Les Halles French Onion Soup

The next chapter of recipes in our book, “The New Making of a Cook,” is called “Happy Marriages: Vegetable Broths, Meat Stocks and Consommés, and All Types of Mixed Vegetable and Meat Soups.”  That is a long title!

The chapter has lots of great explanations about the differences between broths, stocks, and consommés. I was interested in learning about our first recipe, however, and there was a long introduction to that.

“Les Halles” refers to “the central market of Paris, now transferred to the modern functional market of Rungis.”  Apparently, the soup is served in bistros all throughout Paris and especially enjoyed after a night on the town.

Les Halles French Onion Soup printable recipe

FFR to FCR – 6 servings

3 tablespoons unsalted butter or 2 tablespoons olive oil

6 very large yellow onions, thinly sliced

1 cup dry white wine (optional)

6 cups cold water

Small bouquet garni of parsley stems, 1 bay leaf, and 1 sprig fresh thyme


Pepper from the mill

6 slices French bread, cut at a slant and lightly toasted

Six 3-inch-square 1/8-inch-thick slices Gruyère

In a large saucepan, melt the butter until its foam starts receding or the oil until it starts shimmering, then add the onions and sauté quickly over medium-high heat to remove most of their moisture.  Turn the heat down to medium and continue cooking, tossing occasionally, until the onions are uniformly brown.  Add the wine and let it completely evaporate.

Cover the onions with the water and bring slowly to a boil, then add the bouquet garni.  Simmer, uncovered, until 5 cups of mixed solids and liquid are left, about 45 minutes.  Salt and pepper to your taste.  Taste the broth and continue cooking if not tasty enough.  Add boiling water and a bit more seasoning if needed.

Ladle an equal volume of soup into 6 fireproof casseroles, and set the casseroles on a large jelly-roll or baking sheet.  Float one slice of bread on top of the soup in each casserole and top with a cheese slice.  Broil 2 minutes to melt and serve piping hot.

One thing I noticed in this recipe and in our last entry’s recipe was the “FFR” and “FCR” at the top.  I found in the book’s introduction that FFR stands for “Full Fat Recipe,” meaning it “represents a full-fat recipe containing saturated fats in the form of butter, cream, bacon fat, lard, and/or duck fat.”  FCR means “Fat-Controlled Recipe,” “in which the fat used is an unsaturated oil.”  There are a couple of more designations:

LFR represents a recipe containing only a small amount of fat; and NFR is a recipe with only a very small percentage of fat.

So, now we know, and I will continue to include these designations in the recipes I use.

We had all our ingredients, so it was time to begin.  I started by showing Willow how to peel an onion.  First, slice off the end of the onion that is opposite from the roots.  Then, set it on its end (flat side down), and slice it in half.  Then, it is easy to peel.

Here is an onion after one side has been peeled.  I was the one cutting the onions because Willow didn’t feel confident enough to do it herself.  She needs more practice with that type of thing.

Slicing the onions thinly.  Keeping the root end of the onion intact makes it so your onion doesn’t slide around while you slice it.

Here is the melted butter after most of the foam has subsided.

It took quite a while to slice all the onions.  Everyone in the house was experiencing stinging eyes.  I tried burning a candle and placing it next to the cutting board, but that didn’t help very much.  Willow wore sunglasses and claimed that helped.  Here is our bowl of onions.

Putting the onions into the pan.

Sautéing the onions.

Now, the heat has been turned down and we are tossing occasionally to let them brown uniformly.  This took quite a while.

Getting browner.

Getting browner.  Willow ended up taking a break for a while because there really wasn’t anything to do.  I called her in to see the progress.  This photo is after we finally had some really brown bits.

Adding the white wine.  We used cooking wine.

Here is our bouquet garni.  I used two different bay leaves because they were a little broken.

Adding the bouquet garni.

Adding the water.  The kids had to go to bed at this point, so I put it on to simmer and then put it in the refrigerator to wait until the next day.

We had a loaf of sourdough that we could use, but the crust was a little bit hard.  The middle wasn’t so bad, so I tried it anyway.

The bread, after being toasted under the broiler.  After the bread toasted, it seemed to have revived.

I reheated the soup and added salt and pepper.  Willow helped me taste it to make sure it tasted right.  I put it into bowls.  We didn’t have fancy matching casseroles, so I just used the ovenproof bowls we had.

Floating the toasted bread and applying the cheese.

Our soup, after being broiled!

I am proud of Willow.  She was very patient with this recipe, and actually ate the soup.  We had it as part of our Christmas Eve dinner, and everyone who ate it enjoyed it.

The recipe said at the end that one might try adding a bouillon cube or canned broth to add a different dimension to the soup.  I might try that next time.  I really liked it and I would love to make it again some time.

Please join us next time, as we will finally be doing our first sauce – Basic Velouté!


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