How to Caramelize Onions Demo & French Onion Soup

How to Caramelize Onions Demo & French Onion Soup

A demonstration of how to caramelize onions and how to use them in authentic French Onion Soup. Recipe credit: "Twenty" by Michael Ruhlman

 I highly recommend this book because it teaches you a full understanding of the top 20 cooking techniques, how each technique works, and how to apply it to a number of recipes. You'll walk away from this book experience a much, much more educated cook. 

Caramelizing onions takes time - like HOURS but it's well worth the effort. However the technique is flexible enough to pause and restart the recipe as your schedule allows. I'm caramelizing these onions for a French onion soup which calls for 7 to 8 pounds of onions which is why you see so many onions in this video.

We’ll start by slicing the onions. Remove the core, and cut from the outside angling towards the center. Your onions should be sliced into a similar size and shape so they caramelize evenly. 

There are many tricks to keeping onions from making you cry and for this many onions, I’m using as many tricks as I can! I've spread white vinegar on my cutting surface, the onions have been stored in the refrigerator and I have a window open to allow the draft to diffuse the fumes.  So far it's working. 

Next I'll melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a 7-quart enameled, cast iron pot over medium heat. Add all the onions. To fit them all in I'll use a spatula and gently twist to create more pockets for the onions to fall into and when all else fails I'll push them down. 

Add 2 teaspoons of salt. Cover the onions and cook them until they've heated through and they start to steam. Reduce the heat to low, uncover them and stir them occasionally. 

Onions are made of 95% water which they will release in this process. Because they're cooking in their own water, you should be able to leave them alone for an hour at a stretch. 

After 3 hours of cooking on low, I turned them off and went on a dinner date. The next morning I started it back up again. I cooked them for another hour and most of the liquid cooked off. 

This is where I started the soup. However you may choose to leave them as is and even freeze them in small batches. If you decide to caramelize a smaller batch of onions, you’ll need to keep a closer eye on them to keep them from burning. 

This really did take 4 hours and if you want something quicker Ruhlman says in his book that you can cover the onions in water with a little extra butter and boil them until the water cooks off. 

A simple, vegetarian French soup. Serves 4 to 6

1 tablespoon butter
7-8 Spanish Onions (7-8 pounds), thinly sliced
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
6-12 slices of baguette or any country-style bread
1/3 cup sherry
red or white vinegar (optional)
red wine (optional)
.5 - .75 pound Gruyere or Emmenthaler cheese, grated

We start french onion soup with heavily caramelized onions. (see above)

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees. Place a few slices of baguette or country style bread in the oven and let them dry completely. You can leave the slices in the oven indefinitely, the heat's not high enough to burn the bread. 

Add 6 cups of water to your caramelized onions and bring the soup to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low. Add a third of a cup of sherry or a suitable substitute if you don't have sherry. Here I've used a quarter cup of brandy. Salt and pepper as needed.

At this point you flavor the soup to your liking, so taste it. If it's too sweet, add a little vinegar. I added red wine vinegar. If you like a little more depth, add a splash of red wine. Add a little at a time and keep tasting until you decide you like the flavor. You can also add a little more water if you like a more delicate soup. 

Preheat the broiler. Portion the soup into a ovenproof bowls and float the bread on top. Cover it with grated cheese like a Gruyere or emmenthaler and broil until the cheese is melted and nicely browned. Your soup is now ready to enjoy. 

I'm a certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and I help people eat more vegetables through my cooking companion videos. My goal is to make you feel more comfortable cooking, so I show you not only how a recipe works and looks, but I give techniques and suggestions for making it easy on beginner cooks. 

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