01 October 2011

French Onion Cider Soup

Dear Lissy,
Ooh-la-la, how I love my French Onion Soup!  This fall variation is a fusion of the original recipe from Springledge Farm and the Cook's Illustrated French Onion Soup.  I like the onions soft, sweet, and carmelized with a punch of flavor...they should almost melt into the soup. This recipe takes about 4 hours start to finish, but is SO worth it!

French Onion Cider Soup
adapted from Cook's Illustrated and Springledge Farm

1/4 cup butter
6 cups YELLOW onions
3/4 cups water
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 cups beef broth
2 cups chicken  broth
4 cups apple cider 
6 sprigs thyme, tied
1 bay leaf

Artisan loaf grainy bread, 18-24 oz.
1 stick butter, softened
2 cups mozzarella, shredded
1 cup sharp cheddar, shredded

  1. Adjust the oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Generously spray the inside of a heavy-bottomed large (at least 7-quart) Dutch oven with a nonstick cooking spray. Place the butter in the pot and add the onions and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, covered, for 1 hour (the onions will be moist and slightly reduced in volume). Remove the pot from the oven and stir the onions, scraping the bottom and sides of the pot. Return the pot to the oven with the lid slightly ajar and continue to cook until the onions are very soft and golden brown, 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours longer, stirring the onions and scraping bottom and sides of pot after 1 hour.
  3. Carefully remove pot from oven and place over medium-high heat. Using oven mitts to handle pot, cook onions, stirring frequently and scraping bottom and sides of pot, until the liquid evaporates and the onions brown, 15 to 20 minutes, reducing the heat to medium if the onions are browning too quickly. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the pot bottom is coated with a dark crust, roughly 6 to 8 minutes, adjusting the heat as necessary. (Scrape any fond that collects on spoon back into onions.)
  4. Stir in 1/4 cup water, scraping the pot bottom to loosen crust, and cook until water evaporates and pot bottom has formed another dark crust, 6 to 8 minutes. Repeat process of deglazing 2 or 3 more times, until onions are very dark brown. Stir in the Worcestershire and cook, stirring frequently, until it evaporates, about 2 minutes.
  5. Stir in the broths, cider, thyme, and bay leaf, scraping up any final bits of browned crust on bottom and sides of pot.  Note:  If the cider is strong and opaque, you may want to use 1 cup of water in place of 1 cup of the cider.
  6. Increase heat to high and bring to simmer. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove and discard herbs, then season with salt and pepper.
  7. French Onion Soup is traditionally served with a broiled "lid" made from a slice of toasted french bread and Gruyere cheese.  I prefer to split a grainy artisan loaf lengthwise, butter it liberally, broil it until golden, and then top with a combination of mozzarella and Wicked sharp cheddar cheese.  I then run it under the broiler until it's golden and bubbly and cut it into "fingers" to serve with the soup rather than on top.  
It's nice to have several suppers that can be put together in 20 minutes or so, but don't overlook the recipes that eke out every atom of flavor through a long, slow process.   There isn't much "hands on" time, but you do have to be home for 4+ hours to make this amazing soup.  Enjoy the journey, not just the destination!



  1. (Not sure if my comment is awaiting moderation or simply didn't go through. Sorry if this is a double!)

    I love French Onion Soup, and while I feel as if I have perfected "my" recipe, this one looks amazing for a change. I especially love the idea of the cider in it.

    Is there a reason you specify yellow onions? I've always used sweet onions. Could I be making a better soup?



  2. In my experience, sweet onions are better for recipes where the onions are cooked until tender, but not caramelized. I think that's why they're commonly used for onion rings, pizza, and subs. My favorite restaurant doesn't caramelize their onions for French onion soup, and I'm very glad they use sweet onions.

    Yellow onions'assertive pungency transforms when slowly cooked down until they caramelize. They develop a sweet but complex flavor that you simply can't produce with sweet (Vidalia or Walla Walla) onions.

    At the end of the day, it's as much personal preference as anything. If you've got a soup recipe you love and that you've perfected for your taste buds, I wouldn't mess with it :)

  3. Oh, does this sound good!! I'd like to try with cider in it too. And thanks for the suggestion on a name for our garden elf. I'll write it down. Getting some good ones. C-