Paris is getting warmer by the day. You can see and smell the city transform into spring and, quite frankly, it’s exciting; everyone is in the best mood. But as I walked the brocantes around the city yesterday, it was still chilly so we stopped here and there to warm up with wine and food. This is the soup I was searching for, Denise, so thank you for sharing. Enjoy the last bits of chill in the air! -Maggie
I remember the first time I had a bowl of real French Onion Soup, not the kind that comes in a paper box. I had just moved to California and quickly became friends with a co-worker, who also happened to be vegetarian and a hippie. Now, this does not seem like an odd thing today; but, back then being a young girl, from a small country town, it was a big deal. I eagerly accepted the dinner invitation and couldn’t wait for my first vegetarian meal that was not a green salad.
As soon as she opened the door, I smelled something amazing. She took my coat, handed me a glass of wine and led me into her cozy kitchen. There on the stove sat a pot bubbling way. It smelled pungent but sweet and was the color of winter hay. As we got to know each other, she ladled the mixture into deep brown bowls and on top, she tossed cheesy croutons. I had no idea what we were eating; but, I didn’t care as I was happy. I cherished that first sip, and the next, and the next. Flavorful. Warm. Comforting. The perfect way to be welcomed into a new friend’s home.
We have gone our separate ways, but I remember that evening fondly, when I make a version of her French Onion Soup. The recipe has changed over time and is no longer vegetarian. I use a rich beef stock as the base, and I slowly caramelize the onions until they are golden brown. I float chunks of ciabatta that has been brushed with garlic olive oil on top of the soup. Just before serving I top each soup bowl with a generous amount of Gruyere and let the mixture bake in the oven until bubbly. It is still as I remember it, flavorful, warm and comforting.
** You can still enjoy a vegetarian version of this recipe, just use vegetable stock and a vegetarian version of Worcestershire sauce.
French Onion Soup
Serves 4 – 6 depending on how deep your soup bowls are
- 3 yellow onions
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 3 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoons ground mustard seed
- 5 cups rich beef stock
- 5 springs fresh thyme
- kosher salt, to taste
- fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
- Cut the onions in half and then thinly slice.
- In a large dutch oven, over medium heat (about a 4 on the stove) heat the olive oil and butter together. Add the onions and cook for 25 minutes or until soft and caramelized in color. You will need to stir often. Add the garlic, stir, and cook 2 minutes. Sprinkle the Worcestershire sauce and ground mustard over the onion mixture, stir and cook for 1 minute. Add the stock and thyme. Stir. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Lower heat to a low simmer (about a 2 on the stove). Cook for 60 minutes.
Bread Topping Ingredients:
- Ciabatta bread
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
Bread Topping Directions:
- In a small bowl mix the olive oil and garlic. Let is sit while the soup simmers.
- Just before serving, cut the bread into pieces that will fit in the soup bowl. Brush each piece with some of the olive oil. Set aside.
- Heat the oven to 325. Ladle soup into an oven proof soup bowl, making sure to leave about 1/2” from the top. Set the bowls onto a baking sheet.
- Put a slice of the bread on top of the soup and sprinkle generously with the Gruyere cheese. Slide into the oven, and let bake until the top is golden and bubbly; about 15 minutes.
- Serve. Eat.
All photos styled and shot by Denise Woodward.
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