French Onion Soup, the Scorched Way

By • February 25, 2013 • 34 Comments

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Author Notes: Very lightly adapted from Chad Robertson's brilliant recipe in Tartine Bread. He throws in a tablespoon of duck fat in place of half the butter; if you have it, do it. Also, about the bread: the richness here would pair well with a whole wheat rustic bread, if you have a decent version around. Nicholas Day

Serves 4, robustly

  • 6 large yellow onions, sliced thinly
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 2 quarts chicken stock
  • 5 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated (a Cheddar would work, too)
  • 4 slices of hole-y, country bread
  1. In a large, wide-bottomed pot, combine the onions, cream, butter, and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium to medium-high heat until the onions soften and the cream reduces to its solids. This should take anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes, depending on your onions and your pot. Then turn the heat up slightly, so the onions and cream bubble at a slow boil, and cook without stirring for about six or seven minutes, until the onions on the bottom are deeply brown. (Depending on your stove, this might mean at medium heat or at high. Don't go overboard: you don't want the onions blackened.) Stir the onions and add a half-cup of wine and deglaze the pan, scraping up all the burnt and browned bits. Then repeat the process: leave the onions without stirring for another six minutes or so, then deglaze. Repeat until you have used all 2 cups of wine. The onions should now be a rich, dark brown color; they should smell divine.
  2. Add the stock. (Use less if you want more of a stew.) Bring to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes. Season with salt if needed.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400. Toast the bread until it is dry and crusty, about 15 minutes. Ladle the soup into either ovenproof bowls or a single large baking dish (if the latter, place it on a baking sheet: it will spill). Fill the bowls or dish to nearly the rim. Float the bread on the soup and sprinkle with the Gruyere. Bake until the cheese is bubbly and browned, 20 to 30 minutes. Let cool until it will no longer burn your tongue. Devour.
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Comments (34) Questions (0)

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Ashley

8 months ago Ashley Marie

Made this last night. We're taking a 10-day vacation to Europe this week and I had a ginormous bag of onions that needed to go! For lack of cream I used 3/4cup whole milk with 1/3cup butter and the end result was still super yummy! Although, I was missing that familiar hint of darkness (maybe I didn't let my onions caramelize enough), so I added in 2tsp better than buillion beef to round it out. Also, we topped it with fresh granted Kerrygold Irish Whiskey Cheddar cheese instead of the Gruyere and it was great! Overall, love the recipe, and will definitely make it again! (My boyfriend says he likes this version better than the traditional french onion soups)

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10 months ago Kiersten

Where can I purchase the bowls in the picture?

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about 1 year ago Dina Moore-Tzouris

could you use vegetable broth? would it be a recipe killer?

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over 1 year ago GordonW

This made for a nice, rich dinner soup. The caramelization of the cream really adds a depth of flavor and complexity that I don't typically get from french onion soup. Is a classic version? Definitely not. However, its lineage is clear. I call it a solid variant.

Pa150460

over 1 year ago J.B.

Made this today - no questions but comments, YES. Final product was quite delicious, but WHY the radical deviation from the "norm?" I do think the final result is much more RICH(?) than other classical French Onions Soups. Still why re-work the classical so much? I'm attempting to thik objectively here, maybe one can share what was the inspiration, an overabundance of cream?
jbb

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over 1 year ago EatsMeetsWest

One question: How long might this recipe take to make? I know that depends on the range of heat you're cooking with and a bunch of other cooking factors, but on average, does anyone known how long I should set aside to cook this scrumptious soup? :)

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over 1 year ago fhp

OH! OH! Sounds like a recipe for disaster. My acid-reflux husband just saw me eyeballing this one and said "don't you dare."

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over 1 year ago housepanther

And now, the heartburn and belched-up blackened soup. It gets worse and worse...

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over 1 year ago GordonW

I guess you're saying you didn't like it ;)

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over 1 year ago housepanther

Oh, and it also took half an hour, three SOS pads, and a pile of Comet to get the burnt muck off the bottom of my All Clad soup pot. What a mess. All this for onion soup? Nah.

