The Perfect French Onion Soup

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The Perfect French Onion Soup

I have the basic ingredients, I think. White onions, Swanson's Beef broth, assorted cheeses, and the French bread is coming. Anything else?

One of the basic problems I'm having is with the cheese. It should melt in your mouth and not in the soup. Is this possible?

Bubble gum cheese is a factor. This is very unacceptable, and has been a problem. The cheese sometimes ends up as gob of bubble gum that doesn't chew properly.

Should I use high glutine bread so it doesn't melt in the soup? I'm not really sure if gluton is the factor.
 

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  • #2
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The cheese doesnt melt in your mouth. Its a bit like the cheese on a pizza. You gotta chew it, like bubble gum.
 
  • #3
Evo
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One of the basic problems I'm having is with the cheese. It should melt in your mouth and not in the soup. Is this possible?

Bubble gum cheese is a factor. This is very unacceptable, and has been a problem. The cheese sometimes ends up as gob of bubble gum that doesn't chew properly.

Should I use high glutine bread so it doesn't melt in the soup? I'm not really sure if gluton is the factor.
Can you be more specific? The cheese should melt on top of the bread that is placed over the soup. The piece of bread should be large enough to pretty much cover the entire surface of the crock the soup is in. What type of cheese are you using?

Also, are you toasting the bread first?
 
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  • #4
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Be sure to grill (gratinee) the soup for a few minutes, to melt the cheese.
 
  • #5
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I use smoky provolone cheese, in very thin slices. One under the bread and one over it. I always use pan drippings from a roast to slightly brown the onions in, and a really crusty French bread, even better if its a little stale.
 
  • #6
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Can you be more specific? The cheese should melt on top of the bread that is placed over the soup. The piece of bread should be large enough to pretty much cover the entire surface of the crock the soup is in. What type of cheese are you using?

Also, are you toasting the bread first?
I see I'm a novice amoung experts :smile: I was thinking of grilling the cheese with the bread, like a small grill cheese sandwitch or two.

I'll be experimenting with different cheeses. What do you recommend?
 
  • #7
Evo
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I see I'm a novice amoung experts :smile: I was thinking of grilling the cheese with the bread, like a small grill cheese sandwitch or two.

I'll be experimenting with different cheeses. What do you recommend?
The most comon are mozzarella, gruyere, provolone, and swiss.

You need to get individual oven proof crocks, place the lightly toasted bread on top of the soup, cover with cheese, then quickly melt under the broiler.
 
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  • #8
LowlyPion
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Here is an interesting approach that I haven't tried but sounds pretty workable. A crock-pot for the caramelizing step. (Not the baking step.)

http://www.realbakingwithrose.com/2008/02/the_best_french_onion_soup.html

I like the idea of freezing up a batch of caramelized onions and making it more readily. I've recently seen some small crock-pots that might be a good size to caramelize with. (Disregard the pretentiousness of the website, I think there are some good tips in the article.)
 
  • #9
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The photo looks delicious, LP. At first, it looks sloppy, but I get the idea now. I was thinking that I could skip the oven by grilling the cheese on the bread, but would leave out the crunchy cheese around the outside and edges.
 
  • #10
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What's the difference between fying onions and carmelizing them?
 
  • #11
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What's the difference between fying onions and carmelizing them?
Caramelization occurs when you fry the onions long enough for them to turn brown.
 
  • #12
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Caramelizing means cooking the onions in oil or butter or both over low heat for a long time: 30 minutes to an hour, until they turn a kind of mahogany color. Unlike fried onions, which are mild, these are very sweet and rich-tasting.
omg Evo wish you could taste my caramelized onion and olive tarts, made in puffed pastery. Talk about a savory delight!
 
  • #13
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Thanks Evo, hypatia. I've been at it piecemeal. I'm going to have to overcome my shopa-phobia and get stuff myself. I made a list for my wife and she came back with white onions, the wrong cheeses, and two 8 inch oven oven dishes instead of soup crocks. Good grief.
 
  • #14
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Thanks Evo, hypatia. I've been at it piecemeal. I'm going to have to overcome my shopa-phobia and get stuff myself. I made a list for my wife and she came back with white onions, the wrong cheeses, and two 8 inch oven oven dishes instead of soup crocks. Good grief.
So, you're the cook in the family!

Keep us posted!
 
  • #15
LowlyPion
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Thanks Evo, hypatia. I've been at it piecemeal. I'm going to have to overcome my shopa-phobia and get stuff myself. I made a list for my wife and she came back with white onions, the wrong cheeses, and two 8 inch oven oven dishes instead of soup crocks. Good grief.
I was at the store yesterday and bought a crockpot to make it myself. Curses that I didn't open the package in the store. I got home and it wasn't a crockpot at all. It was a crackpot. Another trip to the store later and I had a half dozen onions percolating toward caramelization before bedtime. The kitchen now this morning is infused with a rich buttery onion odor and the onions have plunged toward a chestnut brown. I'm just some shaved Gruyere and stale baguette away from satisfying the gastronomic itch this thread has started. I will freeze the unused portion of the onion and enjoy it again several more times in the coming weeks.

So thanks for the suggestion. It's kick started a pleasant resurrection of a dish that I made only a couple of times before because of the fuss of it all.
 
  • #16
Evo
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I lost the crock part of my crockpot when I moved. Perhaps I should get another one. I was so tired last night, I had Taco Bell for dinner. Their taco salads don't have half as much as they used to, I could always make 2 full meals out of one.

Which crockpot did you get, if I may ask?
 
  • #17
LowlyPion
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I lost the crock part of my crockpot when I moved. Perhaps I should get another one. I was so tired last night, I had Taco Bell for dinner. Their taco salads don't have half as much as they used to, I could always make 2 full meals out of one.

