Meatless Monday: Traditional French Onion Soup

Some time ago we made an onion soup with 7 different types of onions in a beef broth base. It was very good, don't get us wrong. But we wanted to try something different, lighter, more authentically French. And that's when we found this post on Michael Ruhlman's informative and entertaining blog. We loved the recipe's focus on the simplest and least expensive of ingredients - onions and water - and the lovely rusticity of the soup. Next thing we knew, we were slicing a bunch of Spanish onions and cooking them until they turned a golden amber color. Good thing we weren't too hungry, because this took nearly four hours! It was well worth the effort, though. We followed Ruhlman's recipe, which you can find here, with a couple of necessary changes (like substituting marsala for sherry, which we did not have). Surely this changed the taste, but we were very pleased with the result. It was a light yet satisfying bowl of good food, much different from the beefy version we're used to, and perfect for Meatless Monday.

7 Spanish Onions

Sliced onions go into the pot

About one hour into the cooking time

After four hours of cooking

Adding water, marsala, red wine

Ladle into bowls

Top with dried baguette

Top with shredded gruyere

Broil until melted and browned

Traditional French Onion Soup
our very slight adaptations from Michael Ruhlman's recipe are below


1 tablespoon butter
7 Spanish onions, thinly sliced
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
4 slices of baguette
6 cups water 
1/3 cup marsala
splash of red wine
2 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated

Place the large pot over medium heat and melt the butter. Add the sliced onions, sprinkle with 2 teaspoons salt, cover, and cook until the onions have heated through and started to steam. Uncover, season with pepper, reduce the heat to low, and cook, stirring occasionally. Preheat the oven to 200°F. Place the bread slices in the oven and let dry completely. When the onions have completely cooked down, the water has cooked off, and the onions have turned amber—this will take several hours—add the water. Raise the heat to high and bring the soup to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low. Add the marsala. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed, and add a splash of red wine. Preheat the broiler. Portion the soup into bowls, float the bread on top, cover with the cheese, and broil until the cheese is melted and nicely browned.


jck said...

Looks really good!

MR can be arrogant, but glad he sparked this recipe in you (and loved his post on French onion soup).

Anne@FromMySweetHeart said...

What an absolutely gorgeous soup! Your kitchen must have smelled like heaven while you were making this. And good thing for your willpower and patience because I would have been tempted to dig into those golden brown onions before I could get to the soup! This looks fabulous you guys! : )

nancy at good food matters said...

living with a vegetarian, I have made this soup in a similar fashion with terrific results. It is true; you don't have to rely on beef stock to achieve a rich and hearty french onion-style soup.

Debbi said...

I LOVE good homemade onion soup completely crusted over with cheese...yummmy. Thanks for sharing!

Dreams of cakes said...

Traditional French soup! Wow, it looks and sounds delicious! Thanks for sharing.

Russell at Chasing Delicious said...

I love french onion soup. I haven't made it so long. You've inspired me to add it to the docket.