?

HRCK December 12, 2011 at 7:49 am

Never have attempted to make this before, but you have tickled a craving and now I must. Thanks for the instructions, and I can’t wait to get in the kitchen!

Elizabeth December 27, 2011 at 11:00 pm

I’m not much of a fan of FOS but my mom loves it. I guess I should make it for her sometime soon!

Kim January 1, 2012 at 10:58 am

I love French Onion Soup… so much so that whenever onions are on sale, I make a batch for myself. I’ve actually used balsamic vinegar too, I splash it in before adding the broth to deglaze every bit of the onion from the pot! No waste.

I like the shortcut!


stapha charleme January 9, 2012 at 12:45 pm

French onion soup is one of my favorite comfort foods…YUM!

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