There is nothing cozier during the cold month of October than a bubbly, cheesy cup of savory French Onion soup. It makes your whole house smell delicious, and it’s perfect for eating in front of the fire. This is my favorite way to make the classic, and it might be your new favorite, too– complete with crunchy homemade croutons that soak up the soup and transform to otherworldly little toasts, covered in melty quesadilla cheese. Yes, I said quesadilla cheese– it’s a mild cheese meant to be melted and stretched in gooey strands from your bowl all the way to your mouth, and it is divine in this soup.
One of the keys to success is to refrain from rushing the onions– let them get uniformly golden on their own time. This recipe takes a bit of time from beginning to end (around 3 hours) but not a lot of attention, and the leftovers will keep your heart and belly warm for up to a week (or longer, if you freeze it).
You will need:
5 yellow onions (about 3 pounds)
6 tablespoons butter
1 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp garlic powder
2 T brandy or sherry
1 C white wine
1 T beef bullion concentrate
1 T soy sauce
2 T Worcestershire sauce
2 quarts water
3 bay leaves
1 small bundle thyme
1 T sherry vinegar
salt to taste
4 oz. Queso Quesadilla cheese
1-2 C Homemade Croutons (recipe follows)
Broiler-safe bowls or ramekins for serving
Slice the onions about 1/8″ thick. I used a mandoline, but you can also use a food processor with a slicing blade or a good old-fashioned knife.
To a large pot, add the butter and then the onions. Turn the heat to medium and cover, stirring occasionally to coat the onions in the melting butter.
After about 15 minutes, the onions should be getting translucent. Take the cover off of the pan, add the salt and garlic powder, stir, and turn the heat to medium low. (Don’t sub minced garlic for garlic powder! We’re using garlic powder instead of actual garlic because garlic powder has a naturally roasty flavor that goes really well in soups like this one, and minced garlic is liable to burn and turn bitter during this long cooking process.)
Continue cooking for about an hour, stirring every 10 minutes or so. If your onions start scorching at all during this process, turn down the heat and add a tablespoon of water to the pan.
The onions should start to take on a hint of golden color around one hour.
Continue cooking for another 30 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan every 10 minutes to incorporate any golden bits stuck there.
Once your onions are a toasty light brown evenly throughout the pan, add the brandy and wine. Turn the heat up to medium high and cook for about three minutes, scraping down the sides of the pan.
Add the bullion concentrate, soy sauce, and Worcestershire sauce, and stir to combine.
Add water, thyme, and bay leaves, and stir. Turn the heat to high.
When the soup begins to boil, turn the heat down to a simmer. Simmer for thirty minutes.
Add the sherry vinegar and stir. Taste and season with additional salt if necessary.
To serve, grate about an ounce of cheese per bowl. Add about a half ounce of cheese to the bottom of the bowl, then ladle in the soup. Top with croutons and the other half ounce of cheese.
Broil for a minute to a minute and a half, watching carefully to keep from burning, until the cheese is bubbly and melty and the croutons have soaked up the soup like little flavor bombs.
Serve carefully, as the bowls will be very hot– I bring them to the table (or the couch) on a potholder to prevent burns.
Enjoy your cheesy, warm, and deeply delicious soup… then go back for seconds
Not only do these croutons work like magic in French Onion soup, they’re also the secret to craveable salads. I’ve been known to eat them as they are, by the handful, for a snack. One loaf of bread makes 5-6 cups of croutons, or enough to last about a week in my house.
You will need:
1/3 C extra virgin olive oil
1 T kosher or sea salt
Pre-heat your oven to 375F.
Slice your bread into 1/2″ to 3/4″ cubes.
Toss the cubes in a bowl with the olive oil.
Scatter on a sheet pan and sprinkle with salt. Pop into the oven and toast for 20-25 minutes, rotating the pan and turning the bread cubes at about the 15-minute mark. (You’ll know they are done when the cubes are uniformly golden brown and crispy.)
Let the cubes cool in the pan, then store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.