Hearty Les Halles-Style French Onion Soup

French onion soupEvery year I do a cooking class with my mom as a present for Mother’s Day, and, if you want to copy my idea, I would definitely recommend it because it’s a lot of fun, a great bonding experience, and you learn how to make new things! We normally do it around the actual holiday, but her favourite soup is French Onion Soup, which is a winter dish, so I asked if I could spoil the surprise and do it much earlier. After a lot of searching, I couldn’t find a hands-on class that had it on the menu, so we tried a demonstration class at PC cooking school. I didn’t have high hopes because I wanted to use my hands, but a demonstration style class was actually a really enjoyable change. We even specially ordered colourful and adorable Le Creuset French Onion soup bowls when we went to a restaurant supply store (where I was like a kid in a candy store), which were exciting to use when we made it at home.

Les Halles-Style French Onion Soup



  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 high quality French baguette (such as Ace Bakery), cut crosswise into ½-inch thick slices


Preheat oven to 350oF and take out a rimmed baking sheet.

Combine oil and garlic in a small bowl, and spoon some into one corner of the baking sheet. Dip both sides of break into mixture and place in a single layer on the baking sheet. Bake until golden and crispy, about 30 minutes, turning over at 15 minutes.



  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 10 large yellow onions, peeled, halved, and cut into ¼-inch slices
  • 10 oz dry white wine
  • 2 x 900 mL low sodium beef broth/2 beef boullion cubes dissolved into proper amount of water (or 3, see notes)
  • 5 sprigs thyme, leaves only
  • 1 tablespoon reduced balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ cup cognac
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • Garlic croutons (see above)
  • 8 oz Gruyère cheese, grated


In a large heavy bottomed stockpot set over medium heat, add granulated sugar and cook until sugar liquefies. Once it turns slightly golden brown,  stir in oil and butter.

Add garlic and onions, and keep tossing mixture for about 15 minutes or until onions have started to darken at the edges. Reduce temperature to medium-low and leave onions to caramelize uncovered for an hour or until the bottom of the pot is covered in a rich, dark brown film – stirring occasionally.

Add wine and deglaze the pan. Add stock, thyme, and vinegar, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Preheat the broiler on the oven. Stir in cognac and salt and pepper into soup to taste, simmer for 5 or more minutes until the cognac doesn’t taste to alcohol-y (you’ll know what I mean).

Ladle hot soup into ramekins or super cool French Onion Soup bowls, and top with 3 garlic croutons each and a generous handful of cheese. Place them on a sheet pan and under the broiler until the cheese melts and is golden. Serve immediately.


1) To bump up the flavour, you can do 3 beef stocks/beef bouillon cubes and reduce it to amount you need.

2) Vegetarian tweak: my mom isn’t veg, she just doesn’t eat beef, so when we made it we used McCormick beef bouillon cubes, which do not contain beef. We found them at Metro, which helps some Canadians (and they’re a Canadian product), but I’m sure you can find them or another brand at your local supermarket or vegetarian-friendly specialty store. If you do this, it’s important to use ‘beef’ (rather than a ‘chicken’ or a vegetable), because it maintains the depth of flavour of the soup.

3) This recipe calls for white wine, which I thought was weird with beef stock, but I asked the chef and she said that that was the recipe she was taught in France. I definitely think it can be made with red wine though, and will probably try it next time. If you do it, please let me know!

4) This is a hearty soup (as the name suggests)! Which is why I have it tagged under both appetizer and main; you can have it for either of these, but keep it’s heartiness in mind when planning your menu. I think the perfect menu with this would be soup and a salad.
Source: Chef Deb at The Fridge Whisperer.


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