This is a great, easy, cheap, flexible meal that can either be "enhanced" (with extra meat) enough for a main course (add a salad and some french bread or rolls), or a lighter soup to eat with another meal (without meat even!). In the past, I've boiled ribs in water to soften it up, then took out the ribs for another dish while using the broth for french onion.
- Prep time: 20-30 minutes
- Cook time: ~1 hour
- Difficulty: easy
- Labor Intensity: Easy enough to do by yourself.
- 6-8 servings
- 6 Onions (~3 lb. bag, cut into slices or diced)
- Garlic (a few cloves, minced)
- Butter (a few tablespoons)
- Oil (just enough)
- Cooking wine for deglazing (burgandy will be better) or you might be able to use some unsweetened grape juice, or something acidic.
- French bread
- Grated cheese (traditionally parmesan)
- Crispy fried onion (optional, you can buy the canned french fried onion, or fry yourself)
- Meat (7-Bone chuck roast, Pot Roast, Beef Ribs, Kalbi for stew, Just about any beef can be used for this, so the cheaper the better) OR, for a cheaper version without meat, Beef Bouillon or ~3 Cans of Beef Broth)
Large Steel Pot (it will taste better/be easier with a sturdy steel pot for french cooking, but it's not necessary. if you only have a small one, you can cook the onions and deglaze it and then move it over to a bigger pot)
- Start the butter and oil in the pot, you want about half butter/half oil, (traditional french cooking would probably use all butter, but half butter is just as good, and will be less prone to burning.
- When butter has almost completely melted, add the onions and garlic. When it starts charring and caramelizing at the bottom, start deglazing the pot. This is what gives the french onion soup it's color and flavor. (see below for explanation on deglazing)
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Add meat and water. Allow to boil for about an hour to tenderize the meat. It doesn't have to be a rapid boil.
- Spoon out portions of soup with meat, sprinkle with cheese and eat with bread. Traditionally the bread is placed in the boil, sprinkled with cheese and then toasted on top. I find that eating the bread with the soup is good enough.
Josh's Tips_______________For cutting mass amounts of onions: Use an "apple corer" these fit for smaller size onions. Once you cut off both ends and peel the onion, it's easy to use this to quickly cut massive amounts of onions. The only important thing is to buy small enough onions to fit the corer. Not much else to add here. I think you can use flour tortillas as well, but not sure.
Deglazing IS different from charring. Do not allow the bottom of your pot/pan to char, as it will give a burnt taste to the food/soup. Usually you deglaze when you have the leftover onion or meat that is looks like it is char. The difference is usually the taste or the amount of time it's been cooking. This comes from the sugar that is caramelized on the pot/pan. When onion starts to caramelize in french onion stew, it will form this darker substance at the bottom. The key is to use a wooden spoon to constantly "scrape" or rub the bottom of the pan after pouring in a bit of acidic liquid (many juices). If you start deglazing it before it's burning, it will be less painful and you won't need to scrape as hard. The acid helps remove the leftover bits, and you end up with a very rich, tasty broth.