La Nuit Francais

Interestingly enough, I never liked French onion soup until I went to Paris for the first time. I figured if I didn't like soupe a l'oignon in France, I was never going to like it. I'm happy to report I was pleasantly surprised, and for the rest of the trip (and the subsequent six trips to France I took over the next few years) I ordered the soup at any given opportunity. I wish I knew the secret of the French chefs, because I repeatedly tried to re-create this soup at home for quite a while now. I finally stumbled on this recipe from the Williams Sonoma website, and I think this is as close as I'll ever get to authentic French onion soup. Unfortunately, I couldn't find leeks at my grocery store, so I had to go without. This is a time-consuming soup to make, so don't attempt this if you have a million things going on during the week.
Source: Williams Sonoma


  • 2 Tbs. vegetable or olive oil
  • 4 large red onions, thinly sliced (I used white onions)
  • 1⁄4 tsp. sugar
  • 4 leeks, including tender green portions,
     thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 8 cups beef or chicken stock or prepared broth
  • 1⁄2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1⁄2 tsp. minced fresh thyme or 1⁄4 tsp.
     dried thyme
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 12 baguette slices, each 1⁄4 inch thick
  • 3⁄4 cup shredded Gruyère or Comté cheese 

1. Chop the onions (I used my handy food processor), set aside.
2. In a large non-aluminum saucepan over medium-low heat, warm the oil. Add the onions and sauté, stirring occasionally, until wilted, about 15 minutes. Add the sugar and leeks and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until richly colored and caramelized, 30 to 45 minutes. (You may need to increase the heat to medium to add some color at the end.)

3. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute.
4. Add the stock, wine, bay leaf and thyme. Cover partially and simmer until the flavors are well blended, about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove the bay leaf and discard.

5. To serve, preheat the broiler. Ladle the soup into individual flameproof soup bowls. Place 2 or 3 slices of bread on top of each bowl and sprinkle with the cheese.
6. Slide under the broiler about 6 inches from the heat element. Broil until the cheese is bubbly and lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Serve immediately. Serves 4 to 6.


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