French Onion Soup

October 23, 2017 by Nicole Collins

Are you guys tired of talking about my birthday yet?

I'm not!

But, as October is coming to an end, I'm going to have to find something else to talk to you about. DARN!

Ok, ok. This will be the last birthday post for the year (probably); but I promise you, it'll be worth sticking in there with me.

So this year, I bought myself a birthday present. As you get older, you get less and less gifts; but the gifts you do get also get a little more expensive. So, there's a happy trade off there. But, because of this, I feel like grown ups decide that they should buy themselves birthday gifts. We use our birthdays as an excuse to indulge a little bit and buy things we wouldn't normally buy for ourselves.

That's what I told myself this year, anyways. And, I'm sticking to that.

So, technically, I bought my birthday gift for myself in July. But, I wasn't going to get to use it until October, so that's how I justified it as a bday gift.

What did I buy myself, you ask?

French Cooking Classes!

There's this amazing place about a half hour from where I live called Baltimore Chef Shop. They're a teaching kitchen, and they do small themed cooking classes. The instructors are mostly local restaurant chefs. They supply you with all of the equipment and the recipes, and they guide you through making a whole menu. The classes are usually just 1 3-hour session, but it's just enough time to make and enjoy your work. It's one of my favorite things that I've ever stumbled upon.

I've taken a couple dessert classes there before. I took a French pastry class where we made Creme Brulee, profiteroles, and chocolate souffle. I also took a French Macaron class, where we mastered the art of making this totally delicious, but absolutely temperamental treat.

So, when they announced that they were opening up a 3 week French Cuisine series, I was all over it!

Side note...I just noticed that I've only taken French cooking classes there. But, they offer sooooooo much more! Spanish tapas, brunch, Indian cuisine, fresh pasta, Thai street food, kitchen basics, cheese making...the class list is endless, and it changes seasonally which is cool. I guess, I'll just have to suck it up and try something different there. Twist my arm already.

Anyway, the class list didn't list the menu, but it noted that each week would focus on a different region of French Cuisine each week. I'm 2 weeks in to the class, which means my last class is this week. I'm actually REALLY bummed that it's almost over, because it is SO MUCH FUN!

Already, in the past 2 weeks, I've eaten so many things that I would never dare put in my mouth otherwise. And, I learned that I'm not as disgusted by these things as I thought. Mussels and Escargot is what I'm really talking about here.

Last week, our menu included 2 things that I had just developed recipes for the week before. Since we didn't know what our menus would look like in advance, I must've just been in French mode or something. Great minds, right?

So today, we're having my version of a classic: French Onion Soup.

When our instructor announced last week that we were having French Onion Soup, she said that this was one of those things that a family member of hers has to try wherever he goes. I know exactly how he feels.

I stayed pretty traditional in my method for making this soup (at least according to the recipe we got from the class), but there is one major twist that makes mine special.

Mushroom broth.

This soup takes a little attention and a lot of patience, but it's totally worth it! The end results kind of make time stand still.

I heard somewhere that French Onion Soup is pretty much just onion water, and I'm ok with that. It starts with some slow cooked sweet onions. We get them to the point where they're soft and creamy and just starting to caramelize, but we stop them before them get brown.

The onions get bathed in some beef broth, but the mushroom broth is my special addition. We just simmer some shitake and baby bella mushrooms in a little more beef broth before adding it to the onions. It adds this extra earthy depth of flavor that doesn't taste like mushrooms, but it really enhances the soup. If you're a mushroom hater, don't stop reading. I promise, you'd never know they were a part of this ingredient list!

We also flavor our onion water with some fresh thyme and a bay leaf, and that actually helps sweeten the broth a little bit.

Traditional French Onion Soup calls for a quick roux (flour/butter mix) to thicken the broth, but I chose to skip that step. It doesn't need it, in my opinion.

Finally, we work on everyone's favorite part of French Onion Soup: the cheesy crouton! We toast up some bread, top it with gruyere cheese, plunk it in our soup, and pop in under the broiler to get all bubbly and brown.

The kitchen where I take my class doesn't have a broiler, so we got to use torches to melt our cheese in class. FUN!

This is one of those recipes that is 100% worth the effort involved. So, let's be like the French, and make us some onion water!

Enjoy, and let's eat!

French Onion Soup

Serves: 4 Print

Ingredients:

For the Mushroom Broth:

  • 4 oz shitake mushrooms, sliced

  • 4 oz baby bella mushrooms, sliced

  • 1 quart (4 cups) low sodium beef broth

For the Onion Soup:

  • 4 tbsp (½ stick) butter

  • 4 sweet onions, cut in half and thinly sliced

  • 1 tsp salt, divided; plus more, to taste

  • ½ tsp pepper, divided

  • 1 tsp brown sugar

  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 1 quart (4 cups) low sodium beef broth

For the Crouton:

  • 2 slices thick cut bread or baguette (about ¾ inch thick)

  • 6 oz gruyere cheese, shredded

Directions:

  1. Make the mushroom broth: In a medium pot, add mushrooms and 4 cups beef broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 45 mins. Remove from heat. Use a slotted spoon or spider to remove mushrooms from broth.

  2. Meanwhile, prepare the onions: In a large stock pot, heat butter over medium heat heat. Add onions, ½ tsp salt, ¼ tsp pepper, and brown sugar, and stir to combine. Cook for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened and just starting to brown.

  3. Finish the soup: Add 4 cups beef broth, mushroom broth, thyme, bay leaf, ½ tsp salt, and ¼ tsp pepper to the softened onions. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 20 minutes. Taste for seasoning, and add salt, to taste, if necessary.

  4. Make the crouton: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut bread in half to fit the size of your soup crock, and place on a sheet pan. Bake for 5 mins. Flip, and place back in the oven for 5 more mins. Increase oven temperature to broil.

  5. Divide soup between 4 oven safe crocks or bowls. Place toasted bread on top of soup. Top with gruyere cheese evenly divided between the bowls. Place under the broiler for 5-6 minutes until the cheese is bubbly and melted and just starting to brown. Serve immediately.

Recipe notes:

*If you're not eating this all at once, store the soup in the fridge without the crouton. Wait to make the crouton and broil the cheese on top until you're ready to serve it.

*Make sure you get sweet onions for this soup.

*Make sure you get low sodium beef broth. It really makes a difference. You don't want to taste all salt and no onion! Different brands do have different salt content (even though we're buying unsalted, so we still may need to add a little salt at the end).

*If you don't have any oven safe soup crocks, check your local thrift store. Mine almost always has some, and that's where I got mine!

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