Margarita's International Recipes


Soupe l'oignon

French Onion Soup

While many of the most famous French recipes are the result of the inspiration of a particularly talented chef, French Onion Soup is the result of evolution rather than creation. Bread and onions have been staples in the diets of the poor in the Mediterranean region since time immemorial. Indeed, in Spanish we have the phrase "contigo, pan y cebollas," roughly meaning "as long as I'm with you, I'm happy to live on bread and onions alone," to signify true love.

Onion soups are known to have formed part of the cuisines of the ancient Greeks and Romans. By the Middle Ages, sops, dishes consisting of bread soaked in a broth, had become common. The direct ancestors of our current French Onion Soup started appearing in French cookbooks in the 17th century. By the 18th century, they included the caramelization of the onions which gives this soup its amazing flavor.

There are, as you would expect, thousands of versions of French Onion Soup out there, but I figured I could not go wrong using Julia Child's recipe. And indeed, I did not, the results were amazing. I'm craving it as we speak.

I did have a mishap, however. I sweated the onions at too high a temperature, and some of them burned. I didn't want to go back to the beginning, so I rescued the onions that were still fine, discarded the rest, and made only half the recipe. This turned out to be a good thing as my ramekin would not have been large enough to fit the soup otherwise. As it stands this recipe will serve four as an entree.

I used Swiss cheese for this dish because that's what Julia had in her recipe and because it's cheaper than Gruyere. It worked beautifully. I also used sourdough bread instead of the traditional French bread, because that's what I had at home and it worked great. Indeed, some versions of this recipe say to add a tiny bit of vinegar, and the added tanginess is welcomed. When I make it again, however, I will remove the crust from the bread. It tastes great but it's hard to cut through it with a spoon.

French Onion Soup


  • 2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 tsp. vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. sugar
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. flour
  • 3 cups beef stock
  • 1/2 cup red or white wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 tsp. ground sage
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 Tbsp. cognac or brandy
  • 6 oz Swiss cheese, grated
  • 2 oz Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 5 1"-thick slices toasted French or sourdough bread (see below for method)
  • olive oil, for drizzling


Mince 1/4th of one sliced onion (1/8th of the total) and set aside.

Heat a heavy pot over medium-low heat. Add the butter and oil. Once melted, add the sliced onions. Stir to coat well. Turn he heat to very low, cover, and cook until the onions are soft and translucent, around 20 minutes.

Uncover the pot, add the salt and sugar and turn the heat up to medium-high. Cook, stiring frequently, until the onions have caramelized. Add the flour, turn the heat down to medium, and cook for 3 more minutes. Add about 1/2 cup of the stock and deglace the pot. Add the rest of the stock, the wine, the bay leaf and sage. Mix well, bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Taste the soup and season with salt and pepper as needed.

Pour soup into an oven-safe ramekin or casserole dish. Remove the bay leaf if you find it. Mix in the cognac and about 1/2 cup of the grated Swiss cheese. Place toasted bread on top. Top with the remaining Swiss cheese and Parmesan cheese. Drizzle with olive oil. Place in the oven for about 30 minutes.

To Toast Bread

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Drizzle olive oil on both sides of the bread slices. Place on a baking sheet and cook in the oven for 15 minutes. Turn and cook for an additional 15 minutes. Remove and set aside.

Adapted from Julia Child's Recipe in The French Chef.

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