French Onion Soup

03 Nov

(serves 6-8 )
It is amazing that something as simple as onions can make such a fantastic soup. All this thanks to that someone ages ago who discovered that the sugar in onions caramelizes when it is slow cooked in oil, bringing out the onion’s hidden natural sweetness. This is a really labour intensive and time consuming soup, but it’s well worth the effort. You can serve it as is, or oven-baked with a cheese topping.


  1. Oxtail (2 pieces)
  2. Onions (4 big)
  3. Butter (50g)
  4. Bay Leaves
  5. Thyme
  6. Garlic (4 cloves)
  7. Oxo Beef Cubes (2)
  8. Sherry

Optional Ingredients

  1. Gruyere Cheese (100g)
  2. French Baguette (1 short)
  3. Flour (2T)
  4. Miso (2t)
  1. Start by making your stock. Into 5 cups of boiling water, add your ox tail, 4 bay leaves, 4 cloves of garlic, 1T thyme. Mash 2 oxo cubes in a bowl with a bit of hot soup first and add this to the stock as well. 
  2. Simmer for at least two hours, or longer if you wish.
  3. Slice your 4 onions into 1/4 inch rings. Using a heavy non stick pan, stir-fry the onions in a quater block of butter under low heat for about 45 minutes. The onion rings will slowly caramelize into a deep yellow colour and shrink to one quarter of their original volume. A sign that your onions are done is when they stop whistling. (you can do part 2 and 3 concurrently)
  4. Strain the solids from the stock. Ladle some beef stock into the pan and then empty the pan’s contents back into your stock pot.
  5. Simmer for a further half hour (you’ll need to stir occasionally as it sticks to the bottom) to bring out the full flavour of the onions.
  6. Season with, 2T (or more) of sherry, 2t sugar, 2t miso, a generous sprinkle of black pepper. Stir and add salt to taste.
  7. For best results, allow to cool and reheat before serving.

Baked Option (you’ll need ramekins)

  1. Have your onion soup refrigerated. This stops the bread from soaking completely through before the cheese browns.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180oC (350oF).
  3. Medium grate your Guyere.
  4. Slice six pieces of your french loaf diagonally so they just fit across the remekins and toast  them a bit (again to stop the soup fom soaking through too fast)
  5. Pour your cold onion soup into your remekins, filling only 3/4 of the way up. Put a piece of bread on top of soup and then heap cheese on till it covers both the bread and any gaps.
  6. Bake till cheese melts and begins to brown, about twenty minutes. Serve immediately.


  • If you want to use flour, sprinkle in 2T of flour 3 minutes before the onions are done frying, and deglaze slowly while stirring. This is a trade off. The flour will bind away some of the oil that would otherwise film on your soup and give it a bit more body. However, you no longer have a clear soup. I do it both ways, depending on what else I am serving during the meal.
  • Instead of oxtail you can use beef ribs or any part of the cow that has plenty of connective tissue.
  • Isn’t Miso Japanese? What’s it doing in a French soup? Trust me, Miso goes really well with onions. If you have never used it before, check out my post on Miso Paste.
  • Why aren’t I using French wine? I prefer sherry as it brings out the sweetness of the onions.
  • If you can’t find Gruyere, either Raclette or Emmental are good alternatives. For further details, refer to my Cheese Page.

Posted by on November 3, 2009 in French, Recipe, Soups


Tags: , , , , ,

3 responses to “French Onion Soup

  1. ChristineCanCook

    November 3, 2009 at 2:25 am

    This looks lovely. Funny enough, I too made French onion soup for dinner last night. it was lacking… depth… I’m not really sure what which was why I couldn’t fix it. Either way, it was fine but not perfect. It was pretty though. And yours looks stunning!

    • kobayash1

      November 3, 2009 at 10:35 am

      Thanks for ‘dropping by’ Christine. Everyone’s recipe on the onion part is pretty much the same, so I think the difference lies in the stock? I find that the gelatin from the oxtail helps a lot for the depth. I usually stew the meat in a red wine reduction with some vegetables so it doesn’t go to waste.

      • ChristineCanCook

        November 3, 2009 at 10:14 pm

        Probably… either way, I don’t think I’m an onion soup kind of gal. Maybe I’ll try again one day…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: