What makes great French onion soup?
I across this blog about a guy documenting every French onion soup he's tried.
He explains "The ratings are based on his own opinion of the perfect french onion soup, and do not necessarily have anything to do with yours, the French government, or anyone else's."
Reading through a few of these, it seems the cheesier versions are his preference. I never realized though that cheese other than gruyere was used ... maybe sometimes Swiss. At the top of his list is Artisanal - New York, NY. It uses a blend of emmentaler, beaufort, and hoch ybrig.
At C. I. Shenanigan’s - Tacoma, WA, the soup is served an actual onion
He even reviews Trader Joe's French onion soup ... not recommended.
I've only had one great French onion soup in my life ... and I forgot where it was exactly. I came down with some virus when traveling across Europe and for four days I could not make it out of my hotel that was located near the Paris airport.
The only saving grace to spending four days watching French cable instead of exploring the French countryside was the wonderful French onion soup they served ... just the right amount of lovely browned cheese on top of a deep, flavorful broth with enough melty onions and the right amount of croutons ... nothing was out of balance ... the exact right proportions of eveything ... I can practically still taste that soup today. And each day, room service delivered it piping hot. It was a miracle soup.
The worse FOS are those that are nothing but broth, and weak at that, where you have to troll for onions and topped with cheap cheese.
What makes a wonderful FOS for you?
Caramelizing the sh*t out of the onions, a great beef stock, definitely Gruyere or Emmenthaler, a hit of Cognac or Brandy to finish. Oh, and a darned fine hunk o'bread to drape the cheese over... Adam
To me, the broth is most important. Sadly, it seems that some will merely use canned beef stock, that is loaded with sodium and MSG. If I want a good FOS, I make my own chicken and beef broth and add salt later. Also, using good bread is important. The best soups tend to use a sturdy country loaf that stands up to the broth. I've had some versions where the bread collapses under the broth, and becomes gummy. YUCK. When I make my own soup, I will also make the bread from scratch. And I agree, the onions must be carmelized low and slow. While FOS might appear easy to make, a good version does require much TLC and effort. I think it's worth the extra effort.
I also like to make my broth from scratch, usually starting the day before so it has all night to let the fat congeal. Bread - I have had great success with local baguettes, cut about one inch thick, toasted lightly, and then left out overnight. This gets them dry enough that they can soak up the broth without disintegrating and still hold up the cheese. Lots of onions, done as you suggest. We often serve it with an extra bowl of broth on the table, so that you can adjust the broth/onion mix as you go.
Adam, I used to throw in a bit of sherry, but the wife and kids don't like the flavour of any alcohol, so we've let that part go. Maybe when they grow up...
After a fresh, clear broth, I look for a crusty bread that does not collapse into a glutenous mass, same for overly dessicated onions--I want some firmness. And the chees should be a delicate infusion of gruyere with a touch of peccorino/parmesan.
As I travel, I often have soup that I suspect is not made in the local kitchen---can it be a frozen purchase from a food supplier that we are all being 'treated' to that is lowering the standards?
Start with twice the amount of onions you think are needed and do a loooooooooong sloooooooow caramalization; add homemade stock; season carefully; good cheese; all under the salamander and good to go.