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Onion soup question

One of my great dining pleasures is onion soup. BUT...Why are the onions always cut so large that they hang over the spoon. No matter who is preparing the soup, either a slice of bread and melted cheese which just strings out and makes for an uncomfortable spoonful. In my perfect wotld, 86 the bread, cheese and the crock it is always presented in..

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  1. 86 the bread and cheese? Sacre Bleu!

    1. Sacriligous! Sounds like you want onion-beef broth. Would cheezy croutons be OK?

      1. I'm with you on the length of the onion cut. Why they can't just cut those in half is beyond me. But 86 the cheese and bread??

        1 Reply
        1. re: cresyd

          I cut the onions in smaller strips, but I also give a Sacre-Blue and MERDE! to soupe f à l'oignon sans Gruyère et pain de champagne.

        2. Merde!!!!!

          Jfood hears you and when he makes onion soup he solves two of the issues he always disliked in a resto. Like you the onions always hung over the edge and no matter how he tried some soup would flop around off the onion. When jfood makes it he cuts the onion in smaller (usually 1/6 rings). Works great.

          The other item that bothered him was the slice of bread. Many may not know this but there is a huge purpose to the bread. It forms the base while floating in the soup for the cheese to float on. But jfood disliked fighting to cut the bread. His solution was to cube the bread and then bake it into large crouton sized pieces. Then onto the soup, a couple of slices of gruyere and under the broiler.

          Stringing, well that's part of the fun. Take a pinch between your fingers and pull away from the mouth. And then smile.

          But 86 3/4 of the dish, nah, that ain't happening at casa jfood.

          1. Ah, you bring back memories! In the 70's and 80's, there was a small French restaurant in Toronto called "Gaston's". He served traditional French classics, which were great, but was most famous for his onion soup. Fabulous, deeply flavoured beef broth, sweet caramelized onions, and a big crouton on which sat a mound of melted cheese. I don't understand jfood's problem with the bread; Gaston's crouton had already soaked up so much broth, it cut easily with the spoon.

            And the stringy cheese? Gaston's elegant solution was to serve, alongside the soup, a pair of scissors with which to, if you'll pardon the expression, "cut the cheese".

            1. In my experience, the baguette rounds are placed in the bottom of the bowl and the soup is poured on top. By the time you eat the bread, it should be well-soaked and come apart very easily. Also, I don't see why the onions would be firm enough to hang over the spoon- they should be soft enough to compress naturally into the curve of the spoon and eaten in the same manner that you would any thick broth. If they are "sticking" out in any way then they are not cooked enough. Now, the cheese issue is hardly a problem- it's supposed to be melted and bubbled over the side! That's where some of the best flavor is! It's not supposed to be a delicate dish.

              7 Replies
              1. re: vvvindaloo

                You tell'em v v vindaloo! I thought the bread was supposed to go on the bottom, too. Ditto on everything else.
                I love your lyrical moniker

                1. re: vvvindaloo

                  But if the bread is placed under the soup, where does the cheese go? Does it just float on top of the soup? I am with jfood - the bread forms the raft for the cheese to float on! Gotta have the melted cheese and some bread in every spoonful for the best experience!

                  1. re: Catskillgirl

                    You had it right the first time- a nice pile of grated Gruyere goes right on top of the soup.

                    1. re: vvvindaloo


                      hve you actually tried this method. jfood would think the cheese would melt and sink without the bread float.

                      1. re: jfood

                        yes, i've tried it a couple of times. actually, i learned it at a culinary school where i took some amateur level classes. you grate gruyere into large shreds, pile them on top, and place it immediately under the (very very hot) broiler until it is melted and creamy, with some blistering on top, and nice and crackly on the edges (it's important to put enough cheese to cause overflow- I think this portion acts as a "web" and holds up the rest?). I don't know why, but trust me, there is no blending of the cheese and liquid. The liquid/onion portion, OTOH, should be cooked long enough to be soft, and the broth should thicken a bit. If anyone is interested, I have a recipe and method sheet from the French Culinary Institute that I would be happy to fish out and post here.

                        1. re: vvvindaloo

                          I'm with VVV on this one, on all counts.

