Classic Homemade French Onion Soup
This is one of the best French onion soup recipes I have made - the homemade beef stock really is the key to a fabulous and easy French onion soup. I say easy because a French onion soup - a classic and delicious one doesn’t have to be difficult or overwhelming it just needs a bit of time and patience. This recipe is by Giselle Courteau and her newest book Duchess at Home. The book is a wonderful compilation of beloved sweet and savoury recipes from Giselle’s home kitchen. From warming soup, stews to breads, preserves and of course delicious desserts. Her first book Duchess Bake Shop was all about her bake shop and sharing her most popular recipes from it in an approachable way for a homemaker. This book is more about what she loves to bake/make at home. Before I get into more details from this book let’s talk about what makes a classic French onion soup so great.
The key to a great homemade French onion soup
To me there is truly nothing more delicious than a good French onion soup. There are three components that make up a delicious one. The stock must have a rich flavour whether you make it from scratch or buy it. So if you are buying do buy a good quality one. The onions have to be deeply caramelized and cooked down so that there is absolutely no crunch or bite in them - they add so much flavour to the soup when they are golden and caramelized until intensely sweet. There are not a ton of ingredients in this soup - basics: onions, butter, beef stock, and some flavour boosters: garlic, wine, and thyme. It just needs a bit of time - so this is definitely a great soup to make on a slow Sunday while you are catching up on things and don’t mind occasionally tending to it.
Along with a good stack and caramelized onions is some sort of crusty cheesy bread over your soup. This and many recipes call for baking the soup with the bread and cheese over top but if you don’t have stove friendly dishes just make your own cheesy toasts separately and serve them on top of the soup. Baking it is nice but it’s just as delicious served over top too. Let’s talk a bit more about the homemade beef stock recipe that Giselle includes in her book. It’s absolutely delicious and it freezes really well so it’s something you can make ahead and store in the freezer. Don’t be intimidated by the bones - they are easier to source than you think. Some grocery stores sell them packaged out with their other meat - you probably have never seen them or have missed them cause you weren’t looking for them. Or if your local grocery store doesn’t have any showcased - just ask the person behind the butcher counter - they will be happy to bag some up for you. With all those components in place you have yourselves a classic french onion soup recipe.
Giselle’s book is full of recipes like these. Ones that warm the soul and ones you are proud to serve friends and family. She starts the book off by sharing some excellent tips about how to be a better home baker and I couldn’t agree more with all her tips - very practical tips that may seem obvious but as a homemaker myself, forget often. She also includes short chapters on Tools & Equipment, Ingredients and Weights & Measurements. I’m determined to use my scale more after reading that section. The rest of the book is sectioned off based on occasions like Family Breakfast, Sunday afternoons, childhood favourites, a tribute to France, and celebrations.
The recipes are well tested and the directions are very clear. I love the tips she adds to her recipes and she also includes step by step photos for some of them along with templates you can copy and use for piping for example croquembouche. I have to say though, one of my favourite chapters in the book is I Remember - in it Giselle shares her Francophone heritage with dishes like Pouding-chômier, Maple Sugar Pie, Maple & Beer baked ham, Maple Baked beans, and a Tourtière. Can you see why I love this chapter?!? It’s dripping in maple syrup and French Canadian’ness which I love! The photography suits the style of book perfectly - I seriously feel like it’s all done in Giselle’s kitchen and instantly feel like I can pull up a seat at her table and dig in. This book is inspiring me and I may even try some of her more complex recipes as she includes such well written instructions for tackling them. Thanks so much Giselle and Appetite By Random House for sending me a copy of this book!!
For The Beef Stock
- 2–2.5 kg (about 5 lb) beef bones
- 3 medium carrots
- 2 celery ribs
- leek, cleaned, white part only
- 1 large onion
- garlic cloves
- 75 g (¼ cup) tomato paste
- 4 L (16 cups) water
- 1 bay leaf
For The Soup
- 4 onions, thinly sliced (about 5 cups)
- 1 garlic clove, finely diced
- Tbsp unsalted butter
- 240 g (1 cup) red wine
- 2 L (8 cups) beef stock
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
For The Topping
- 4 cups cubed day-old bread
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- salt and ground black pepper
- about 200 g (2 cups) grated gruyère cheese
For the croutons, I like to use sourdough bread. Bones for roasting and making stock are easily obtained from your local butcher
- Preheat your oven to 425°F (220°C).
- Place the bones in a roasting pan and roast until dark brown, about 30 minutes (45 minutes if they are frozen). While the bones are roasting, chop the carrots, celery, leek, and onion into large pieces.
- When the bones are dark brown, add the vegetables to the roasting pan, stir, and roast for another 45 minutes.
- Add the garlic and tomato paste to the roasting pan and give everything a good stir. Roast for about another 20 minutes, until the tomato paste is dark brown and partially charred.
- Transfer all the bones and vegetables to a large stock pot. Add some of the water to the roasting pan and scrape the bottom well to deglaze. Add this to the stock pot, along with the remaining water and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, and then simmer uncovered for 4 hours. Skim off any excess fat, strain the stock, and discard the solids. Set aside 8 cups and freeze the rest for future use. To make the soup
- Place the onions, garlic, and butter in a large sauce- pan. On medium-low heat, gently cook until the onions are dark brown and well caramelized. Stir every 5 to 10 minutes, making sure to scrape the bottom of the saucepan well each time. It can take up to 45 minutes for the onions to fully caramelize.
- Once the onions are caramelized, add the red wine, scraping the bottom of the saucepan well. Continue to cook until the wine has reduced slightly.
- Add the remaining soup ingredients and simmer for 1 hour. Adjust the salt and pepper as needed.
- To make the croutons, preheat your oven to 350°F (180°C). Toss the bread cubes, olive oil, salt, and pepper together and spread them out on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until golden brown and crispy.
- When ready to serve, set your oven to broil. Ladle the hot soup into ovenproof soup bowls. Top each serving with a handful of croutons and grated gruyère. Place under the broiler until the cheese is bubbling and brown. Serve hot.