Soupe à l'Oignon (Onion Soup)

(recipe, Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, Simone Beck)

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The onions for an onion soup need a long, slow cooking in butter and oil, then a long, slow simmering in stock for them to develop the deep, rich flavor which characterizes a perfect brew. You should therefore count on 2½ hours at least from start to finish. Though the preliminary cooking in butter requires some watching, the actual simmering can proceed almost unattended.


  1. 1½ lb. (about 5 cups) thinly sliced yellow onions
  2. 3 Tbsp. butter
  3. 1 Tbsp. oil
  4. 1 tsp. salt
  5. ¼ tsp. sugar
  6. 3 Tbsp. flour
  7. 2 qt. brown stock or canned beef bouillon, or 1 quart of water and 1 quart of stock or bouillon
  8. ½ cup dry white wine or dry white vermouth
  9. Salt and pepper
  10. 3 Tbsp. cognac
  11. Rounds of hard-toasted French bread
  12. 1 to 2 cup Swiss or Parmesan cheese, grated (see Note)


  1. In a heavy-bottomed, 4-quart saucepan, cook the onions slowly with the butter and oil for 15 minutes. Uncover, raise heat to moderate, and stir in the salt and sugar (the sugar helps the onions to brown). Cook for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions have turned an even, deep, golden brown. Sprinkle in the flour and stir for 3 minutes.
  2. While the onions are cooking, bring the stock to a boil. Take the onions off the heat and stir in the boiling stock. Add the wine, and season to taste. Simmer partially covered for 30 to 40 minutes or more, skimming occasionally. Correct seasoning.
  3. Just before serving, stir in the cognac. Place the rounds of bread in a soup tureen or soup cups, pour the hot soup over the bread, and pass the cheese separately.


Culinate editor's note: When Mastering was first published, Gruyère and Emmenthal cheeses weren't so easy to come by Stateside. You can use Child's suggested Jarlsberg or Parmesan cheese on your soup if you like, but Gruyère or Emmenthal will taste nuttier and richer. Toast slices of the bread, cover them with cheese, and broil them briefly to melt the cheese, then float the cheese toasts atop each bowl of soup to serve.