December 17, 2009

French Onion Soup

It started with a Dutch oven. Or at least the desire for one. I'd read countless recipes that called for a Dutch oven, but usually by the time I saw those words I'd stop reading since I was not lucky enough to own one. At first, this struck me as a minor inconvenience. But, over the years, the Dutch oven recipes starting adding up. And I know that Amber uses a Dutch oven frequently. Slowly, I came to realization that I, too, needed a Dutch oven. So I kept my eye on them. Every time I went into Sur La Table, I'd check to see if the Le Crueset were on sale. (Or course, even if they were I couldn't afford them. But, they're just so pretty!) I spied a Mario Batali version, cheaper but still a bit much.

Then my mother gave me a bit of money for my birthday. I thought long and hard about what I wanted. I knew I wanted something to cook with. New measuring cups and spoons? A cast iron skillet? A Silpat? It wasn't enough money for a Le Crueset, but I decided if I could find a bargain on a Dutch oven, that's what I'd get. The deal was sealed when Smitten Kitchen, my favorite food blog, put out a gift list with a Dutch oven at the top. I felt I must have one.

Randomly, I was at the store a few days later and a found Lodge Color 6 quart Dutch oven for 20% off! It turned out to be only $63! That certainly seemed like a steal, so I picked out a blue one and brought it home. (Thanks, Mom!)

And then I realized I didn't know what to make. After all of those recipes I'd flipped past or clicked on, I couldn't think of a single thing to cook in my new Dutch oven! So I did what anyone would do these days---I searched the internet. Most of the top searches pulled up camping recipes. Fail. I searched a couple food blogs, to little avail. Where were all of those Dutch oven recipes, now?! A Cook's Illustrated search turned up a few ideas---including a Best French Onion Soup recipe...where the onions alone cook for almost 3 hours! I don't usually have time for such things. But--and this is why I love Cook's Illustrated---they also included a Quicker French Onion Soup recipe. Score! (The secret is microwaving the onions for 20 minutes before browning them.)

With the help of my friend Libby, I got to do two new things in one day: make French onion soup for the first time and, finally, cook with a Dutch oven. I'd say it was a productive day!

French Onion Soup
~Print Recipe~
  • 6 large yellow onions (around 4 pounds), halved and cut pole to pole into 1/4 inch slices (onions sliced this way retain their shape better)
  • Table salt
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 3 pieces
  • 2 cups water, plus extra for deglazing
  • 1/2 cup dry sherry
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Ground black pepper
  • 1 baguette cut into 1/2 inch slices
  • 8 oz. shredded Gruyere cheese
  1. Combine onions and 1 teaspoons salt in a large, microwaveable bowl. Cover completely with a microwaveable plate. Microwave on high for 10 minutes, stir, and microwave for another 10-15 minutes, until onions are soft and wilted. Drain liquid from onions.
  2. When the onions are nearly done, melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add wilted onions and cook, stirring frequently and scraping the pot, 15-20 minutes-- until all liquid evaporates and onions are brown. Cook another 6 to 8 minutes, stirring frequently, until a dark crust (fond) forms on the bottom of the pan.
  3. Stir in 1/4 cup water and scrape the pot to loosen the crust, then stir and cook until the water evaporates and a dark crust begins to form--another 6 to 8 minutes. Repeat this process (deglazing) another 2 times. Onions should be very dark brown. Add the sherry and stir until it evaporates--about 5 minutes. 
  4. Stir in chicken and beef broth, 2 cups of water, thyme, bay leaf and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Scrape any last browned bits from the pot. Turn heat to high and bring soup to a simmer. Then reduce heat to low, cover the pot and simmer 30 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place baguette slices in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes---until the bread is crisp and golden. Set aside. Turn oven up to broil.
  6. Remove and discard herbs from the soup. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 
  7. Adjust oven rack to about 6 inches from broiler. Divide soup among oven safe bowls. Place bread slices on top of soup, without overlapping. Sprinkle each serving generously with grated gruyere. Place bowls on a baking sheet and broil until cheese is melted, about 3 to 5 minutes. Let cool a few minutes before serving. 
(Serves 4 to 6)


  1. Your new dutch oven is so beautiful! You will soon ask yourself how you lived this long without one. Don't be afraid to use it even if it doesn't call for a dutch oven. I use mine for green bean casserole, a single batch of Moosewood Fudge Brownies, and many soup recipes. Basically, use it as much as you can!

  2. Oh, and that reminds me, I should post some of our delicious camp recipes for dutch oven. Your onion soup recipe looks to die for.


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