Turn sweet onions into homemade French Onion Soup. It's a great project for a lazy afternoon, and dinner will be delicious!
The saga of my homemade French Onion soup started with miscommunication.
I have a Dear Husband (DH, for short) who is caring, considerate, and he makes me laugh. Frequently. Every so often he will go grocery shopping for me, but I have to be very specific about what items I need. And when I’m not specific enough…well…you can guess the rest.
Be specific with grocery lists
I had put onions on our grocery list, and by that I meant the basic yellow-brown onions that are in many dishes (although I didn’t specify that on the list). My DH initially bought two of what he thought were the right onions, only to hear from me that what he bought were Vidalia (i.e. sweet) onions. Not what I wanted, but no big deal…I could find a use for them. But I still needed onions.
I’m going to stop here to say that we use an iPhone app called AnyList for our grocery lists so that any member of our household can add items to the various stores' lists as needed. There is also an area for comments and quantity for each item (it’s a really useful app!).
I had trained my family long ago that if it isn’t on the list, I don’t buy it. I say this so that you know that when my DH went to the store for me, he had the list on his phone and wasn’t just relying on an outdated paper list or (gasp!) memory.
Anyway, back to the onions…a week later my DH decided to go grocery shopping again because I had just started training in a new job and didn’t have time to get to the store (I told you, he’s very considerate!).
This time he saw the memo I put on our grocery list app that I wanted yellow onions (three this time). He confidently came home with yellow onions…and…well, sweet onions are yellowish on the outside while regular onions are brown on the outside, yellow on the inside. See where I’m going?
What to do with sweet onions
So what do you do when life hands you five sweet onions? Do you make onion-ade? No, you make homemade French Onion Soup (finally, back to the point!).
The sweetness of these onions really shines through when you slowly caramelize them, and it complements the sweetness of the sherry and nuttiness of the melted cheese.
How to make French Onion Soup
Plan to set aside an afternoon to make the recipe because you want to caramelize the onions low and slow (cold, rainy Sundays are designed for this type of cooking).
Yes, I cried when I sliced the onions, but at least using the aforementioned mandolin slicer let me do it quickly. And yes, it's important to use the food guard...you want to keep your fingers away from those sharp blades!
Start by sweating the onions until they release all their water. Then turn the heat to low, and let them turn soft, melted, and golden brown without burning.
After deglazing the pot with wine, adding in beef stock and letting it simmer, it'll be time to finish off the soup.
Toast some baguettes, top with cheese, then melt the cheese. You can use your oven broiler, but I have fun with my chef's torch. It's not often I get to play with fire.
By the way, if you want another use for the chef's torch, you can make a foolproof Slow Cooker Crème Brûlée while the onions are cooking down. Low and slow heat is ideal for baking custard gently. Then adding a crunchy sugar crust makes for a winning treat!
Sweet onions at their best
Your reward for a long, lazy afternoon's work will be a delicious, cozy dinner. Homemade French Onion soup is wonderful to share on a cold day with someone you love.
And to my wonderful DH, thanks for all you do for me!
Slainté! L’chaim! Cheers!
Homemade French Onion Soup
- enameled cast iron pot
- kitchen twine
- 5 tbsp unsalted butter, divided, see Recipe Notes (2½ oz, 70g)
- 3 lbs Vidalia onions, about 4 medium, halved lengthwise, peeled, and thinly sliced
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 1½ cups dry white wine, (12 oz, 336g)
- 4 cups homemade beef stock, or store-bought low-sodium beef broth (32 oz, 900g)
- 2 cups water, (16 oz, 454g)
- 10 sprigs thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 baguette
- 1 garlic cloves, cut in half lengthwise
- 2 tsp sherry, preferably Fino or Manzanilla, see Recipe Notes
- 1 cup Gruyère or Emmentaler cheese, grated (4 oz, 113g)
- Thinly slice the onions using a mandolin slicer. Be sure to use the food guard to protect your fingers.
- Melt 3 tablespoons butter over medium heat in an enameled cast-iron pot (or another heavy pot with a lid). Add the onions, sprinkle with 2 tsps of salt, then cover and cook until the onions have heated through and started to steam.
- Uncover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and cook, stirring occasionally. Season with several grinds of pepper. Allow the onions to slowly caramelize, about 1 to 1-1/2 hours.
- When the onions have completely cooked down, the water has cooked off, and the onions have turned amber, add wine and raise heat to high. Cook until almost all liquid has evaporated, about 8 to 10 minutes.
- Tie thyme and bay leaves into a bundle with twine. Add the stock, water, and herb bundle to the pot with onions. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook, uncovered, until the soup is thickened and flavorful, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove the pot from heat and whisk in the remaining 2 Tbsps of butter. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. If desired, you can add 1/2 tsp sugar if the soup isn’t sweet enough.
- Heat the broiler or have a toaster ready. Cut two 1/2-inch baguette slices for every serving of soup. Toast the slices in the toaster or place the slices on a half sheet baking pan and toast in oven until crisp and dry but not browned, about 1 minute per side. Rub one side of each toast with the garlic clove and set aside.
- To finish the soup, add 1/2 teaspoon of sherry to the bottom of four oven safe ramekins, and ladle the soup on top. Top each serving of soup with two garlic-rubbed toasts. Divide the cheese among the servings, covering the bread and some of the soup. Carefully broil the tops of the soup with a chef's torch until cheese is melted and bubbling, or place the ramekins on the half sheet baking pan and transfer to oven to broil and melt the cheese, 4 to 8 minutes. See Recipe Notes for finishing the soup in non-oven-safe soup bowls.
- Serve and enjoy your afternoon's labors!