Growing up in the seventies we didn’t eat out often, but when we did French onion soup was usually on the menu, especially in finer establishments. At home, my dad would make it for company. I guess that’s why I view this very rustic soup as elegant and special. It was also memorable because my dad would prepare my bowl with extra cheese and forgo the bread because I didn’t like mushy bread. Now older and wiser, I have learned to appreciate the crusty baguette soaking in the rich, beefy broth.
I haven’t had onion soup in a very long time. Restaurants rarely feature it any more and when they do it’s usually a salty commercial concoction that I find disappointing. I was going through an old family recipe book the other day looking for some comfort food when I spotted my dad’s nearly 40 year old recipe. Paired with a crisp salad or a warm winter roasted tomato salad and a soft zinfandel, it is a perfect mid-winter pick me up meal.
This recipe is classic, simple, and delicious. Rustic yet over the top elegant when flambéed, it is true comfort food.
Dad found this recipe he recalls, in either a magazine advert or brochure for OXO flavour cubes. It contains a secret ingredient: instant coffee granules. The coffee lends a rich, beefy quality but remains unidentifiable in the final dish. Dad tweaked the recipe a little with some booze, and since I’ve never had it any other way than the way he prepares it, the tweaks are no longer listed as optional.
Dad’s Classic French Onion Soup
2 pounds onions, thinly sliced
3 chicken bouillon cubes
3 beef bouillon cubes
1/4 cup butter
5 cups boiling water
1 cup Dubonnet (sherry or Marsala can be substituted)
1/8 tsp. pepper
1 tbsp. instant coffee
4 slices toasted or stale baguette
Mozzarella cheese, sliced to cover top of dish (gruyere can be substituted)
Parmesan, grated to sprinkle over top
4 tbsp brandy or cognac
Saute onions in butter until tender. Dissolve the bouillon cubes in two cups of the boiling water. Add the bouillon, remaining water, Dubonnet, pepper and coffee to the onions. Bring mixture to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Ladle into individual oven proof bowls. Place a slice of baguette on top of each bowl. Cover with a thick layer of mozzarella. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes or until the top is nicely browned. Remove from oven and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Place under the broiler for one minute. Remove from oven. Pour a tablespoon of brandy over each bowl and flambe. This last step is both an elegant presentation but necessary as the brandy adds a bite and another essential layer of complexity to the final flavour of the soup.
Click HERE to download the recipe.