Based on and adapted from Julia Child’s Soupe a Poignon from Mastering the Art of French Cooking
2 1/2 lbs yellow onions
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sugar
8 cups beef, chicken, or vegetable broth
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup white wine, optional
1/4 cup brandy, optional
6 to 8 baguette slices, toasted
1 1/2 to 3 cups shredded Gruyere or Parmesan cheese
Minced raw shallot to garnish
Chef’s knife and cutting board
4 quart or larger heavy pan or Dutch oven
- Cut each onion top to bottom, peel away the skin. Slice into half moons. Slice each half of the onion into thin, evenly-sliced half moons. You will have at least 6 cups chopped onions. Don’t worry too much about quantities with this recipe; if you have an extra onion to use up, throw it in!
- Melt butter with the oil in the pan set over medium low heat.
- After the butter foams up and then settles down, add onions and stir to coat with the butter.
- Cover and cook for 15 minutes on low heat.
- Season the onions. Onions should have wilted down somewhat. Stir in 1 teaspoon salt, a generous quantity of black pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon sugar (this helps the onions caramelize).
- Turn up the heat and cook onions for 40 minutes to 1 hour, uncovered and stirring every few minutes until the onions are deeply browned. Turn down the heat if the onions scorch or stick to the pan. The browning doesn’t come through burning, but through slow, even caramelization.
- As the onions approach a deep walnut color, heat the broth in a separate pot.
- Add 3 tablespoons flour to the caramelized onions and cook and stir for about 1 minute.
- Add broth and simmer for at least 1 hour. If using wine, add this now, too. Lower the heat the partially cover the pan. Cook gently over low heat for 1 hour or until broth is slightly reduced.
- Taste and season with additional salt and pepper. Add a finishing splash of brandy if desired.
- Top with toast and cheese. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Divide soup between small oven-safe bowls. Top each with a slice of toasted baguette and sprinkle grated cheese in a thick layer over bread and up to the edge of bowl.
- Place bowls on a baking sheet or in a casserole dish. Bake for 20-30 minutes until cheese is thoroughly melted.
- Broil 1-3 minutes until cheese is browned and bubbling. Remove carefully from oven and let cool a few minutes before serving on heatproof dishes or trivets. Serve with freshly ground pepper and minced fresh onion or shallot which provides a welcome bite in contrast to the very sweet and mellow soup.