French onion soup is ultimate comfort food in both Western and French cuisine. It’s hearty, it’s warm, it’s comforting, and doused in cheese. What’s not to like?
Variations of onion soups have known to exist in Europe since the Ancient Roman and Greek periods. French onion soup originates back to the 18th century where it all began in Paris, France.
Onions were known as food of the poor, due to their abundance and versatility. Medieval recipes called for cooked onions tossed in water. The simplicity of the entire recipe is what makes it as popular as it is today. Meanwhile, some attribute the recipe to King Louis XV who, returning from a hunt, saw his cupboards were bare except for onions, butter, and champagne, thus came the creation of the French onion soup.
Made from beef broth and caramelized onions, it is placed on a ramekin with Comté cheese, generously sprinkled on top and melted to a brown, buttery crisp. A piece of baguette is drenched in the soup to soak in the rich onion broth. Every bite is a gooey piece of the onion broth-infused baguette, along with a melted, stringy piece of cheese.
A hard cheese like aged Gruyère is key to getting the traditional bubbling crust of cheese; it’s rich, smooth, and melts easily. Although gruyère is preferred, another semi-hard cheese like Emmental can be used, as it used here at Left Bank in our very own version of French onion soup.
Not caramelizing the onions properly will ruin the overall taste of the dish, considering it is the main attraction. They need to be caramelized just enough to get the sweet and savory component.