The Best French Onion Soup

What does French Onion Soup have in common with many dishes we enjoy today such as Panzanella, Pasta Fagioli, Farro Soup, Ratatouille, Baked Beans, Cassoulet and many more? All these delicious foods were considered peasant dishes. Made from simple, inexpensive and easily available ingredients, the peasants who created them ate like kings and they didn’t know it!

Originating in Lyon, (often referred to as France’s center of gastronomy), French Onion Soup’s main ingredient, onions were easy to grow and plentiful. Cheese and stale bread were always around, and no doubt, animal bones also, left over from some rich aristocrat. History believes the French version of onion soup has been around since at least the 14th century.

Today, one can find French Onion Soup pretty much anywhere. From sandwich shops to fast casual to fine dining, French Onion Soup is a big seller. But even though one can find it easily, it doesn’t mean it is good. Often, the soup is over salted to make up for lack of flavor and the cooks lack of care, time, and attention. Often it is a risk when ordering so I rarely order it when on a menu.

French Onion Soup is easy to make and so worth the small effort (an temporary discomfort to your eyes) that peeling and slicing onions does create. If preparing the onions is a challenge to your eyes, you can buy a pair of onion goggles (they really do help with the process). Peeling onions never bothered me until I had Lasik surgery. Happily, now I don’t have to wear contact lenses, but the downside is my eyes are fully exposed to onion fumes, which can create quite a short lived crying session.

Here are some tips for discomfort free onion preparation. 

1. Wear goggles and your eyes will be insulated from the fumes. You can buy onion goggles or wear ski goggles or swimming goggles. Make sure the goggles can “seal” to your face so the fumes cannot seep in. Warning… you will look quite funny!

2. Rinse the onion under cold water before slicing.

3. Open windows to create air flow.

4. While slicing, occasionally rinse your knife and hands in cold water and wipe away the onion juice on the cutting surface with a cold wet towel.

5. Place the onions in the refrigerator at least one hour before peeling.

6.Chew parsley when you prepare onions, this is supposed to disable the irritating fumes.

7. Buy the largest sweet onions you can find. The peeling and slicing process will move faster.

(I find using a combination of goggles, chilled onions and rinsing hands and cutting surface works best for me.)

French Onion Soup is not  the new hot recipe and perhaps it is not exciting to most people's tastebuds anymore. However, if made well it can be one of the most deliciously satisfying and beautifully presented soups one can have the pleasure of enjoying. Make it today for someone you love!

Written by Jennifer O

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