A shot of a yellow soup bowl full of French Onion soup. The bowl sits on a wood table with a spoon on the left side and a white and blue checkered napkin on the right side.

Edition 22 | Spring 2021

Chef Steve’s favorite French Onion soup

by Steve Norton

At long last, the record-breaking high temperatures here in Arizona gave way to cooler weather! In the winter and spring months, I always look forward to making a big pot of healthy and delicious homemade soup, and one of my favorites to make is French onion. I love the aroma as the flavors develop while simmering on the stove.

French onion soup is one of the simplest soups to make. It consists of slow-cooked onions in a creamy broth, topped with a layer of melted cheese. It is often served with croutons or a slice of crusty French bread.

While the exact origin of French onion soup is still up for debate, the story itself is a fascinating one of ingenuity and resourcefulness in the kitchen, involving French King Louis XV.

After returning to his lodge from a long day of hunting, he found that the cupboards were practically bare. He and his great-aunt could only find butter, onions, and Champagne, so they put all three into a pot and made it into a meal. Since onions have always been one of the easiest crops to grow and cheapest to purchase, everyone could enjoy them.

The soup later changed in Les Halles, Paris, in the 1970s. At that time, this whole section of the city was made up of wholesale markets. Several of the restaurants in this area adopted the soup and began adding cheese on top. It became popular amongst both the early-morning work crowd and the late-night party crowd. This adaptation of French onion soup is what is found in restaurants around the world today.

One of these restaurants, Au Pied de Cochon, opened in 1947 and is still around today. They sell about 200 bowls a day of their most popular dish, soupe à l’oignon! While vacationing in Paris in the late 90s, I enjoyed a bowl of the best tasting French onion soup I have ever had!

To this day, onions are plentiful and inexpensive. On top of that, you can get many health benefits by incorporating them into your recipes. Onions are nutrient-dense, meaning they are high in vitamins and minerals but low in calories. They contain antioxidants that reduce inflammation, decrease triglycerides and reduce cholesterol levels. They are also a great source of fiber and prebiotics, which both aid in good gut health.

My recipe below explains how to cook this soup using either a stock/soup pot or a Dutch oven. However, this recipe can be adapted for a slow cooker or Instant Pot. Whichever method you choose, I hope you enjoy making your fresh batch of healthy French onion soup!

French Onion Soup

Servings: 4 bowls  Prep: 6 minutes  Cook: 40 minutes

Ingredients

3 Tbsp unsalted whole milk butter (preferably organic)

4 onions (red, yellow, or white) thinly sliced

3 ½ cups low sodium beef or vegetable broth

1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp dried thyme

1 bay leaf

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tsp sea salt (or more to taste)

½ tsp black pepper (or more to taste)

Optional: 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes to add a little heat

1 Tbsp all-purpose flour (can substitute with chickpea flour to make it Gluten-free)

Crusty French bread or Gluten-free bread sliced into 1” slices (2-3 slices per person)

4 ounces shredded Gruyere or Swiss cheese (or a combo of both)

Directions

Melt butter in a deep stockpot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook, occasionally stirring, until tender and browned about 15-20 minutes. While onions are cooking, set the oven to broil. Add 3 cups of beef (or vegetable) broth, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, thyme, bay leaf, garlic, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes (optional) and bring to a simmer. In a small bowl, combine ½ cup beef (or vegetable) broth with the flour and add to the onion mixture—Cook for an additional 10 minutes. Place bread slices on a rack in a broiler pan. Sprinkle bread with cheese(s) and broil 5-6” from heat for 2-3 minutes or until cheese is melted. Ladle the onion soup into bowls, starting with the onions and then with the liquid. Serve with cheesy French bread slice(s).

Until our next cooking adventure, keep eating to thrive!

– Chef Steve

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Steve Norton

Steve Norton | Writer

A native of Santa Ana, CA, Steve Norton has been in the hospitality industry for the past 30 years. He attended New York’s prestigious Culinary Institute of America and has worked as a private chef. Steve loves to share his knowledge and expertise in healthy eating, including menu planning, managing a food budget, and cooking with fresh ingredients.

Read more by Steve Norton.

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