The Best French Onion Soup You'll Ever Have (AKA My Mom's Famous Recipe)

9:00 AM

People often tell me that "You're your mother's daughter." Aside from the fact that she doesn't like coconut (blasphemy), we are alarmingly similar. So similar, in fact, that I didn't write a single thing down when she was schooling me in the ways of making the world's best French onion soup. You see, dear mom keeps all her recipes locked up in the ol' noggin and freestyles as she goes. Actually, I take that back...I wouldn't call her onion soup recipe 'freestyling'. Instead, she uses years of experience (her specially trained nose knew exactly when the onions had the first hint of caramelization) to make sure the recipe is adjusted just so. So, now I'm recording this recipe so I have it forever and share it with my friends and family, just as my mom does and her mom does. The measurements aren't an exact science, which may really irritate some of you and give you extreme anxiety. Take a Xanax, drink some wine and chill....because it'll all turn out magical in the end. Alright, here goes.

Olive oil, enough to coat the bottom of the pot
Onions (preferably vidalia), one big bag
Sugar, 1-3 wooden spoonfuls
Dry white wine (good quality), 2 bottles
Low-sodium beef stock, 2 boxes
Crusty bread, one loaf
Jarlsberg cheese, the more the merrier
Stock pot (you need the big one...I thought my pasta pot would work, but no way once you slice up all those onions)
Food processor, optional but very smart to use

1. Look at the clock. Do you have 7 hours to cook some soup? Then by all means, commence reading this epic recipe. If not, not pass go. You can't rush this process, and if you speed through it, your French onion soup will be mediocre at best, slimy mush at worst.

2. Coat the bottom of your pot in olive oil, and turn up the heat to medium high. Start slicing the onions with the slicer blade on your food processor, and toss the sliced onions into the pot as the food processor cup fills.

3. After each batch goes in, sprinkle in the sugar and stir to coat. When I say sprinkle, I mean dump in a wooden spoonful. We did about three large wooden spoonfuls of sugar for this batch, since I bought the wrong onions at Costco (regular yellow instead of amateur move on my part). Mom explained that she normally only uses about one wooden spoonful when using vidalia onions, but these needed some sweetening to take the acidic onion taste down and help with the eventual caramelization process.

This was when the onions just started caramelizing, and got their first one or two stirs.
3. Now, this is the part where I was goofing up. Once you have stirred in the sugar and the onions start cooking down, don't touch them. At all. When do we stir them, you ask? This is the tricky part where my mom's hound-like nose came into play. She smelled the faintest scent of caramelization, and knew to stir. For novices like you and me with useless noses, I'd give it about 20-30 minutes. Once you see the faintest bit of caramelization, turn the heat down to just a pinch below medium and give it a quick mix.

This was about half-way through the caramelization process
4. Keep stirring every 20-40 minutes or so until most of the liquid is dissolved and you have a nice, even, dark color. You want to give the onions ample time on the bottom of the pot to develop that color and sweet flavor, so try and feel it out for when you should stir based on their progress. It's important not to rush this process - don't turn up the heat to speed it up. Just let time and heat do it's thing. When you stir, be sure to scrape up any bits that get stuck onto the pot bottom. There's some super flavors in that.

After adding the wine
5.When all the liquid is gone, your onions are getting some deep color, and they need to be stirred pretty often to prevent burning, then it's time to bring in the wine. We poured in two bottles of white, and scraped up any remaining bits from the bottom. We then added our low-sodium beef broth.

6. Bring your soup to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover, and let cook for a few hours (our went for another 3 hours). The ideal goal is to get the liquid to reduce by almost half, so all those flavors intensify and blend together. Uncover in the last hour of cooking.

7. When ready to serve, slice up some pieces of crusty bread and Jarlsberg cheese. Place under the broiler, watching them carefully so the bread and cheese don't burn. When the cheese gets melted and bubbly, it's take to take them out. Place immediately in the soup using tongs (be careful not to drop it...the hot splash of soup will hurt!) and let it soak up that fantastic broth. Conversely, you can dish the soup into bowls that are oven-safe, put the bread and cheese in them, and place that directly under the broiler.

8.  Enjoy!

Note: My grandmother and mom both agree that it's best to wait a day to eat the soup, but you don't have to. Just make sure you have leftovers, because the day after is even better.


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