Julia Child's French Onion Soup (Soupe à l’Oignon Gratinée)

>> Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Julia Child's French Onion Soup (Soupe à l’Oignon Gratinée)

Angela has been wanting to write this post for a long time. Part of this desire is to share one of her most favorite foods, French onion soup, and re-promote it so that it will become trendy again and she can order it whenever she wants in a restaurant. Because if a restaurant does offer it, she is likely to turn down other promising foods to order soup instead.

This recipe is so much more wonderful than what you usually get in a restaurant or a can. While we have made a few alterations to suit our own tastes, the stock is unbelievably flavorful, rich and onion-y but not harsh, bitter, salty, thin, and grainy like its inferior cousins. The long slow simmering time is what gives this soup its richness. Julia offers several upgrades to the basic recipe, like poaching an egg in cognac under the slice of crusty bread and fine cheese, and if you want to change your life forever, you will try them all at least once.

Simmering French Onion Soup

We found her classic book, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," years ago in an antique shop in Iowa. Joe always wanted a basic French cookbook and had a deep respect for Julia. Angela only knew Julia from the "Saturday Night Live" skit where Dan Ackroyd, playing Julia, gets drunk on cooking wine and cuts off his hand during a cooking show. Neither of us pay much attention to popular movies, so we were startled that Julia Child has become a household name again due to the successful movie "Julie and Julia".

Every Julia Child recipe should start out with the directions, "Take out all your pans and a pound of butter." So it is with this recipe. Make a large batch so you won't resent the dishes you will wash later.


6 cups thinly sliced yellow or Vidalia onions, divided in half
3 tbsp butter, divided in half
2 tbsp canola oil, divided in half
1 tsp salt, divided in half
1/2 tsp sugar, divided in half
3 tbsp flour
2 quarts boiling-hot beef broth
1/2 cup dry white wine or vermouth
1 loaf of crusty French bread
1 clove of garlic
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cups grated Gruyère or Swiss cheese

For Soup Gratineed with Cheese (Soupe à l’Oignon Gratinée)

2 oz. Swiss cheese, cut into slivers
1 tbsp grated raw onion
1 tbsp olive oil

For Onion Soup Gratineed de Luxe (Soupe Gratinée de Trois Gormandes)

1 tsp cornstarch
1 egg yolk
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
3 tbsp Cognac


Melt half the oil and butter together in a large soup pot. Add half of the sliced onions, cover the pan, and cook them for fifteen minutes. Remove the lid, raise the temperature to medium, and stir in half the salt and sugar. Brown on all sides slowly for 30 to 40 minutes, until the onions are evenly browned and caramelized.

Sprinkle on the flour and stir for 3 minutes. Slowly pour in the boiling broth, stirring constantly. Next, stir in the wine or vermouth, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 30 minutes, covered.

In a frying pan, melt the other half of the butter and oil, and brown the second half of the onions in the same way. Add to the soup and simmer for 15 more minutes. This is where we diverge from Julia's recipe. Cooking two batches of onions will ensure a better texture for the soup, as the first batch of onions will now be rather soft and pureed.

Cut the bread into 1-inch thick rounds. Rub with the garlic clove, then saute in the olive oil.

To serve, place the bread rounds in the bottom of a soup bowl, and ladle the soup over it. Sprinkle cheese over the top.

For Soup Gratineed with Cheese (Soupe à l’Oignon Gratinée)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Prepare the soup as above and pour into an oven-safe bowl. Before serving, stir the Swiss cheese slivers into the soup. Top with the sauteed bread rounds, then the grated onion, then the grated cheese. Drizzle with the olive oil.

Place the bowl in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Set under the broiler for a few minutes, until the top is slightly browned. Serve immediately into separate bowls.

For Onion Soup Gratineed de Luxe (Soupe Gratinée de Trois Gormandes)

After completing the Soup Gratineed with Cheese steps, beat the cornstarch into the egg yolk, then the Worcestershire sauce and the cognac. Lift up the bread crust and remove a ladleful of soup. Slowly beat it into the egg yolk mixture.

Lift up the crust again and pour the mixture on top of the soup, then stir it gently into the soup.

Serves 6-8. 


Anonymous,  November 29, 2012 at 3:17 PM  

This is absolutely amazing!! I love this soup.

Anonymous,  November 29, 2012 at 7:32 PM  

I love making soup when it's cold, and I'd have to say this is my all-time favorite.

Angela Williams Duea December 16, 2012 at 11:30 AM  

I love making soup when it's cold, too. A lovely steamy kitchen and a satisfying hot dinner. Glad you like this soup the way I do!

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