French Onion Soup is one of those dishes I have pretty much stopped ordering at restaurants unless I am familiar with the place and know they make it properly. It’s not that most places have bad French Onion Soup, it’s just not that good. That’s too bad because good French Onion Soup is not difficult to make, it just takes a little time and patience. French Onion soup gets its extraordinary depth of flavor in the long, slow cooking process of caramelizing the onions. Rush this step and that is the difference between a good onion soup and an okay one. Onion soup should also be made with homemade beef stock, but not many people keep beef stock around like they do chicken stock. If you don’t have beef broth around then at least buy canned beef broth. Whatever you do stay away from the bouillon cubes or packets as they tend to be overly salty and taste way too artificial.

The first recipe is a standard recipe for French Onion Soup. The second recipe is for a Creamy Onion Soup with Blue Cheese. It starts just like the French Onion Soup, but then thickened and finished with half and half and blue cheese. It is one of my favorite variations on Onion soup

French Onion Soup

2 Tbsp. Butter
4 pounds Yellow Onions
1 cup Red Wine**
2 1/2 qts. Beef Broth
1 each Bay Leaf
3 sprigs Thyme
Gruyere or Swiss Cheese
1/2 thick croutons cut from a Baguette, toasted

Peel and julienne the onions. In a large pot, over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onions, season with salt and pepper and slowly caramelize the onions. Over medium heat this should take about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Stir regularly to keep the onions from burning. This is important in the later stages as the onions start to caramelize It is this long, slow caramelization process that really builds the deep flavor of this soup so don’t rush it. When the onions are dark brown raise heat to medium high and deglaze the pan with the red wine. Add the bay leaf and thyme. Reduce the wine until almost dry then add the beef broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and allow to simmer for 30 minutes. To serve ladle into soup crocks top with a crouton then the cheese. Place under a broiler until the cheese is bubbly and slightly browned in spots.

Creamy Onion Soup with Blue Cheese

1 recipe French Onion Soup
1 cup Half & Half
8 ounces Butter
8 ounces Flour
4 ounces Blue Cheese crumbled
Bacon cooked and crumbled
Apple, peeled and small diced

While the French Onion Soup is simmering make a roux of the butter and flour. Add the half and half to the soup then add the roux, whisking to avoid lumps. When the roux is well incorporated increase the heat and bring to a boil. Allow the soup to cook for 10 minutes longer to cook out the raw flour taste. Reduce to a simmer again and add the crumbled blue cheese. Stir until the cheese completely melts then ladle into serving bowls. Garnish with a little of the bacon and some of the diced apple

**Note: Other options besides red wine that can be used are sherry, port, maderia, or cider (either sweet or hard).