Various onion soup recipes have been found in English, American, Roman and French cookbooks/collections for hundreds of years. Onions have pretty much always been cheap and relatively easy to grow and gather for cooking. For hundreds of years, onions were considered a food for the poorer classes, but in the 1960's french food grew in popularity here in America. Along with that popularity came the resurgence of the french onion soup. I have a very, very easy recipe for french onion soup - and you can make all kinds of changes to it, depending on what ingredients you have on hand. The only ingredient that cannot be changed is, of course, the onion.
Simple French Onion Soup
6 large onions - I use yellow onions, but chefs such as Alton Brown say that you can use yellow and purple; you can also use vidalias, they would be delicious in this soup
3 tablespoons of butter - or you can use vegetable oil, if that's what you have
3-6 teaspoons of sugar - this is based on how sweet your onions are, if you use yellow, use more sugar, but if you use vidalia, use less
6 squares of beef bouillon & 6 cups of water - or 6 cups of beef broth, or even 4-5 cups beef and 1-2 cups chicken broth
splashes of: worcestershire sauce, and either red wine, sherry, vermouth (I use Port more often than not because that's what I have on hand)
salt and pepper to taste
1. Peel and thinly slice onions into half moon shapes
2. Melt butter, or heat oil, add onions and start sauteing
3. When the onions are soft, but not brown (should be translucent), sprinkle the sugar on the onions (this will help the carmelization start moving along)
4. After the onions are carmelized, add your bouillon and water or broth and bring to a boil
5. add in the worcestershire, red wine/sherry/vermouth/port, and salt and pepper
6. simmer for 10-15 minutes
As you see, there are many things that you can add or subtract from this recipe. Use what you have! If you have bay leaf and/or thyme - use them! If you have white wine instead of red, use it! This particular recipe is very easy and relatively fast (some people like to cook their soups for hours, and you definitely can if you have the time!).
Now onto the BREAD!
Most of the time, you would add crunchy french bread, such as baguette or croutons and gruyere cheese to the top of the soup (after you've put it in a ramekin or oven safe bowl) and put it under the broiler to melt the cheese. With my recipe, I don't have any ramekins and am really too clumsy to try to get hot steaming bowls of soup out of the oven so I do this:
- take a baguette, cut it into 1/2" slices
- spread butter on top
- sprinkle granulated garlic and fresh ground rock salt (or you can use garlic salt)
- top with cheese, we usually use swiss because that's what we have on hand - but you can use gruyere, cheddar, or any cheese you like - home cooked food is about what you like, not necessarily what the recipe says you should like
- place under the broiler for a couple of minutes
- put on a plate for every one to grab one, or two, or three to dunk in their soup!
Cooking doesn't have to be hard - just use your imagination and use what you already have. If you are living on a budget like we do, you don't always have the money to buy the fancier/pricier cheeses and wines, etc. but you still want a good meal. Look around you, think about what you have, think about what you like - and you can find a way to make it work for you!