Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 55 minutes
Ready In: 2 hours
Julia Child's Recipe:
1 1/2 lbs. or about 5 cups of thinly sliced yellow onions
3 tbsp butter
1 tbsp vegetable oil
A heavy-bottomed, 4 quart covered saucepan
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. sugar
3 tbsp flour
2 quarts boiling brown stock, canned beef bouillon, or 1 quart of boiling water and 1 quart of stock or bouillon.
1/2 cup dry white wine or dry white vermouth
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tbsp cognac
Rounds of hard-toasted French bread (see recipe following)
1 to 2 cups grated Swiss or Parmesan cheese
1. Cook the onions slowly with the butter and oil in a covered saucepan for 15 minutes.
2. Uncover, raise heat to moderate and stir in the salt and sugar. Cook for 30 to 40 minutes stirring frequently, until the onions have turned an even, deep golden brown. Sprinkle in the flour and stir for 3 minutes.
3. Off heat, blend in the boiling liquid. Add the wine and season to taste. Simmer partially covered for 30 to 40 minutes or more, skimming occasionally. Correct seasoning.
4. Set aside uncovered until ready to serve. Then reheat to the simmer.
5. Just before serving, stir in the cognac. Pour into a soup tureen or soup cups over the rounds of bread and pass the cheese separately.
Directions for croutes:
1. Place the bread in one layer in a roasting pan and bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for about half an hour, until it is thoroughly dried out and lightly browned.
2. Halfway through the baking, each side may be basted with a teaspoon of olive oil or beef drippings; and after baking, each piece may be rubbed with cut garlic.
NOTES: After making this soup for over 30 years, we have learned a few things that affect this soup. First, do not use “sweet” onions. Second, be patient in making this soup. Do not hurry the onions as they are browning. You may end up with black onions, which means starting over, perhaps a trip to buy more onions or–worse–canned soup if the stores are closed on a holiday.
Third, though I hesitate to admit it, I have never made beef stock. I use canned broth, and the soup is still darned good. Heat the broth just until it steams while the onions are browning.
Fourth, cognac is expensive; a good domestic brandy works just fine. Today, I use dry or semi-dry Madeira wine instead of cognac or brandy because we prefer the flavor it adds to the soup. This is the one major change I have made in Julia’s recipe. You might want to try the recipe both ways to see which flavor you prefer.
And fifth, for the dry white wine, sauvignon blanc or Chardonnay are both good choices. If you plan on serving wine with the soup, choose one that you enjoy drinking to use in the soup.
When making the croutes I arrange the bread on cookie sheets. If you discover that you are out of garlic cloves, you can mix a dash or two of garlic powder into a couple of tablespoons of olive oil to baste the toasted bread rounds. Don’t overdo the garlic; you want just a hint of garlic on the bread.
Instead of pouring soup over the toasted rounds of bread I usually float a croute on the soup in each soup bowl, sprinkle a little Swiss cheese on top and offer extra cheese at the table for guests to add more if they like. We prefer a good aged Swiss cheese to Parmesan on this soup, but try both to see which one you like better.
Tyler Florence's Recipe:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
4 onions, sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 bay leaves
2 fresh thyme sprigs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup red wine, about 1/2 bottle
3 heaping tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 quarts beef broth
1 baguette, sliced
1/2 pound grated Gruyere
1. Melt the stick of butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, and salt and pepper and cook until the onions are very soft and caramelized, about 25 minutes. Add the wine, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the wine has evaporated and the onions are dry, about 5 minutes. Discard the bay leaves and thyme sprigs. Dust the onions with the flour and give them a stir. Turn the heat down to medium low so the flour doesn't burn, and cook for 10 minutes to cook out the raw flour taste. Now add the beef broth, bring the soup back to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.
2. When you're ready to eat, preheat the broiler. Arrange the baguette slices on a baking sheet in a single layer. Sprinkle the slices with the Gruyere and broil until bubbly and golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes.
3. Ladle the soup in bowls and float several of the Gruyere croutons on top.
Alternative method: Ladle the soup into bowls, top each with 2 slices of bread and top with cheese. Put the bowls into the oven to toast the bread and melt the cheese.