French Onion Soup was created back in 18th century France although the origins of onion soup date all the way back to Roman times. Onions were easy to grow and plentiful which made onion soup a dish for the poor. In the 1960's there was a resurgence of the French version as many were interested in the classical cooking of France. Perhaps we here in America owe that debt to Julia Childs who was at the forefront if not the leader in presenting French cuisine to our American culture despite the fact that in the 1950's we already had some well known French chefs living, working and owning restaurants here in America.
French Onion Soup is on many restaurant menus as a constant. Classically served with Swiss cheese or Gruyere cheese (both from Switzerland's Alpine region) melted on top of the crusted bread. Most high end restaurants will only use a Gruyere. Gruyere is nutty in flavor and I think "Swiss" cheese is a tad more sharp. Both are excellent for melting.
Some restaurants serve it with Monterrey Jack cheese and in some cases, Mozzarella cheese is used. For the average cook at home and trying to keep a budget, I suggest you purchase what is on sale. Any of the cheeses I mentioned melt well. For this batch of French Onion Soup I used what I had on hand which was Monterrey Jack.
I get no money for saying this what so ever - use Campbells® Beef Broth - why you ask? Because if you read the label the first ingredient is "beef stock". Aside from making your own stock you will get a nice rich flavor from this humble can of broth.
This recipe yields quite a bit of soup but it's wonderful reheated (another dish that actually gets better when it has had time to rest.) The soup freezes well. I don't like to hang on to frozen soups for very long - a month at best. You can freeze for longer if need be. Just be sure you allow it to cool down completely prior to freezing. By that I mean cooling the pot of soup in an ice bath, refrigerate and the next day skim any fat off the top. You can then freeze in individual containers.
- 4-5 large (softball sized) sweet onions - cut in half and sliced about1/2" thick
- A rustic bread or french baguette - sliced and toasted golden brown
- Cheese for the topping on the bread (Swiss, Gruyere, Monterey Jack, Mozzarella)
- 3 cans Campbells® Beef Broth
- 1 1/2- 2 cups chicken broth
- 2 tbsp. butter
- 1/4 cup dry sherry
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 2-3 bay leaves
- 1 tbsp. granulated garlic
- 2 tsp. onion powder
- 2 tsp. coarse ground pepper
- Salt to taste
- In a stock pot melt butter and olive oil over moderate heat. Add in the sliced onions, stir and reduce heat to a medium low. Cook and stir until the onions completely soften and begin to caramelize. The more you caramelize the onions the greater depth of flavor you will achieve. This process takes a while so be patient.
- After the onions are caramelized to your liking, de-glaze the pan with the sherry and allow this to cook down for 3-5 minutes.
- Add in the remaining ingredients (minus the salt) and simmer on low heat for an hour. After an hour, taste for salt and adjust seasonings to your liking. The broth may be salty and the cheese you top with may be salty, so be careful not to over salt. Cover and simmer for at least another 30 minutes allowing the flavors to blend.
- Salt to taste.
- Toast the slices of bread on both sides to a golden brown. Ladle the soup in oven proof bowls, top with the bread and as much cheese as you like. Place the bowl on a sheet pan and put them under a broiler and broil until the cheese has melted and if you wish turns golden brown.