French Onion Soup

As I’ve said before, Alton Brown is usually our first stop when looking to make a classic dish for the first time. This post is mostly about David’s adventures in French Onion Soup, since he is the one who likes french onion soup, wanted to make french onion soup, and received a Christmas gift of soup crocks for the sole purpose of making french onion soup.

I, personally, am not a big fan of onions. I used to avoid them altogether, but now I can use them sparingly and pick around them. I don’t even mind the flavor of them, most times. I would say that I’m growing into them. I can certainly get behind the traditional cheesy crouton topping on french onion soup.¬† Still, onion soup is a lot of onions. So this one was all David.

A month or so ago, David set out to make french onion soup. He watched the appropriate episode of Good Eats, printed out the recipe from Food Network, bought Mayan Sweet onions, Italian Fontina, and our favorite sourdough bread at Costco, and was all ready to make them, until we realized that our Corningware ramekins weren’t safe to use under the broiler. That disappointment made broiler-safe soup bowls the perfect Christmas gift for David.

Shopping on behalf of my grandmother, I purchased four soup crocks for David the weekend after Thanksgiving, and they’ve been wrapped up under the tree ever since. Of course, in the spirit of Christmas, I didn’t mention them, and David’s desire for french onion soup waned. That is, until David and I went out with my parents for dinner at a fancy-pants steakhouse, and David ordered their Baked 5 Onion Soup as a starter. My mom, who had been shopping with me after Thanksgiving, turned to David while he was eating his soup and said “How did you like your little soup things?”

A week before Christmas.

With the proverbial cat out of the bag, David began looking forward to making his own french onion soup. Fast forward to the week after Christmas. Soup crocks in hand, David got everything together to make French Onion Soup yesterday, and this time, it was a success.

Alton Brown’s French Onion Soup
Makes about 8 bowls of soup


  • 5 sweet onions (like Vidalias) or a combination of sweet and red onions (about 4 pounds) (We used Mayan Sweet, and they were very sweet)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups white wine (we used a dry chardonnay)
  • 10 ounces canned¬†beef consume
  • 10 ounces chicken broth
  • 10 ounces apple cider (unfiltered is best) (We used organic apple juice, because cider wasn’t available)
  • Bouquet garni; thyme sprigs, bay leaf and parsley tied together with kitchen string
  • 1 loaf country style bread (We used Boudin sourdough bread)
  • Kosher salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • Splash of Cognac (optional) (We used brandy)
  • 1 cup Fontina or Gruyere cheese grated (We chose Fontina, yum!)


Trim the ends off each onion then halve lengthwise. Remove peel and finely slice into half moon shapes. Set electric skillet to 300 degrees and add butter. We do not have an electric skillet, and did not buy one just for this recipe. This step worked just fine in a stock pot on the stove over medium-low heat. Once butter has melted add a layer of onions and sprinkle with a little salt. Repeat layering onions and salt until all onions are in the skillet. Do not try stirring until onions have sweated down for 15 to 20 minutes. After that, stir occasionally until onions are dark mahogany and reduced to approximately 2 cups. This should take 45 minutes to 1 hour. Do not worry about burning.

Add enough wine to cover the onions and turn heat to high, reducing the wine to a syrup consistency. Add consume, chicken broth, apple cider and bouquet garni. Reduce heat and simmer 15 to 20 minutes.

Place oven rack in top 1/3 of oven and heat broiler.

Cut country bread in rounds large enough to fit mouth of oven safe soup crocks. Place the slices on a baking sheet and place under broiler for 1 minute.

Season soup mixture with salt, pepper and cognac. Remove bouquet garni and ladle soup into crocks leaving one inch to the lip. Place bread round, toasted side down, on top of soup and top with grated cheese. Broil until cheese is bubbly and golden, 1 to 2 minutes.

Note: As I said, I don’t like onions. However, this soup was quite good. It had a rich, flavorful broth, and the one slice of onion I ate tasted fine. I guess. For an onion. It was mostly mental at that point, really, because the soup was good. I especially like the part where it’s topped with a tasty crouton and melty, bubbly cheese. I love cheese.

I bet we’ll make this again. I know David enjoyed it, and I liked the broth well enough to dip my roast beef panini (my backup, in the event that I didn’t care for onion soup) in it. I thought that this version tasted better than the one at Morton’s, actually. The flavors of David’s soup were a little more layered and complex than the Five Onion Soup, and David’s was definitely sweeter.

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3 Responses to “French Onion Soup”

  1. PKSullivan

    Fantastic! I am pretty hit-or-miss with onion soup, either it’s really good and I love it or it’s terrible and I avoid it at all costs. I’ve wanted to make Alton’s for some time but have avoided it because of his use of an electric skillet. There simply isn’t room in my kitchen for one. Knowing that a normal stock pot can accomplish this without incident is a very encouraging step.

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  3. Ysobel

    This sounds and looks delicious. I love french onion soup, and so does Luke. One day, maybe I’ll make it for him…

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