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over 1 year ago housepanther

I made this tonight, and while it was interesting, I wouldn't make it again. The flavors were much too burnt and unappealingly aggressive. I agree with some other posters as well that the instructions are confusing. I started out halfway through step 1 with the "heat on high," but it was WAY too high for the result desired. A slow boil on medium was much more rational; if I'd left it on high, I'd have ended up with a burnt, smoky mess and a visit from the local firefighters. I like my French onion soup with a gentler touch and layered flavors; this version punched me right in the solar plexus. Maybe this is your thing, but it's not mine. After filling six one-cup ramekins with soup, floating the browned bread, sprinkling the Gruyere, and baking, I was left with half a pot of the stuff, which went down the Disposal. An experiment that, for me, did not resound.

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over 1 year ago Nicholas Day

It's definitely not to all tastes. This is also one of these cases where high and medium aren't adequate descriptors: for my stove, I really do have to have it pretty much on high, but for yours you clearly don't. I just tweaked the recipe to make that obvious.

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over 1 year ago beezledog

Step !. "Then turn the heat to high, so the onions and cream bubble at a slow boil, and cook without stirring for about six or seven minutes, until the onions on the bottom are deeply brown" When you say "high heat"...but also "slow boil"...to me "slow boil" means to simmer..which would not require "high heat" but something much lower. It seems that a high heat would cause a rolling boil and burn the onions and cream....am I missing something..? Thank you...I really want to try this lovely recipe.

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over 1 year ago Nicholas Day

Thanks for spotting this -- I just tweaked the recipe.

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over 1 year ago bgavin

Two thoughts on this awesome recipe. One is that onion soup from turkey stock tastes *just* like beef stock. And it gives you a plan for the weekend after Thanksgiving. And, two, I make my croutons and cheese thingies independently of the soup. Meaning, I toast the bread, add the cheese, broil it and only then do I plop that cheesy monstrosity into the soup. Easier and less messy.

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over 1 year ago Sigita

mouth is watering just looking at the photo......and my husband just brought some gruyere back from Switzerland....

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over 1 year ago witloof

Every time I try to make French onion soup, it is sweet, sweet, sweet. I wonder if I'm not browning the onions well enough? I'm going to try it this way and be extremely brave with the scorching process. Looks insanely delicious.

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over 1 year ago JohnSkye

maybe it's the browning, but it might be the unions, do NOT use "sweet" onions, or it will be "sweet, sweet, sweet."

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over 1 year ago Walken

Perhaps this is a dumb question, but when you "repeat the process" you are adding more cream? If that is case you reserve some cream at beginning and are using all your onions at beginning or are we also reserving some onions to use on the repeat process?

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over 1 year ago Nicholas Day

Add all the cream and all the onions at the beginning. The repeating refers just to leaving the onions to brown (without stirring), then deglazing, then leaving to brown again (without stirring). Does that follow?

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over 1 year ago Walken

Got it. Thanks.

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over 1 year ago fromage

Delicious! Made this last night, only had whipping cream on hand. It worked, but took longer to reduce to solids and the final soup was probably more liquid than if using heavy cream, but it was delicious. Husband said one of his favorite soups of all time.

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over 1 year ago sl(i)m

Would it be sacrilegious to use beef broth instead of chicken? Or less tasty?

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over 1 year ago Nicholas Day

Nope and nope.

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over 1 year ago sl(i)m

Using homemade beef broth was delicious - soup got rave reviews from 8 with ravenous appetites. And, btw, it is possible to adjust the heat to avoid scorched pans... my Creuset dutch oven did just fine! Thanks for an awesomely delicious recipe!!

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over 1 year ago Pat in SoCal

Wow! Just did a Julia Child Onion Soup on Sunday but may need to try this one very soon.

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over 1 year ago lilroseglow

and I checked the calorie count too - 700 per serving is about right. Yikes!

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over 1 year ago lilroseglow

"...and the cream reduces to its solids"
I've never seen this instruction before. What does it mean for cream to reduce to it's solids? The timerange is pretty broad, so how do I know when the reduction is complete? BTW this sounds divine and I'm dying to try it.

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over 1 year ago Nicholas Day

You're simply letting some of the liquids evaporate (and, uh, concentrating the fat) -- it sounds complicated but it basically involves not doing anything. You'll know you're there when the onions stop steaming in the liquid and start browning.