                          1. re: vvvindaloo

                            Thanks VVV. Jfood thinks you have a great point on the texture of the cheese and the web effect. Glad to know there are more than one method to make this great dish. Jfood normally sautes the onions for several hours, so he thinks that's probably enough.

                            Back to the chow.

                  2. My FIL is lactose-intolerant and always orders his French onion soup without the cheese. So it's very easy to order it without the bread and cheese as most places will have a pot of soup ready but fire it with the bread and cheese when the order comes in.

                    But you can't do anything about the large onions. Personally, I like them that way. It feels more substantial.

                    1. Is this why there's no more stringy mozzarella on pizzas: too many complaints and not enough scissors to go around? Ah, the ever changing world of chow.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: mrbozo

                        Where's those f''in scissors when I need them to eat food??

                        1. re: Scargod

                          I think I saw some kids running with them...

                      2. Hey qudeatz,

                        In a good onion soup, the onions are cut to a fine julienne, which negates the large chunks hanging over the e dge.

                        Agree with vvvindalo that the crouton should be at the bottom of the bowl, with the gruyere broiled on top, and classically served with scissors to allow for dining with comfort.


                          1. re: mrbozo

                            Quote: " For those who don't like onion rings floating in their soup, use your blender or your food processor to get a texture you like."
                            OP: problem solved!

                          2. Thank's all....May I have a last smoke before the blindfold....

                            1. I keep telling my wife, that I am going to invent a utensil to eat French onion soup. A combo spoon, with a knife-edge, that cuts the onions and the cheese.

                              Now, for MY onion soup, I start with beef & veal stock and cook it down a bit. I add Mauis, Vidalias, and take a Bermuda and heavily carmalize half of it. I add the raw part first, while doing the other half, to be added later. Depending on the Sherry, or Madeiria that I have handy, I'll add a really good splash and cook this down. I place these into an oven-friendly bowl, with a good piece of baguette on top, followed by a bit of Emanthaller cheese. Often, I'll put this on top, after a few minutes in the oven. Obviously, I can only make this at certain times of the year, depending on the availability of the onions.


                              PS Note to chefs: do not use onions that are 4 feet long. Diners will only make a horrible mess of this dish!

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                Your method sounds pretty good to me :) However, I am still not convinced that the original size of the onion pieces really matter. It's the cooking method that makes the difference in how easy the soup is to eat.
                                I believe the key to a well-balanced, rich onion soup is that all of the onion (roughly chopped, with some larger pieces) is browned and caramelized in plenty of butter first, then I add some flour to thicken it. I think a lot of people rush this step, and end up with onion that is still too firm and broth that is too bland. The flour should get brown, and then I add the sherry (or port) next, let everything blend well, and then add the beef stock. Simmer for a good long while, until the broth is visibly thicker and the onions are soft, seasoning with S&P. Baguette rounds get toasted and placed in the bottom of the bowl. Soup (still hot) is poured right up to the bottom of the neck (I use the classic lions' head bowl) and a lot of grated Gruyere is piled on top of that. The whole thing goes under the broiler until the cheese is a little bit browned.
                                Quite frankly, I am surprised that the French haven't invented a utensil specifically for this dish- they've got a name and tool for everything else!

                                1. re: vvvindaloo

                                  Sounds great. I do agree that slices of onion, that are 'cooked down" are far less a problem, vs onions that are nearly raw and large.

                                  I'll also give you the Port, though I have not tried that. Usually, we have more Ports around, than Sherries and Madeirias, but I always trek down to the cellar, just for this dish.

                                  I can see the butter, though I almost always use bacon drippings for the carmalization - hey, I'm from the Deep South, and can tell my Dr, that it was all the foie gras...

                                  Maybe I can get a grant from the Chef's Catalog for the development of SUCH a utensil. Since we do a lot of French onion soup at board dinners, and such, I always worry about both the cheese "strings," and the large, undercooked onion parts.

                                  If the onion is done properly, a spoon's side cuts them nicely, against the bowl. If not, well, then the adventure begins!


                                  [Edit] I place the bread atop the soup, prior to the oven, but that is just me. As someone else said, it makes a nice "boat" for the cheese.

                              2. Since you don't like what is commonly known as oniion soupm I'd say don't order it.