the absentminded chef: French Onion Soup

I’ve been planning for a X’mas party for a week now. The menu has been settled. And this time, I wanted to do it differently: no canned anything, no ordering, just plain and simple cooking from the freshest ingredients I can get my hands on.

So, in preparation for the party, I’d be trying out the recipes and sharing them with you here. First off is French Onion Soup. It’s taken from Simple Soirees by Peggy Knickerbocker (see below) and since she introduced it as “the onion soup of onion soups,” I thought I’ll give it a try.



I went to Great World City’s Cold Storage to get all the ingredients needed – partly because of the caucasian crowd there and partly because Harris Books is now running a 20% sale. Ignoring the mess in the background, clockwise from the left:

  • Garlic – 2 cloves
  • Yellow onion – 1.4kg
  • Dry white wine (Ball Island has a $18.50 bottle) – 3 cups
  • Extra-virgin olive oil (La Bella, the most affordable Italian brand) – 2 tablespoons
  • Bagguette (from Sweet Secrets, one of the crispiest around) – 6x 1-inch slices
  • Unsalted butter – 2 tablespoons
  • Swiss cheese (Sargento Thick Slices, couldn’t find grated Swiss cheese anywhere) – 340g
  • Dijon mustard – 1 tablespoon
  • Bay Leaves – 2
  • Chicken broth (Knorr has the right amounts I want in two small cartons) – 6 cups
  • All-purpose flour (not in picture) – 2 tablespoons

The above portions serves 4-6, adjust proportionately to the servings you want to prepare. My advice to you is to calculate and write out the exact portions separately for use in the kitchen. I tried to do the math in my head while in the kitchen and made quite a number of mistakes.



Melt the butter in the olive oil. Add onions and cook for about 10 minutes over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for another 10 minutes or until the onions are lightly browned. Season with pepper.

Next, add the flour and mix it evenly for about a minute. Add mustard.


Add the wine and bay leaves (see picture above) and cook for 5 minutes. Add the stock a little at a time and simmer very slowly for at least 30 minutes.


While the soup is simmering, you can prepare the toasts. Simply cut 1-inch thick slices, spread a little butter and top with the grated Swiss cheese. Preheat your mini-toaster for about 3 minutes, then toast for about 6 minutes.


For serving, add a tablespoon of Swiss cheese for extra richness and then float the cheese toast on top. By the way, I made 6 cheese toasts because the soup is my dinner 😉


It’s kind of odd giving myself marks for this. But I’ll tell you: this is really good French onion soup. So good I’m tempted to go to a French restaurant tomorrow to try for comparison.

Kudos aside… I made a few mistakes here and there, like using a 6-serving portion of the butter, olive oil and flour for my 2-serving preparation. It’s not a bad mistake on hindsight, the additional flour resulted in a thicker soup base which I preferred.


It’s 26 Dec 2006 and I’ve tried making this soup 3 times now. Here’s some adaptations I’ve discovered:

  • We don’t have really ‘yellow’ onions here in Singapore, so, you might want to lengthen the onion cooking time from 20 to 30 minutes. In the last 5 minutes, make sure you stir it regularly to prevent it from getting burnt.
  • If you prefer a thicker soup base, try doubling the amount of all-purpose flour to 4 tablespoons.
  • If you prefer a tangy-er taste, double the mustard.

In my own trials, I find people liked the soup most when I adapted all the 3 changes above.


  1. Yum

    Looking forward to trying them..

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