What really makes the flavours in French onion soup is the addition of red wine and brandy. If you’ve attempted to make French onion soup in the past without these ingredients, and wondered what was missing, this would be it.
There is some debate on whether or not to use flour in this soup. I enjoy the addition of flour in the early cooking stages, as it creates a more rustic feel, and is also a much more user-friendly way of making this soup. The flour can be ommitted, and instead the brandy and red wine can be added straight to the onions and cooked down until barely any liquid remains (this is called cooking until au-sec, or dry). At this point, you would simply carry on with the rest of the recipe.
If you don’t have heat-proof French onion soup bowls, ramekins work just as well. The soup does have to be served individually, as this is the customary way of serving French onion soup and also so that every serving receives the same amounts of melted cheese and crusty bread.
I like to keep my soup traditional, and use a nice crusty baguette and creamy gruyere cheese, however any crusty bread can be used and the gruyere can be substituted with mozzarella. As you will probably only need about ¼ loaf of baguette, the rest can be sliced and served on the side. After all, this is a very dippable soup, and bread is the perfect accompaniment.
The recipe I’m providing is good for four to six individual servings, and is easily doubled. If you have hungry guests, be prepared to have extras on hand, as it is highly addictive!
French Onion Soup
You will need:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp flour
1 white or yellow onion, sliced very thinly
1 clove garlic, finely sliced
Fresh thyme leaves, about 3 stems
2 fluid oz red wine
2 fluid oz brandy
3 litres beef stock
Gruyere cheese, about ½ cup grated
¼ loaf baguette, diced and toasted
1. In a medium-sized saucepan over medium-low heat, sautee onions and garlic with the olive oil, caramelizing well without burning (about 6 minutes).
2. Add the flour, and whisk thoroughly, making sure the onions are evenly coated.
3. Deglaze the pan with the brandy and red wine. Whisk well until smooth, and the onions have become dark in colour. This should take about 3 minutes.
4. Add the thyme and stock, and whisk well to ensure everything is smooth and incorporated.
5. Bring the soup to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes, until all the flavours have developed. Whisk as needed. Taste, and adjust with salt and pepper if needed.
6. Pour out the soup into 4-6 bowls. Top with the French bread croutons, and a thick layer of cheese.
7. Place bowls under the broiler for 3-5 minutes, until cheese is browned slightly and bubbling.