Soupe à l’oignon Gratinée…

…just a fancy way to say French Onion Soup.

French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup

Anybody who knows me knows I don’t put a great deal of stock in culinary schools. I’ve earned the right to think that way. I graduated from arguably one of the finest in the world. I’ve also had students from my alma mater and dozens of other culinary programs from, yes, around the world. It’s not that I disagree with the programs as much as I do the ideology that students are being trained to be chefs. I’ve yet to see a chef, diploma in hand, on graduation day from any program.

What I will say for culinary schools, in my own personal experience, is that they expose you to so many things that pertain to real kitchens, but it’s up to the student to put the time in to learn and develop these things in the real world.

As an example, when I graduated culinary school, I made my stocks the way I learned in school, the classic preparation of one of the fonds de cuisine. As I’ve developed my own style over the years, I’ve adapted my stocks to reflect what I feel enhances my food. I use much less herbs and mirepoix in my stocks now, sometimes none at all. I want my stocks to be supremely neutral and concentrated, so I leave them longer on the heat to extract and reduce as much as possible. What I’ve been able to do with my stocks comes from understanding the classical method of preparation.

While I’ve adapted many of the stocks I make to fit my own tastes, there are times when classical methods are the only way to create a particular result. A beautifully simple French onion soup is one of those times when I make my white veal stock as I did in culinary school, and I’m glad I was paying attention.

French Onion soup is one of those dishes that can amaze you with rich robust flavor from a few simple, but unexciting ingredients. To do this soup well, you need to master one of the most basic cooking techniques, caramelization. Caramelization is the act of cooking sugar (or sucrose) to a brown color, enhancing sweetness and giving your ingredient a slight roasted/nutty flavor. This process is what gives the soup it’s rich color and depth of flavor. French onion soup does take some patience but the results are worth it.

French Onion Soups

French Onion Soup

When making French onion, it’s important, as I mentioned above, to use a well made veal stock. You can find a good recipe here or email me and I will give you mine. You may substitute chicken or beef, as long as they are unsalted.

French Onion Soup

2 qts. White veal stock
3# yellow onion, julienned
1 ½ cups sherry
2 oz. corn oil
2Tbs. fresh thyme leaves
Kosher Salt


1. In a heavy bottomed Stock Pot, heat the corn oil over high heat until you begin to see wisps of smoke.
2. Carefully place the onions in the pot and reduce the heat to medium high.
3. From here, you’re going to caramelize your onions rather slowly.
4. To do this properly, allow the onions to rest about a minute on the flame undisturbed.
5. Stir the onions, bringing the onions from the bottom to the top, allowing new onions to set on the bottom of the pot. It will take some time doing this to get the onions caramelized enough to give the soup a deep onion flavor.
6. In the following photo, this is roughly how the onions should progress over med-medium high heat.

7. When the onions have reached a dark stage, roughly the color of milk chocolate, deglaze with the sherry.
8. Reduce the sherry by half and add the veal stock.
9. Add the thyme and simmer 45-60 minutes.
10. Remove from heat, season with salt and white pepper (this is one of the few places white pepper actually enhances a dish).

To plate (optional)
1 large toast point made from a baguette
1 thick slice gruyere

38 Responses

  1. Starchy vegetables including corn, peas, winter squash, and legumes are counted in the.
    Much more should be used for healthy dieting than the usual few quick tips, however the tips is reminders of the goals and what should be used to accomplish those goals. With this at heart periodic cheating in your diet cannot basically be beneficial psychologically but additionally speed up their fat loss rate by raising your leptin levels which in turn raises all the other hormones responsible on your body’s Resting Metabolic Rate.

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  3. Pingback: Francuska zupa cebulowa « Bea w Kuchni

  4. Hi Barb,
    SK foods International is a company in ND producing non-GMO oils and grains, other than that, virtually every corn based product available is GMO. From tortillas to tofu, breads, chocolate, soy sauce, cheese, peanut butter, powdered sugar, baking powder, pasta, cookies and even infant formula. Any item you buy that lists corn in any form as an ingredient is GMO corn. Other than olive oil, all other vegetable oils are also GMO, unless stated on the packaging.

    The safest way to go is purely organic although even organic foods are allowed to contain trace amounts of non organic ingredients, some of which can be GMO.

    To answer your question, look for a high heat oil such as safflower, canola or grapeseed oil. I have also been using tea seed oil more frequently which is high heat, neutral flavored and is becoming more widely available.

  5. Barb says:

    Where can you find corn oil that is not nasty GMO stuff? Even the health food stores here do not carry corn oil. Or … what other oil could you use?

  6. Candela says:

    Ciao Christopher,
    I also found your blog through David Lebovitz ,what a beautiful site you have!
    I just requested my email subscription.
    Saluti dall’ Italia. :)

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  8. Pingback: Soupe à l’oignon Gratinée (aka French Onion Soup) from Christopher Cina | Celiac Handbook

  9. Jane says:

    Just found your site via David Leibovitz. I love French Onion Soup. Caramelizing the onions is so necessary for the rich deep flavors. Instead of doing it on the stove I use the oven and leave the onions in the enameled pot for several hours in the oven. Not a quick way to brown the onions…just another variant on a theme. Here is my recipe

  10. Jane says:

    I love French Onion soup. Caramelizing the onions is so necessary for the rich flavor. Just found your site through David Leibovitz. Here my recipe for the soup. I caramelize the onions in the oven. A different variant on the same theme.

  11. EJ says:

    Just like a well made risotto, letting the onions caramelize takes patience. I’ve been collecting French Onion Soup recipes for years and have made quite a few, all with a vegetarian broth. Some have been better than others. I think having a mushroom broth base provides a richer broth. You can find mushroom bouillion in a jar at some natural food markets.

  12. Barton says:

    Stock is cooking, please people dont buy those awful cartons. It is easy to make and freezes well. Those photos have my stomach screaming. Don’t think i can wait until March and a trip to France. Hold little hope for finding a half decent one at local restaurant so will have to make some. Cheers. I have to argue the cheese and crouton are not optional

  13. Rabeeya says:

    Hi. Can you tell me what I can use instead of Sherry? As a Muslim, I cannot use Alcohol in cooking.
    Something like Vinegar mixed with something. or Orange juice.

  14. Ben says:

    I really want to learn how to cook classic French Onion soup and your post looks amazing. I really hope it works out when I get a chance to try it out.

    +1 reader :)

  15. Thanks everybody for the wonderful comments. I hope you all get to try the soup. A few have asked for my recipe for the veal stock which I will send out/post tonight.

    Also, a few have asked about email subscriptions instead of feeds. I was finally able to get off my butt and look into it. I was even able to configure it myself, I’m feeling very productive. The link is at the top in the ‘follow me’ section. I look forward to checking out all of your blogs/sites this weekend.


  16. naomi says:

    I also came from Tartlette, and those photos help tremendously. I’ve been wanting to onion soup, so this helps. I’ll figure something to use instead of veal, as I haven’t had meat or poultry in . . . quite a long time. I am a pescetarian; I have to eat fish, I live in New Orleans. So, fish stock? Or just cook even more onions? You’ve given me a good start. I’ll definitely be checking your blog. Thanks.

  17. Stephanie says:

    Lovely photos and article. I came for this recipe and just spent 30 minutes reading your blog. Thank you :)

  18. Sally says:

    I’ve popped over from Tartelette to investigate the recipe for French onion soup. What an excellent guide to caramelising the onions – detail is important when a recipe is this simple but so easy to miss the mark.

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