I waited a whole week into autumn before posting recipes for cheese-covered soup; what willpower and restraint. Honestly, the genius who thought of plopping (gross food word, apologies all around) an open-faced grilled cheese on top of buttery caramelized onions and salty broth was using their goddamn head. But they were also brilliant because they made the process of making said soup labourious enough that only the most motivated would reach the endpoint. Below, some tips to get you to the finish line with minimal heavy sighing and head-slumping:
1. How to not cry (messily)
· Peeling and slicing as many onions as is required for French onion soup means there will inevitably be tears, likely from the onions themselves, but also from the potential for cuts and the resulting stinging onion juice that immediately seeps in. Either be smart and wear your contact lenses (seriously, this it the true secret to successful onion cutting), or just accept that you’re going to bawl and save any make-up application until the prep work is done. Or be the kind of person who buys those as-seen-on-tv onion goggles, slip into your snuggie, and get chopping.
2. You’re going to need a bigger pot
· Although the onions will shrink down by an absolutely insane amount, initially they will be plentiful AF, causing you to curse me and all your pots, none of which will seem large enough. Just get your biggest one (or a VERY deep, VERY wide skillet), cross your fingers, and patiently wait for the inevitable shrinkage.
3. It’s a labour of love and by love I mean time
· You know that rich, multi-layered flavour bomb that hits you with every bite of a good onion soup? That comes from one ingredient that absolutely cannot be skipped: precious time. You cannot make this soup without a good amount of it on your hands. Do not rush things, nothing about this soup wishes to be rushed and attempting to do so will only lead to failure and a permanent mental image of me standing over you and deeply eye-rolling.
4. Salt along the way
· I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: salting is something that happens in layers. You cannot expect to only salt a soup in the last 5 minutes of cooking and still end up with a soup that is even comparable to one that has been repeatedly seasoned throughout various points in the cooking process. This includes the stock that will eventually carry your soup, assuming you’re making it from scratch (which you must for both of these recipes – remember all that chatter about time commitment?!)
5. Think of bowls
· You don’t need to have French onion soup bowls, but you DO need to have bowls that are both deep enough to support a few ladlefuls of soup (and bread and cheese) AND can go in the oven without shattering and leaving you with the most painful chore known to humankind: oven cleanery. Regular cereal bowls are most definitely NOT worth chancing it on. Get creative – it would be preferable to make one giant French onion soup in a cast-iron skillet than to risk a smaller, but non-heatproof vessel. Sort your crockery situation out well before you actually start cooking.
And here we are, at the end of another rant, yet again. If I haven’t yet removed all the joy from this experience yet, then congratulations, as you have shown the necessary fortitude for persevering through the hours-long task that awaits you. Now I can dangle the bait in front of you:
The first recipe is a version of French onion soup that swaps the traditional beef broth for an equally rich – yet somehow also lighter and sweeter – chicken stock. It magically manages to make something that has duck fat in it (YES THE BEST OF THE FATS) taste lighter and sunnier than the usual dark, sultry rendition of this soup. It’s the Betty of the two French onion soups today, while BA’s version is a straight-up slutty Veronica, all dark and rich, layered with two types of fancy cheese and sumptuous enough to leave you immobile for hours afterward. I honestly can’t tell you which one was better because when I was eating one I was sure it was that one, but then I’d eat the other and forget the first one even existed.