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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

the happygirl guide to the best french onion soup (recipe)

Whenever I was working the Cannes Film Festival, our crew would try to have dinner at our favorite small restaurant in the Old Port that served a French Onion Soup so delicious that to this day I still dream of it. 

I've tinkered with this recipe over the past few years and now it reminds me exactly of the soup served in this little restaurant by the Mediterranean Sea. While it isn't low calorie, it may be the best you have ever had with a freshness (courtesy of the tarragon) and an extraordinary depth (courtesy of the Merlot.)

I hope you enjoy it. 


1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 cups (4 extra large) onions
1 teaspoon of fresh tarragon leaves (use 1/2 teaspoon if you use dried tarragon)
64 ounces (2 Tetra Pack boxes of organic beef broth. I prefer Pacific Natural Foods brand)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/3 cup Merlot or Cabernet
8 thin slices of a narrow loaf baguette
1 cup mix of shredded Swiss and Gruyere cheeses (sold mixed at Trader Joe's)

Cooking Directions

Preheat oven to broil. 

Thinly slice 4 large yellow onions to yield approximately 8 cups. Set aside. 

Heat butter and olive oil on medium heat in a large pot (a Dutch oven works great here).

Add onions to pan and toss so that onions are covered equally in the butter/olive oil mixture. Add tarragon, salt and pepper. 

Saute on medium, stirring every few minutes. Let onions soften and brown for 20 minutes. (It's OK if some onions get very dark. This carmellization will add depth to your soup. Be careful not to burn the onions though. If they start sticking to the pan, add a little bit of olive oil.) 

Turn heat to low and slowly add wine to onions to deglaze the pan. Turn heat to medium high. (Deglazing releases the brown tasty bits from the pan back into your mixture.) Stir for another 5 minutes until pan is deglazed and onion mixture thickens. 

before the merlot was added

after the merlot

Add 64 ounces or 2 Tetra Pack boxes of beef broth. Stir. Cook on high heat. 

Lightly brush thin slices of bread with olive oil and place on cookie sheet on low rack in oven. Bake for 3 minutes. Watch them carefully. This is a super hot oven! Remove when the baguette slices start to get golden and toasty. (This may happen quicker than 3 minutes) Be sure not to skip this part. If you add untoasted bread, it will get soggy and you won't get the good crusty cheese topping that this soup is known for.

Turn stovetop heat off. 

Place 4 oven safe soup bowls on a rimmed cookie sheet or pan. Ladle soup into each bowl leaving one inch at the top. (Soup will bubble over if filled too high.) Be sure to use a pan with at least a one inch rim. This can be a messy endeavor!

Add two slices of toasted baguette to top of soup. 

Add 1/4 cup of Swiss/ Gruyere cheese to top of the toast and soup. 

Carefully transfer pan with soup bowls on top rack of of heated oven at least 4 inches away from heating unit. 

Cook for 4 to 5 minutes. What you are looking for is melted / golden brown cheese. 

Very carefully remove pan with bowls from oven. They will be extremely hot so be careful!

Using mitts, slowly transfer soup bowls onto individual plates and serve with toasted bread. 

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