This rich broth-based soup is topped with a cheesy crust that you will guard with your spoon…or knife. No sharing allowed.
Are you wondering why I stated “Baked” in the title? I learned a lesson once when I ordered French Onion Soup at a restaurant. I assumed all versions were the same and all versions came with a thick, crusty topping of melted, gooey cheese. I assumed they all had a dark, beefy broth. I assumed they were all following the same recipe all over the globe and why would someone ever deviate from perfection. I assumed…incorrectly.
At some restaurants….if their French Onion Soup is not baked….it is not topped with cheese and stuffed under the broiler. That version is missing the most defining part of the soup for me. HOW can someone skip cheese? Doesn’t the entire population live to put cheese on everything?
You can imagine my confusion when I ordered this soup at a restaurant one day and the cheese was MISSING! I may or may not have looked at the waitress like she had six heads while trying to figure out if she had gotten my order wrong. Nope, she did her job perfectly and brought me the exact soup I ordered. I ate it, wallowing in my disappointment, weeping a little inside that it was missing my favorite part. It was still fantastic, the buttery onions were perfectly caramelized and the broth was deeply flavored. It could have been the best French Onion Soup ever but I could only focus on the fact that the cheese was missing.
So, the moral of the story is….if you order this soup in a restaurant and it doesn’t state that it is baked….ask. Ask if it’s blanketed with a thick layer of cheese and baked in the oven to an oozey goodness that makes it difficult to eat….because that’s what makes it amazing.
Or you can make it at home. Which is what I did.
French Onion Soup is super simple to make at home and so impressive to share with guests. It does take a while to cook the onions down but you can do this in advance and then store in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve. Don’t become all impatient and short the cooking time on the onions. You want a deep caramel color before you add the liquids. This gives the broth that rich flavor that’s so prominent in the restaurant versions I’ve had.
Bonus points for the freezability of this soup. AND if you really want to…you can skip the cheese. I won’t mind. That’s more cheese for me. I love to serve this soup for lunch with a crisp green salad like THIS Grilled Chicken and Peach Spinach Salad.
Baked French Onion Soup
- 4 large vidalia onions, sliced into 1/2 inch rings
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
- 1/4 cup dry red wine (I used Cabernet)
- 6 cups low sodium beef stock
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 cups grated Gruyere cheese
- 1 baguette, sliced into 1/2 inch slices (you will need 4)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Brush both sides of the baguette slices with olive oil and place on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes and then turn over. Bake for an additional 10 minutes or until golden. Transfer to a wire rack and cool to room temperature.
- In a large dutch oven or heavy bottomed stock pot, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat until melted and starting to bubble. Add the onions to the pot and cook until softened stirring occasionally. Add the salt, pepper and sugar stirring to combine and continue cooking until the onions are a deep caramel color, approximately 45-50 minutes. Stir in the thyme and red wine. Continue cooking until the red wine has evaporated and then add the beef stock and bay leaves. Bring the mixture to a boil and then turn the heat to low. Simmer over low heat for 10 minutes to allow the flavors to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Ladle the soup into four oven-safe crocks or bowls. Top each bowl with one slice of baguette and 1/2 cup of cheese. Broil the soup under the broiler on low until the cheese is melted and golden. Serve immediately.
- Note: The soup can be made in advance and stored in an airtight container refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen for up to 2 months. Heat the soup over low heat and then follow the directions for serving. (beginning with Ladle the soup...)