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Dec 3, 2010 02:02 PM

Help with french onion soup

I have made french onion soup twice in the past few weeks, and both times the cheese on top has basically fallen apart into pieces under the broiler and refused to brown even a bit. The result is almost curdled . . . not stringy or chewy as it should be. It's like the cheese disintegrates into the soup itself.

I am at a total loss, seeing as how I have made this soup in the past with good results. I can't figure out what happened. I am using the same crocks I have always used. I am using imported gruyere, and shredding it right beforehand. I am using french bread that I toast to ensure it's dry (I used a french baguette both times). I am filling the crocks about 3/4 full, then putting several croutons on top to cover the top (and mound up a bit), then mounding cheese on top of that.

Any ideas? Are my croutons too thin at about 1/2 inch? Is it the quality of the cheese? I think it's happening because the liquid is coming up and saturating the cheese, but I don't know how to prevent this!


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  1. How far away is the rack from the broiler? Is the broiler element getting red hot, or is it kinda grey?
    It sounds like to me your not leaving it under the broiler long enough. You want the cheese to reach the bubbly melting point. If you don't, it will look like a lumpy glob. Just keep a close eye on it. You can shut the oven door all the way or leave it open just a tad.

    2 Replies
    1. re: jcattles

      I put the broiler rack all the way to the top, and heated the broiler to 500 (red hot). I tried leaving it in, but the cheese had literally disintegrated into the soup, so it wasn't ever going to brown.

      1. re: denverkate

        sounds like you need to slice the croutons thicker and/or toast them more. are you using the same bread from the same source than you used for the past successful attempts? perhaps for some reason this particular baguette isn't dense/hearty enough.

    2. I wonder if your problem is the croutons; ideally, you'd be floating a thickish chunk of french bread on the soup, and the cheese wouldn't be able to fall in, so to speak.

      When you say "mounding up the croutons" it gives me pause, it should be one crouton. As big as the bowl.

      Another possibility is that the cheese being piled up on the croutons is making the whole thing kind of tippy-canoe.....maybe it's toppling over in the oven, being cheese-heavy?

      My childhood favorite onion soup was in a restaurant in Winnipeg, the Paddock. They sort of wedged a massive slice of bread into the top of the crock, and then melted about a half a pound of swiss cheese over the whole was messy as hell, but god, it was good.

      1. My Fench onion soup is full of onions and broth. I put a toasted crouton that fits the bowl perfectly on the bottom. Fill the bowl, then I add the cheese and I mean a lot of cheese. Then I add a crouton sitting on its end poking through the cheese.
        I don't use gruyere, sorry I don't care for that cheese. I use a mix of mozz, fontina and monterey. They're great melting cheeses and I love the flavors together and the the tiny bit of stringyness the mozz gives it. Good luck@
        ps. put them on a cookie sheet just in case you bubble over. Thanks for your post! Time tomake French Onion Soup!

        1. I put the broiler on high, oven rack in the middle position, and then pop the crocks into the oven on a rimmed baking sheet. There is a phase where the cheese does look a bit oily, but then it passes through that phase and starts to bubble and brown. In terms of bread, I use a small baguette, cut it into 3/4 inch pieces on a bias, and then use two pieces so the cheese sits on top. To be honest I don't even toast it and that has never been an issue. Picture is attached. I also have a pretty yummy recipe if you want it, just let me know.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Cynthia B

            Cynthia B - Please do share the recipe - I've never made onion soup - quite frankly I never would for me, but my DS would adore that.

            I remember the 1st time we went to a restaurant and he ordered that as an appetizer and the look on his face. I told him "If they did it right, there's a huge crouton covered w/ cheese at the bottom of that bowl'. And there was . . and he looked at me and rolled his eyes.