My Mother is French Canadian and onion soup was a staple in our house. It was such a staple that I included a recipe for it in Batch. Mom generally made it without a recipe and followed her guts. We had just made 4 quarts of smoked bone broth and I knew I had to turn some of it into this soup.
Notice that the bread is slightly charred? You can avoid that by covering all of it in cheese – but if you’re making this with smoked bone broth and want to accent the flavors it’s actually lovely to introduce more flavor by charring the bread (just soak it in the soup before consuming it). Our friends Nick and Courtney of La Tartine even popularized burnt toast as an ingredient for cooking and we’ve been using it since reading about their experiments.
Since this was a departure from a classic I wanted to make sure I had the fundamentals locked in place so I decided to base this recipe on one by Julia Child. She called for cooking the onions with a lid which was something I had never done – the results were PHENOMENAL. The cover produced steam which allowed the onions to cook through and produce their own basting which was almost like a cream-glaze that was sublime. I will use this technique for the rest of my life for making soup and stews as the results were unlike any I had seen before.
As in Batch, I am adamant that onions should be cut into strips for soup as they hold their structure better (in batch we intentionally cut some into rings so they fall apart and add more onion flavor to the soup). I have modified and simplified some of Julia’s recipe and added far more onions to match the soup of my youth.
SMOKED FRENCH ONION SOUP (RECIPE)
Author: Joel MacCharles
- 2 Tbsp butter + 3 Tbsp butter
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 pounds onion, cut into strips
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped fine
- salt and pepper
- 2-3 sprigs thyme
- Pinch cayenne
- 2 tsp maple syrup or brown sugar
- 3 Tbsp flour
- ½cup white wine
- Bay leaf
- 6 cups smoked beef broth
- Bread (we often use a half bun per bowl) and Gruyere cheese to serve.
- Melt 2 Tbsp of butter and oil in a pan with a tight-fitting lid over medium heat.
- Add onions, garlic, season with salt and pepper and add thyme, cayenne, maple syrup and cover. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring a few times to prevent burning.
- Increase heat to medium-high with lid off and cook, stirring frequently until onions are browned.
- Move the onions to the outside of the pan and add the flour and remaining 3 Tbsp butter (this is called a roux). stir to make a paste of the butter and flour and cook for 4-5 minutes until brown. Remove pot from heat and add the wine, a bit at a time to the flour followed by the stock. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a bare simmer over medium-high and simmer for 30 minutes.
- To serve, toast the bread (I like to fry it in butter in a frying pan over medium-high) and pour warm soup into an oven-safe bowl. Top with bread and cheese and brown under the broiler of your oven set to high.