Which crockpot did you get, if I may ask?
Walmart - $15 - Made in China. Durand I think is the brand name.

Nothing fancy. Off - Low - High - Warm. No pilot light. But it works for what I need and the servo control on a crockpot is a pretty simple thermostat. So what can go wrong ... besides having the pot pulverized in shipment?
 
  • #18
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So far from my limited experience I think you can leave the onions on Low for overnight which I did or even for a workday I suppose, but I would want to check it and stir it down after too much more than 8 - 10 hours. I would probably worry about it all day if I left it unattended and for no real good reason it seems other than my paranoid imagination of what could happen if it went on for 20 hours or so. I hate cleaning up burned char out of pots.
 
  • #19
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Walmart - $15 - Made in China. Durand I think is the brand name.

Nothing fancy. Off - Low - High - Warm. No pilot light. But it works for what I need and the servo control on a crockpot is a pretty simple thermostat. So what can go wrong ... besides having the pot pulverized in shipment?
That's just my speed. Thanks.

So the first was actually a crackpot?
 
  • #20
LowlyPion
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So the first was actually a crackpot?
I couldn't believe how shattered it was. The packaging was holding it together. I returned it within an hour of buying it. There was no question that I could have gotten it out of the box and put it back like that. I was annoyed with myself for not checking before I got it.
 
  • #21
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Perhaps that's the best to use crackpots for, learn them how to grill French Onion Soup
 
  • #22
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The secret to good french onion soup is in the onions. You need a lot of them cooked over a long period of time (read slowly). You don't want the exterior part of the onion to brown in hot fat, but the natural sugars in the onion to reach the point of caramelization.

The fat can be many things depending on taste. I prefer pork fat, either rendered from trimmings or from bacon (if you like a more smoky taste to the soup - I don't). Some people use butter.

Traditionally, chicken stock is actually used, as it doesn't overpower the natural flavors of the caramelized onions (read up on Dumas Peré for more history). This is more the better if you don't make your own stocks/glace de viande, as the only commercial "stock" I find edible is Swanson Low-Sodium Chicken Broth (I make my own beef and pork stock).

The cheese is often heavily debated, but I go with real Gruyere. It has a bit of saltiness like an aged mozzarella, but a nuttiness and melting characteristic of a good swiss (as it is one) - note: no stringy strands of cheese from crock to spoon to mouth. It's the most expensive part of the dish.

For herbs, I prefer not to use thyme or bay going sans-herbs, but that is a personal preference. It's all about the onions and cheese for me.

Lastly you need a splash of a vinegar to balance flavors. Go with Balsamic if you like sweet, I prefer Sherry Wine Vinegar.

So here is my favorite recipe. Its based on Thomas Keller's proportions with my own preferences and an ode to history.

8 pounds Yellow Onions (Yes, 8 pounds)
Rendered Pork Fat
2.5 Quarts Chicken Stock
Kosher Salt & Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1-2 Tablespoons Sherry Wine Vinegar
Baguette - Cut into 1-inch Cubes
Gruyere Cheese - Thin slices & Large Shreds

Evenly slice the onions thinly. Add about 1/3-C of the pork fat to the pot along with the onions and a couple teaspoons or so of Kosher Salt over medium-low to medium heat, stirring every 15 minutes or so. If you hear them "frying", reduce the heat. This takes about 4 hours. Eventually you will get a very-rich and dark-brown pile of loveliness.

Add the stock, and simmer/reduce over medium heat until you have 2.5 quarts of soup (this can easily be done with some prep work. Before cooking, add 2.5 quarts of water to your pot of intended use and make a dip-stick with a wooden spoon by marking the pot level on it's handle with a knife). Add your vinegar, and then season to taste with salt and pepper. You can now store this in the fridge, or proceed.

Adjust one oven-rack to the middle, and another close to the broiler. Heat the oven to 375ºF and toast the bread cubes until they are mostly hard and dried out. Remove them and crank the oven as high as it will go (550ºF or so). On a sheet pan (to catch crock-overflow - think thermodynamics here) fill your crocks with the hot soup to within a 1/2-inch of the top, add a few bread cubes, place a large/thin slice of cheese down first making sure to overlap the edges of the crock, then a handful of the grated cheese. Switch the oven to broil, and wait a minute for it to heat up. Broil your crocks until the cheese forms a brown crust and melts down the sides of the crock - small black splotches are okay.

Allow the napalm to cool a bit. Eat.

I like this soup with a small salad, and a traditional french dessert like Chocolate Mousse or Creme Caramel with coffee.

EDIT: There is enough for six 1.5 Cup servings.
 
  • #23
Evo
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So far from my limited experience I think you can leave the onions on Low for overnight which I did or even for a workday I suppose, but I would want to check it and stir it down after too much more than 8 - 10 hours. I would probably worry about it all day if I left it unattended and for no real good reason it seems other than my paranoid imagination of what could happen if it went on for 20 hours or so. I hate cleaning up burned char out of pots.
I'm always afraid of leaving anything on. The wiring in the walls in the pit of doom was so bad that regular appliances would cause smoke to come out of the electric outlets. With my luck, I don't tempt fate.
 
  • #24
LowlyPion
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I'm always afraid of leaving anything on. The wiring in the walls in the pit of doom was so bad that regular appliances would cause smoke to come out of the electric outlets. With my luck, I don't tempt fate.
I doubt a crockpot draws much more than a TV on the Low setting. Your wiring can't be that bad. Now an electric skillet - that I would have more concerns about. I used to have a 1500 watt skillet in my dorm (illegally of course) and that pretty much fills a 15 amp circuit. But I never left it on and went to class for instance.

Smoke coming from the walls of course is always a caution regardless of what you're running. That's something worth having looked at.
 
  • #25
Evo
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I sold the house.
 

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