Is there anything better on a cold winter's night than a huge steaming bowl of soup? Not in my book, and I'm especially fond of French Onion soup. Piled high with toasted bread cubes and melty cheese, it is comfort in a bowl.
But. My from-scratch recipe costs about a thousand dollars and 2+ hours of my life to make.
Nope. That's a hard sell when I'd rather be under a blanket on the couch watching Bridgerton.
My OG recipe came from the goddess herself, Ina Garten, and boasts half bottle of white wine, sherry, and brandy. Plus a whole stick of butter. Plus fancy-pants Gruyere cheese. WHOA. My checking account just started crying.
Delicious, yes. It’s good enough to make you do a high kick. But at that level of cost and time it’s not something that I’m going to want to make super often.
Enter – my shortcut version.
It has that cooked all day taste thanks to the help of a secret ingredient, but doesn’t require you starting at 3 PM to be able to eat at 6. Also it costs maybe $10 to feed the whole family depending on how schmancy you get with your cheese. And the flavor is INCREDIBLE. Michael Scott would call that a Win-Win-Win.
Here’s the secret. Rather than spending all of that time and money on 3 bottles of booze to give that great depth of flavor, I have a shortcut way to add flavor in the form of canned condensed French onion soup and a half-glass of wine. BOOM.
Amazing, right?! But that soup all by itself is a huge taste and texture YAWN. What we’re going for here is a hybrid between cook-all-day and dump-from-the-can. Here's how to do it.
You start off by slicing 2-3 yellow onions and cooking them for about 15 minutes in olive oil and butter with a pinch of salt over medium heat (oil to keep things from burning, butter for flavor), getting them nice and soft and developing great flavor. I personally hate recipes that tell you to do something for # minutes but don't tell you what you're actually looking for, since ovens and stovetops vary so much that a cooking time isn't always the best metric. Here's what we're after:
Figure 1: this is the onions as I put them in the pan and tossed with the butter and oil.
Figure 2: onions after 5 minutes. The onions are starting to turn just a hair golden, and a few bits are catching and getting brown.
Figure 3: onions after 10 minutes. They're getting nice and golden now and you'll be tempted to stop here, but don't. Your patience will be rewarded.
Figure 4: onions after 15 minutes. THIS is what we're looking for. Really deep golden color, super soft, and lots of brown bits.
(bonus tip - if you were going for caramelized onions to go on a burger, in a dip, or on top of bread with goat cheese, you'd want to go even further. Sometimes for 20-40 more minutes. You have to watch them closely and add more olive oil and maybe water or they'll burn).
Once the onions are nice and soft and golden you add 2 cloves of minced garlic and about a half a glass (I mean half cup) of wine to add that great wine flavor without having to blow a whole bottle.
Drinking the rest of the bottle while cooking is optional, but encouraged.
Then add in the beef broth, the canned soup, and thyme and simmer for as long as you have the patience for, and VOILA. Soup is done. Delicious soup that tastes like you cooked it all day, but it was done in well under an hour with very minimal effort.
It's so good that I haven't been compelled to make the full version in YEARS. I may never do it again.
The best way to eat it is piled with crusty bread cubes and gooey, melty cheese. GET IN MY BELLY.
Shortcut French Onion Soup
prep time 5 minutes
cook time 35 minutes
total time 40 minutes
3 tbsp olive oil, divided
2 tbsp butter
2 large or 3 small yellow onions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 oz dry white wine (chardonnay works great)
4 cups beef broth
Salt and pepper
1 tsp fresh Thyme (fresh is best flavor-wise but ½ tsp dried will work)
Crusty cubed bread (Italian or French loaf)
3-4 oz Gruyere or Swiss cheese, shredded
Preheat the oven to 350° and place a rack in the middle.
In a Dutch oven (or large pot) over medium heat, melt the butter and heat 2 tbsp of the olive oil. Add sliced onions and a pinch of salt and reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding a splash of water if things get too dry, until the onions are soft and start to turn a rich golden color (see images above).
Meanwhile, while the onions soften, cube your crusty bread and place on a baking sheet. Toss with 1 tbsp olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake 10-12 minutes until bread is toasty and dry. Then move the oven rack to the top of the oven and preheat the broiler.
Once the onions are soft, add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds, until you can smell the garlic. Pour in the wine to deglaze the pot, scraping down the brown bits off the bottom. Pour in the cans of soup and 3-4 cups of broth, depending on how much liquid you like in your soup. Season with pepper and just a little bit of salt (the canned soup is pretty salty already). Add in chopped thyme leaves. Increase the heat a bit to medium until the soup comes to a simmer.
Cover the pot, reduce the heat back to medium-low, and simmer 15 minutes to bring the flavors together. Taste the soup for salt and pepper and add more if needed.
Ladle the soup into oven-proof bowls on top of a rimmed baking sheet. Pile on bread cubes and top with cheese. Broil until the cheese melts (watch it closely, but this should take 1-3 minutes).
Pat yourself on the back for your excellent life choices in making this amazing shortcut soup and enjoy.