French Onion Soup (w/ wine pairings)

French Onion Soup... unbelievably delicious!

So a while back I had posed a question to our faithful Facebook followers, “What recipes would you like me to post?” I received a number of responses, all of which were great ideas, and all of which I have written down (don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten you guys!). Well the other day I was at a loss for what to cook for dinner so I grabbed the list and read off the options to my wife, and she chose French Onion Soup. Truthfully I was ecstatic because that was the one from the list that I really wanted that day (a close second was New England Clam Chowder… coming soon!).

So here you have my French Onion Soup recipe… If you’d like to make the bread bowls check out an older soup post of mine here, just keep in mind the size of the bowls is meant to be an entrée and that recipe makes four bowls. If you plan on serving this as an appetizer you can cut down on the size of the bowls from that recipe to make 6-8 bowls. If you need more than that you’ll have to adjust the ingredient portions accordingly.

Also, one variable in the recipe is the cheese. Some people like more, some less. Me, I’m a cheese junky… and it will also depend on how many people you’re serving, because even though the soup portion may differ based on the number of people, the amount of cheese per serving won’t be drastically different. I’ll give a range, but it’s going to have to be a bit of a judgement call on your part.

Serves 6-10 as an appetizer, 4 as an entrée

2 Red Onions, sliced
3 Vidalia Onion (sweet onions), sliced
4 Cloves of Garlic, chopped
8tbsp Unsalted Butter
4tsp Salt
3tsp Ground Black Pepper
6 Springs of Fresh Thyme
2 Bay Leaves
2tbsp All Purpose Flour
2c Cream Sherry
1tbsp Dark Brown Sugar
8c Beef Stock
4c Water

French Baguette, sliced (or the “guts” if you’re making the bread bowls)

4-8oz Muenster Cheese, sliced or shredded
4-8oz Sharp Provolone Cheese, sliced or shredded

In an 8qt sauce pot melt the butter at medium-high. Add the onions and garlic along with 2tsp of salt, 1tsp of black pepper, thyme sprigs and bay leaves. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring periodically. Remove the thyme sprigs and bay leaves, then add the flour and continue to cook at medium-high for an additional 5 minutes, stirring regularly to prevent the flour from sticking to the bottom of the pot. This creates a roux which leads to a thicker, richer soup. Increase the heat to high and add the cream sherry, reduce by half, stirring periodically. Add the beef stock, water, 2tsp each of salt and pepper, and 1tbsp of brown sugar. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-high and simmer uncovered for 1 hour, stirring periodically.

Heat your oven to 500F.

Pour the soup into the serving crocks (or bread bowls), leaving 1/2″ of space at the top. Layer evenly with slices of French Baguette (or the guts from the bread bowl) and then top the bread evenly with the Muenster and Provolone cheeses, to your desired amount. Place the crocks (or bread bowls) in the oven at 500F and cook until the cheese is slightly browned, about 3-5 minutes.

Now let’s talk wine pairings. Think red… and you want something that’s fruit forward without being cloying, but also with subtle herbal notes and without being too powerful. Even though the soup is pretty strong in its flavors, you don’t want to overwhelm it with something like a big Napa Cab, Barolo or monster Petite Sirah. Lean more towards wines like Spanish Garnacha, Cabernet Franc from the Loire, Argentine Malbec, California Zinfandel, etc. Here are the wines I recommend… the first being what my wife and I had that night, and yes, it was a perfect pairing!

Bernabeleva Navaherreros Tinto, San Martin (Madrid), Spain – San Martin is a small, hilly, higher elevation subzone along the western border of the Madrid DO. There are a handful of winemakers doing some pretty great things out there, and Bernabeleva is the best of them. Their Navaherreros Tinto is made from 100% old vine Garnacha, predominantly from the estate’s vineyards with an average vine age of 40 to 60 years. In the glass is a full bodied wine of deep ruby hue with purple edges. On the nose are aromas of dark berry, crushed violet, orange zest, thyme and rosemary. The nuances of the palate reflect the bouquet, with subtle balancing acidity and moderate tannins adding weight and depth, into a long lingering finish with hints of oak. PP Score: 90 (Retail $17-20) *Practicing Organic & Biodynamic

Domaine du Bel Air Bourgueil “Jour de Soif”, Loire, France – This wine will forever hold a special place in my heart, as it’s the first Cabernet Franc that I ever truly enjoyed. Not to mention that its title, “Jour de Soif” translates to “drink the day”, which is essentially my favorite past time! Domaine du Bel Air is owned by the Gauthier family who have been producing wines from their 18 hectare estate for generations, but didn’t start bottling to sell until 1979. This is their entry cuvee, 100% Cabernet Franc from their youngest vines, approximately 20 years of age, aged in stainless steel to allow the fruit to shine and give it a refreshing brightness. On the palate you find notes of dark cherry, slightly tart raspberry, dried thyme and a hint of bell pepper. The wine is medium bodied but is a surprisingly light on it’s feet with a beautiful acidic lift and subtle chewy tannins adding depth and character. PP Score: 89 (Retail $13-16) *Certified Organic

Bedrock Wine Co. Old Vine Zinfandel, Sonoma Valley, CA – Bedrock is the brain-child of Morgan Twain-Peterson, the penultimate Golden Child of California Zinfandel and field blends. The 2013 Old Vine Zinfandel is taken from prestigious sites like Bedrock Vineyard, Monte Rosso, Nervo Ranch, Sodini Ranch, Stampede Vineyard,  Casa Santinamaria Vineyard and more, with an average vine age of 80 to 123 years old. In the glass is a full bodied wine of ruby hue. On the nose are aromas of black cherry, bramble fruit, dried herbs, potpourri and pantry spice. On the palate are lush, ripe fruit notes of black cherry and overripe raspberry with nuances of dried herbs, and ground black pepper, leading into a long, lingering finish redolent with spicea and subtle heat. One of my favorite affordable Zinfandels of all time… PP Score: 94 (Retail $25-30)

So there you have it, my crazy delicious French Onion Soup recipe and my recommended wine pairings. I hope you’ve enjoyed the read and will try the recipe and the wines. As always new content is coming soon. In the meantime crack open a bottle of Spanish Garnacha or Cali Zin, sit back, and relax. Life is short, you deserve to enjoy it!



Published by Derek Martin

Husband, dad, home cook, wine snob... lover of bacon. I have spent my entire adult life surrounded by fine food and fine wines, starting with fifteen years working at, or running, some of New Jersey's top restaurants, and now the last two years working for one of the top fine wine distributors in the United States. I have absorbed a ton of information on food, wine, pairings and techniques during those seventeen years, and I'd love to share what I've learned with you!

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