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What the heck happened to that soup you promised me?|French Onion Soup Recipe


Hey. I haven’t been around for a while.  If you’re still around, at long last, here is the soup I promised when we made chicken stock back in…what? December?  Better late than never and you still have some time to make this while there is a chill in the air, which makes this soup extra cozy.  It’s also pretty cheap if you buy an inexpensive chicken and make the stock yourself.  I’m working on a three-part post singing the miracle thrift praises of whole chickens, but it’s not done yet.  So for now, get yourself a whole chicken or some chicken bones (the local market usually sells them cheap), make some stock (once you have this stuff around the house, you’ll never want to go back to the canned badness) and then take a Sunday afternoon and make yourself some onion soup.  This and a salad (and a fair amount of red wine) is all you need to make a memorably tasty Sunday meal.


French Onion Soup from Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook

For the broth:

* 6 ounces butter
* 8 large onions (or 12 small onions), thinly sliced
* 2 ounces port wine
* 2 ounces balsamic vinegar
* 2 quarts dark chicken stock, or low-sodium chicken or beef broth
* 4 ounces slab bacon, cut into 1/2-inch cubes *
* 1 bouquet garni

For the croutons and cheese:

* 16 baguette croutons (sliced and toasted in the oven with a little olive oil)
* 12 ounces grated Gruyère cheese (real, imported Gruyère!) **

For the broth:

1. In a large pot, heat the butter over medium heat until it is melted and begins to brown. Add the onions and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until they are soft and browned (about 20 minutes). Onion soup, unsurprisingly, is all about the onions. Make damn sure the onions are a nice, dark, even brown color.
2. Increase the heat to medium high and stir in the port wine and the vinegar, scraping all that brown goodness from the bottom of the pot into the liquid. Add the chicken stock. Note that the better and more intense your stock, the better the soup’s going to be. This soup, in particular, is a very good argument for making your own. Add the bacon and the bouquet garni, and bring to a boil.
3. Reduce to a simmer, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 45 minutes to an hour, skimming any foam off the top with a ladle. Remove the bouquet garni.

For the croutons and cheese:

1. When the soup is finished cooking, ladle it into the individual crocks. Float two croutons side by side on top of each. Spread a generous, even heaping amount of cheese over the top of the soup. You want some extra to hang over the edges as the crispy, near-burnt stuff that sticks to the outer sides of the crocks is often the best part, once it comes out from under the heat.
2. Place each crock under a preheated, rip-roaring broiler until the cheese melts, bubbles, browns, and even scorches slightly in isolated spots. The finished cheese should be a panorama of molten brown hues ranging from golden brown to dark brown to a few black spots where the cheese blistered and burned. Serve immediately—and carefully. You don’t know pain until you’ve spilled one of these things.
3. If your broiler is too small or too weak to pull this off, you can try it in a preheated 425°F/220°C oven until the cheese is melted. A nice optional move: Once the mound of grated cheese starts to flatten out in the oven, remove each crock and, with a propane torch, blast the cheese until you get the colors you want.

*We use some nice bacon we get at Trader Joe’s and it works fine. Just don’t use some god-awful cheap stuff you got on sale that is mostly bacon fat. Trust me on this one, we know from experience. Gross.
**This is pretty important too. Use the best Swiss cheese you can afford. The better the cheese, the better your soup. A little good cheese goes a long way, so you don’t have to use all that much and you can use any leftovers for really nice toasted cheese sandwiches.


  1. So … let’s just say we’re too lazy or too psychologically unstable to actually buy a chicken. Is there a stock you’d recommend? Because I did once have an episode with a naked chicken carcass in 1988 that came waaaaaay too close to a bad acid trip for my liking. And that’s about the last time I had anything to do with the bird.

  2. Kathlyn says:

    Hey V – I’m sure there are good chicken stocks, but I’m so cheap, I don’t know what they are. 🙂 Trader Joe’s stock has stood in for us, in a pinch. But if you can make peace with the bird, you’ll get a better result.

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