French Onion Soup

Just ahead, the Château Frontenac promised warmth, a glass of wine, a crusty bowl of French onion soup. . . .

Jean laughed and leaned away as the waiter placed a huge burger and frites in front of him. A bubbling French onion soup sat in front of Émile, and Gamache was given a hot bowl of pea soup.

“I met a fellow this morning who’s training for the race,” said Gamache.

“Bet he’s in good shape,” said Émile, lifting his spoon almost over his head, trying to get the stringy, melted cheese to break.

—Bury Your Dead

french onion soup

Makes about 4 cups (1 liter)—2 main-course servings or 4 first-course servings

  • 4 tablespoons (2 oz/57 g) unsalted butter
  • 2 pounds (1 kg) yellow onions (about 5 medium onions), peeled and sliced ¼ inch/7 mm thick
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ⅓ cup (80 ml) white wine or 3 tablespoons (45 ml) dry sherry
  • 3 cups (750 ml) beef or chicken broth, preferably homemade
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Half a French baguette, cut into ½-inch slices
  • Olive oil
  • 1 cup (3 oz/90 g) grated Gruyère cheese

Heat the butter in a medium (4-quart/4-liter) heavy-bottomed pot over low heat until bubbling. Add the onions and cook, stirring often, until very well browned, about 45 minutes.

Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 4 minutes.
Add the wine or sherry and cook, stirring, until almost evaporated. Add the broth, bring to a boil, and adjust the heat so the soup is barely simmering. Season with salt and pepper. Cover the pot and cook until the onions are very tender, about 15 minutes.

While the soup is simmering, make the toasts:
Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Lightly brush both sides of each slice of bread with olive oil. Arrange the bread on a baking sheet and bake until golden brown and crisp, about 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

Position the oven rack about 8 inches from the broiler and preheat the broiler. Ladle the soup into 2 ovenproof crocks. Cover the top of the soup with a layer of toasts, then spread a layer of the cheese over the toasts. Place the crocks on a baking sheet and broil until the cheese is golden brown and bubbly, about 5 minutes. Let the crocks sit for a few minutes before serving, handling them carefully.

Variation: If you don’t have ovenproof crocks, make the cheese toasts and float them on top of the soup: Preheat the oven to 400°F (204°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Make the toasts as described above and line them up on the sheet. Top with the grated Gruyère. Bake until the cheese is golden brown and the toasts are very crisp, about 12 minutes. Ladle the hot soup into bowls and top with the cheese toasts.

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Discussion on “French Onion Soup

  1. Ann Miller says:

    I am delighted with this one! When the series first started I thought back to the food (and recipes) that I would want myself and this came to mind first. Something that is simple enough to make after a long day at work, and provides a nourishing meal. Something easily adaptable for 1 or 2 people (or portions one can freeze), or those with allergies to one or more of the staples in our diet. One where you don’t need special equipment, and the ingredients are readily available, even in rural Nova Scotia! We are getting towards the end of the season with days we call “end of winter”, a recipe perfect for a dull and dreary day. Thank you!

  2. Alison Smith says:

    This is exactly what I was hoping for – been looking forward to this recipe since you released the first one. French onion soup’s so comforting as well as delicious. Thanks so much!

  3. Anita Yo says:

    Thank you so much Louise, for sharing this with your readers! I look forward to getting the remaining recipes as promised.

  4. Anita Young says:

    Thank you so much Louise, for sharing this with your readers! I look forward to getting the remaining recipes as promised.

  5. Pam says:

    This is whetting the appetite in more ways than one! How many days till August 31?

  6. Janet says:

    I know I am going to love this today. It is a dreary rainy day in Saskatchewan today, so this soup is just what is needed. Thanks.

  7. Julie says:

    Oh, how wonderful! I need to make this as soon as it cools off a bit. We’re having our first hot day in a month – but it will all be over tomorrow, so onions, here I come!

  8. Bob says:

    The key to a good French onion soup is the sweet caramelized onions. I follow America’s Test Kitchen approach by baking the onions for a couple of hours first, then when really softened, cook them on a stove top very slowly till they are dark brown and well caramelized. Then proceed with the rest of the recipe. Some folks won’t want to take the time to follow this procedure, but, trust me, the taste will win you over.

  9. thanks, Bob, for the great suggestion. I live in Florida, so instead of waiting for cool weather, I’m going to have to turn up the A/C to try this one!! Me and my “Three Pines” friends will have a “bistro” night.

  10. Jan Pytlarz says:

    I made this last night, followed online directions for caramelizing the onions, and it was fantastic! The container of broth I had was 4 cups, and I used that and it was just delicious. I will make this again, the onions took about and hour and 15 minutes to caramelize, but I have never had such tasty French Onion Soup!

  11. cheryl says:

    I just found all the Three Pines recipes. Will make the onion soup this week for sure, thanks! Always drool when they’re in the Bistro, having an amazing meal. Love your books Louise, hello from N.S.
    I’m listening to The Nature of the Beast now….

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