The Covered Dish - French Onion Soup

October 26, 2022

We just returned from a 3 day trip to Indianapolis. My husband, Ervin, and son, Phillip, played in the monopoly tournament, in this racecar city. The city was lovely, the shopping was grand, especially at Trader Joe’s!!! I got to enjoy a lunch at the infamous ‘Dawson’s, just down the street from the track. You’ll never believe what their signature soup was? You guessed it French Onion, it was so smooth and the chunk of bruschetta was down in the middle, just like I enjoy it.

I couldn’t decide what my entrée was going to be so I allowed the wait staff to guide me to the Indianapolis tenderloin. Needless to say there was no disappoint there either. After enjoying our girls luncheon out we returned to pick up the guys at the Racetrack Museum. (The boys got to enjoy the tenderloin too!)

I wanted to stay at least 2 more days but everyone thought we should come home. On the journey back we got to shop at a ‘Rural King’ store in Illinois. If you get a chance to shop in one of these awesome farm stores don’t miss the opportunity. There were awesome sales on pecans and walnuts, not to mention they sold the vanilla peaches I’ve come to appreciate.
In my first cookbook, ‘Simply Yours’, I have a very very simple recipe for French Onion. This one sort of’ blows my first one out of the water!

Probably the best thing about this recipe is how nicely it freezes. It also makes a great statement as an opener or main entrée. If it were being used as a main entree I might prepare a nice beef bruschetta to accompany. In fact, I’m going to attach two recipes this week because I think it would be a great pairing.

Let’s make note that in testing commercial beef stock was used. In the event you want this soup to taste even more decadent make your stock from scratch. You could prepare the beef, for the bruschetta, and have au jus for the soup!

Every time I’ve written a French Onion Soup column I have told the story you are about to hear: When I was growing up we went to St. Louis, Missouri to do our more serious shopping. We went to Northwest Plaza, (The Famous Barr store had a roof that looked like a toothpaste lid.) and enjoyed a full day of shopping. For this excursion we dressed nice, no heels, but not in a shabby style like we do in this era. When we first started going to this location we would grab lunch at the Walgreens café and enjoy French Dip sandwiches. Then as we got a bit older we started having a nice sit down meal at the Famous Barr restaurant. They had real napkins and the wait staff was dressed crisply in black and white. Everyone, it seemed, was eating the French onion soup. So, we joined right in and enjoyed the restaurants signature dish. The stringy cheese and au just would be dripping from our chins. As I recall, our mom, Betty, did not care for this soup near as much as my dad, Jerry, and I did. As you can see this soup has remained one of my favorites over the years.
The best onions for French Onion soup are sweets. Which means you can make the soup any time of the year. However, the sweet Vidalia onions in the spring are probably my favorite choice. If you had ‘candy’ onions growing in your gardens they would also be outstanding.
I’m seriously thinking of making a batch of this soup for the freezer so I can serve it during Thanksgiving week. Since I’m including two recipes this week I’d better close out this column and save space for the recipes. Simply yours, The Covered Dish.

French Onion Soup

6 tablespoons salted butter

6 medium/large sweet onions or 3 lbs.

1/2 teaspoon salt*

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon thyme leaves

1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1 cup chardonnay wine

2 heaping tablespoons flour

48 ounces beef stock

3 bay leaves

Swiss & Gouda Cheese

Baguette bread, cut into 1 – 2 inch chunks

*If you are using commercial stock it is very likely this additional salt will not be needed.
Slice onions horizontally into thin slices. In a large skillet or stockpot

Melt the butter and begin cooking the onion. Stir in the salt, sugar, pepper, thyme and Worcestershire sauce allowing the onions to caramelize. This take about 20-25 minutes. Now add 1 cup of dry white wine and totally reduce down until the onions are dry. Work the flour into the dry onions taking 10-12 minutes to work the flour taste out. Add beef stock and bay leaves stirring to smooth and lightly thicken. Allow to boil then reduce for a 20-30 minute simmer. Remove the bay leaves and stir in 1 1/2 teaspoon extra hot grated horseradish.
For serving place a chunk of the bread in the bottom of the bowl and pour in the soup. Using Swiss only, Gouda or both cheeses, layer slices across the top of the bowl. Place on a jelly roll pan and allow to melt in a 350 degree oven.
Serves 5-6 main course servings.

An easier approach is to place the bread of choice under a broiler with the cheese arranged on top. Cook until the cheese is melted and then float on top of the soup. This avoids cheese baking onto the soup tureens while it is melting.
Tip: The horseradish does not make the soup ‘hot’. If you are concerned put in 1 teaspoon, sample, and then add the remainder.

This soup freezes well!