French onion soup (or ‘onion soup’ in France) is traditionally served as a first course. It is usually based from meat stock and onions, and is typically served with bread or croutons, and cheese. Although the well-known French dish spiked in international popularity in the 1960s, thanks to the United States’ interest in French cuisine, its origins date back to Roman times. Onion soup was typically eaten by poor people, as onions were plentiful, easy to grow, and inexpensive. Although onion soup has been around for centuries, it wasn’t until the 1700s that this particular version of the soup was created in France. The creation of the rich and tasty soup has been attributed to King Louis the XV of France. Rumor says that he created French onion soup when the only ingredients that could be found in his hunting party’s lodge were butter, onions, and champagne. From that time, however, the soup has evolved into something much different (and probably much tastier). In the 19th century, the French started to add flour, salt and pepper, and cheese to the dish. Today, this version of French onion soup can be enjoyed all around the world.
1/4 cup butter
6 large shallots, thinly sliced
3 large yellow onions, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups beef broth
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup red wine
1.5 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dry parsley
1 teaspoon dry thyme
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
1 loaf hearty French of Italian bread cut into 3 inch cubes
20-24 slices Emmental, Gruyere, or similar Swiss cheese
Grated parmesan or mozzarella for serving (optional)
In a large stock pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the shallots, yellow onions, and 1 teaspoon of salt, and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the onions are caramelized (approximately 40 minutes).
Add the broth, red wine, Worcestershire sauce, parsley, thyme, and bay leaves to the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer over low-medium heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to low and add the balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
While the soup is simmering, preheat the broiler. Add the bread to a baking sheet and place in the oven for approximately 4 minutes, turning half-way through. Once the bread is toasted on all sides, add the cheese to the bread. Place back in the oven until the cheese is melted and starting to brown.
Add soup to each bowl, then place 4-5 cheesy bread cubes in each bowl. Top with additional grated mozzarella or parmesan, if desired.