Mastering classic French cooking at home: French onion soup

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Oh, to have a repertoire of French cuisine classics that you can whip up at home and know that they’ll be fantastic – every time!

Have you always dreamed of mastering French cuisine? Years ago I attended a course with Le Cordon Bleu in London and I have a very early (1978) copy of Julia Child’s ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking‘, now very yellow and food stained by successful and not so masterful attempts!

Like many of you, I’ve also read the book and seen the 2009 film Julie & Julia, with Amy Adams as Julie Powell and Meryl Streep as Julia Child. Upon hearing about Powell’s attempt at replicating all her recipes, Child was reported to have been unimpressed, viewing Powell’s attempt to be a stunt, and that Powell wasn’t serious about doing it.

We’re passionate about continuing the challenge of mastering classic French cooking at home without having professional training. In this series we bring you tips and recipes from others who share our passion.

Back in the kitchen with Janelle

MyFrenchLife™ - Scott-and-Janelle-Gould - Carla - Master French classics - French cooking at home - MyFrenchLife.orgAs the weather gets more chilly in Australia, we are back in the kitchen with Janelle Gould of the Distant Francophile blog. And Scott is there to take the photos. Janelle shares her version of another classic: French onion soup.

Janelle says: “Although it seems almost too obvious, one of my very favourite soups is the classic French onion soup. Rich and full of flavour, it’s best when topped with croutons made from toasted baguette, which are dripping with melted cheese.

While French onion soup is fabulous, it can be a bit of a bother to make. Chopping all those onions is tedious at best! At worst, it is an absolute tear-fest.

Given this fact, I’ve been working on mastering a super quick, easy and tasty recipe for French onion soup that involves frozen onions. And, after a bit of practice, I think I’ve come up with a recipe good enough to share with all of you.

French onion soup

MyFrenchLife™- Master French classics - French cooking at home - French Onion Soup -

So here’s my cheat’s version of French onion soup and I promise you won’t be able to tell that you didn’t chop the onions yourself!”

It serves 4 people as an entrée or light meal.


        2 tablespoons of duck fat or butter
        1 x 500g bag of chopped or sliced frozen onion
        2 cloves of fresh garlic, finely chopped. Or use a good shake of garlic powder instead.
        1 big pinch of dried thyme
        Salt and pepper, to taste
        A little sugar – I use 3 cubes
        400ml of white wine
        1 litre of prepared beef stock
        1 baguette
        50g gruyère cheese, grated
        100g swiss cheese, grated
        Dried tarragon or parsley, to serve


      1. Melt duck fat or butter in large saucepan or stock pot. Add onions, garlic, thyme, sugar and seasonings and cook over very low heat until onion is lightly caramelised. Remember to stir regularly so your onion doesn’t burn.
      2. Turn up heat and add wine to pan, stirring to deglaze the saucepan, ensuring that all the yummy bits of onion are in your soup and not stuck to the bottom of your saucepan.
      3. Add beef stock and return soup to the boil. Check seasoning, but don’t over salt at this point in time. Simmer soup for around 20 minutes or until reduced to your liking.
      4. Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
      5. About 10 minutes before serving, slice baguette on the angle. You will need 8 pieces. Put the slices on an oven tray and pop the tray in the oven.
      6. Once the first side is golden, remove from oven, turn the baguette pieces over and top with a mixture of the grated cheeses. Return to oven and cook until the cheese is melted and slightly golden.
      7. To serve, place one piece of baguette in bottom of each soup bowl. Ladle soup into bowl, and top each bowl with another slice of cheesy baguette. Sprinkle the bowls with tarragon or parsley and call everyone to the table.

Thank you Janelle!

Do you have a favourite French winter warmer? Do you have any tips to share? Share your thoughts and experiences with us below!

Indulge yourself with more delicious recipes in our series of how to Master French Classics…

Moelleux au Chocolat // Poule au Pot // Crêpes // Duck Confit // Bouillabaisse // Madeleine

Image Credits:
1. Collage of images taken by Scott Gould
2. Janelle and Scott by Carla Coulson
3. French Onion Soup by Scott Gould

About the Contributor

Judy MacMahon

Experience FRANCE beyond the CLICHÉ with MyFrenchLife is for Curious Savvy Francophiles wherever you are. Meet Francophiles in France, online, and/or wherever you live. You’re very welcome to join us - Judy MacMahon -

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  1. Jan Leishman Jul 10, 2016 at 1:19 AM - Reply

    A great tip to use frozen sliced onion. I make Pissaladiere (a southern French onion pizza) and you need to chop kilos of onions! I wish I’d known to use frozen ones. Thanks Janelle, I’ll try this recipe when I get home from high summer in France!

    • Judy MacMahon Jul 11, 2016 at 10:01 AM - Reply

      I love the way Janelle provides all of these practical tips too Jan. And… there are more to come 😉

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