French Onion Soup: I Caramelize Because I Care

Oh the French. Apparently they had a lot of time to sit around cooking onions. And we’re reaping all the benefits! French Onion Soup is a favorite of mine and Ryan’s. I took some time experimenting and trying different recipes, and finally landed on what we like the best. It is light and simple, but full of savory onion flavor.

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The trick to any onion soup I found was caramelizing the onions. This can be a labor of love, but oh boy is it worth it! If you look around the internet, you’ll find different tutorials: some add salt and pepper, some add stock. I just use onions and water.

I did some research for you. I like to think of this as a place you can cook and learn. Caramelizing is the process of drawing out sugar. Onions have a high sugar content that gives them that sweet savory flavor. Different verities have different amounts of sugar. For my soup, I usually a yellow or Vidalea onion if I can find it.

Start by slicing two medium onions thinly. Pile it all in a sauce pan (ultimately you’ll have about 4 cups of liquid, so take that into account when choosing your pot). Pour enough water to cover the bottom of the pot and put over medium to high heat. And wait.

As the water evaporates, it draws the moisture out of the onion, cooking it. When you let all of the water cook out, the sugar is pulled out of the onion. This is where the patience and diligence kicks in. You want all of the water too cook out, but you don’t want to burn your onions.

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You’ll notice the onions will start to stick to the bottom — this is good, the sugar is coming out. Move the onions around a little just to keep them from burning. You’ll notice a sticky residue forming on the bottom (there’s a technical term that I can’t remember). Let this residue darken, paying attention to the smell to keep it from burning. Once it’s a good dark brown, add more water, again just enough to fill the bottom of the pot.

This is where you start drooling. The residue will flavor the liquid and the onions will reabsorb the amazing savory sweet bliss. The darker you let the reside get and the more times you add water and let it cook out again, the more flavor you’ll get. Each time the onions will get darker and savorier. Caramelized onions are to die for on top of…well just about anything: burgers, roast beef, eggs etc. For soup, however, the onions are just the beginning.

French Onion Soup

I caramelized three times then added 4 cups of broth. I used half beef broth and half chicken. If you were wanting to make this truly vegetarian, go for vegetable stock. Let the soup simmer about 20 minutes and in the mean time pop some bread under the broiler to crisp up.

To serve, put a slice of toasted bread in the bottom of a bowl, pour over the soup and top with shredded Swiss cheese and enjoy!

French Onion Soup Serve

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