Good, simple, French Onion Soup

A couple of weeks ago, Hello Fresh sent me and the missus a French Onion Soup meal.  It was okay.  My biggest problem was that they tried to satisfy as many customers as possible and ended up with a less satisfying meal by substituting mushroom stock for the more traditional beef stock.  And I said as much to the Lovely Bride.  She was skeptical and didn't think it was bad at all.

So I decided to "fix" the recipe on my own.  And this is one of the reasons I really like Hello Fresh.  It may cost between a (inexpensive) restaurant meal and what you'd pay if you shopped for the groceries yourself, but you can keep the recipe card and shop for the groceries yourself in the future if you really like it.  Or... in this case, want to make it better.

So I bought the following:
Two large sweet onions (they had used yellow onions, which are fine, but I prefer the really big, sweets)
Beef bullion cubes
a small (150g) block of Gruyere
a cheap loaf of french bread

And I already had oil, butter, vinegar, sugar, salt & pepper at home.  What this recipe really requires is time.  Like a half hour just for caramelizing the onions.  So here's what you do.

Prep: thinly slice the onions (I used my mandolin), and heat up 4 cups of water and dissolve 4 cubes in the water.  Or simply use 4 cups beef stock/broth if you prefer.  Shred or thinly slice the gruyere and cut 6-8 rounds of bread at about 1/2" thick slices from the loaf.

1. In a big pot, over medium-high heat, heat a drizzle of oil and when it's up to temp, melt in about 2 T of butter.  Add in the onions and about 1 tsp of salt.  Cook for 10 minutes stirring occasionally.  Add a splash of water if the onions start to burn.

2. Next, pour in a 1/4 cup of water (or white wine if you prefer) and scrape any bits off the bottom of the pot then cook the onions for 10 more minutes without stirring (this is important).

3. Pour in another 1/4 cup of water (or white wine), scrape the bits from the bottom, and look in wonder as your onions turn a nice brown color.  Cook them for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally and splashing in water if they start to burn.  The onions should turn a very dark brown.

4. While that's cooking, top the rounds of bread with the cheese and toast them in the broiler until the cheese gets melty and the bread toasts on the edges.

4. Pour in 1-2 T of vinegar (sherry or white wine vinegar is what I've used, red wine vinegar or white vinegar would probably be fine too) and 2 T of sugar with the onions.  Cook for 2-3 minutes until jammy.

5. Add in the 4 cups of beef bullion/stock/broth and cook 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, for the flavors to blend.  If you want to doctor your soup up, now's the time to do it with fresh thyme, worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, fish sauce, or whatever strikes your fancy.  I hit mine with a couple splashes of dark soy sauce for color and umami flavor.  I'd probably have instead put in 1-2 T of worcestershire sauce if I had it.

Bowl it up, put in 1-2 rounds of Gruyere toast in each and enjoy.  It was ridiculously good, much better than what we had the first time.  It was even better reheated days later.


Texan99 said...

Onion soup is pretty good even if you use plain water. I caramelize the onions for an hour or more, which means that a giant 2-gallon pan full of fresh sliced onions shrinks down to just a few cups of dense, dark-brown caramelized onions. The main thing is to float some nice bread on top with good toasted cheese: Gruyere, Swiss, many kinds will do.

MikeD said...

I was just impressed at how good it was for being so cheap. I mean, the most expensive ingredient was the cheese. Nothing else was more than $2.

Texan99 said...

Peasant food, the good stuff.

My damage at the cash register is always surprisingly low when all I'm buying is raw ingredients. It's the cleaning supplies and pharmaceuticals that run up the tab.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I also carmelise a lot of onions and put them aside to be used over the next few weeks. Ditto garlic. I used to be very careful about not burning those onions as the moisture cooked out of them, but learned that my wife prefers many of her foods to be burnt.

douglas said...

Sounds good, Mike!

"Peasant food, the good stuff."
Amen to that.

"my wife prefers many of her foods to be burnt"
I don't prefer things burnt, but I certainly don't mind a bit of carbon to round out the flavors and textures. But then, I also like my coffee black, and my beer dark, so that's the direction my palette prefers.

Texan99 said...

My mother was that way: she liked things not just toasted but really burnt. She would roast peanuts in the oven until they were nearly black! I mean peanuts for her own consumption. She did try to cook our food with the tastes of her audience in mind, but I don't think she understood why we didn't like the same flavors she did. She was fond of extremely salty dishes, too, like creamed chipped beef or hard-cured country ham that was barely reconstituted. At the time it was inconvenient, but now I look back on her eccentric tastes with affection, and compassion for what it must be like to marry into a family already full of children.

MikeD said...

I made it again last night because the wife wasn't feeling well and I couldn't decide what else to have for dinner. Still tasty.