The Soup Blog
Recipes, Culinary Insights & Humor Spooned Up Fresh Every Week…………………(Now in its Ice Cream Phase)
Right for Spring: French Onion Soup
Categories: Cheese, Dairy, Onion

French onions showing a lot of skin, typical!

I cut things a bit close this week.

My family and I had been on the road all last week for spring break and when we got back I had to come up with a soup fast. My first instinct was to go classic—a time-tested soup I could whip up in no time at all.

The only problem was that I’ve already done most of those. These soups are what we in the farming business (Yes, I am. 1 ½ times removed) call “low hanging fruit.”

I’ve done chicken noodle, vegetable beef and tomato. I’ve done gazpacho, carrot and minestrone. As I look back on the past year plus, I find I’ve done a lot of soups.

What I haven’t done, in most cases, is a straight rendition of these classics. I haven’t done a gay version either, in case that’s what you were thinking. Soups with sexual orientation? Come on, people.

What I mean is that I typically start with a classic soup and then do my own thing with it. My only tomato soup thus far was not your classic Campbell’s variety, nor was it the current favorite tomato basil. It had tomatoes and basil in it, but it was also flavored with balsamic vinegar and mozzarella. My vegetable beef soup started by marinating the meat in lime juice. And my French onion soup morphed into a Vietnamese-ish concoction with fresh strips of beef added to the hot broth right before service.

This time, however, I’m playing it straight, um more traditional-like.

At a recent trip to Costco, I’d bought one of those gigantic bags of sweet onions, so all that was left was a quick jaunt to Trader Joe’s to find some Gruyere cheese and vermouth.

French enough for you?

The soup began with four huge onions and six cups of stock but the resulting flavor was much too thin. Next I added another large onion and cooked the soup down so there was a lot less liquid and a lot more flavor. Then I added the white wine. Vermouth is a good choice because it’s dry but not at all fruity. You want something to offset the sweetness of the onions not reinforce it. Vermouth does that. The addition of the final ingredient, grated Gruyere, added an extra level of complexity and made the soup even heartier and quite delicious.

It was also quite French.

Now, I don’t know where you come down on the whole French Fries vs. Freedom Fries thing, but you’ve got to give the French credit in the kitchen.

I certainly do.

And since I just returned from DC, Mount Vernon and colonial Williamsburg, I also got a refresher course about how important French intervention was during the Revolutionary War. (Not that they wanted to help us so much as stick it to the Brits.)

So forget about French fries, we should be calling them pommes frites.

Although I’m definitely sticking with spring break, Les vacances de printemps is just too much of a mouthful.

French Onion Soup
(serves 6-8)
1T canola oil
5 large onions, peeled, quartered and sliced
4-5 cups stock
1 cup dry vermouth
salt & pepper to taste

1 cup Gruyere cheese, grated
1. Heat the oil in a 3-5 quart soup pot, add onions and sauté over medium heat until soft.
2. Add the stock and vermouth and seasonings to taste, bring the soup to a boil then reduce it to a simmer for 30-45 minutes or until the soup has a consistency you like.
3. Fold in the cheese and heat through.
4. To serve, place a slice of crusty bread or toast in the bottom of a bowl and spoon the soup on top of it. Grate fresh cheese over the soup to garnish and serve warm.

Image Credit: “Onions: Au Naturel” from a photograph by the author.

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