Soupe à l’Oignon

The ingredients.

(Onion Soup)

These days, Taco Bell and Denny’s provide our go-to late night drunk meals[*. Unless you live in Chicago, where there are endless opportunities for post midnight rally meals, most especially the ten billion taquieras up and down Western ave]. But if you’re French or you live in 1954, some place that serves soup would be your first choice and if you’re cool, it would be a place that served onion soup, or, soupe à l’oignon.

Onion soup has few contenders for it’s fight to be the greatest soup ever. I’ll admit lobster bisque and gumbo are right up there1 but onion soup provides the most recuperating properties you’re going to need if you’re tanked.

I’m not saying you will only enjoy soupe à l’oignon when you’re drunk. But if you’re at the end of a beautiful night of revelry and libations with your friends and you’d like to pack something on top of all that booze to keep it from escaping, then may I suggest onion goddam soup.

First of all, SLO wins because it takes advantage of time. Gumbo and bisque don’t take half the time you need to make a proper onion soup. Sure, gumbo needs a few minutes for the roux, and you need a scuba license to make a decent lobster bisque. But still, they’re quickish.

Soupe à l’oignon requires two steps that take an entire fucking day: 1) making beef stock; 2) booking down the oignons.

Making beef stock should be like a religious experience. It is how we call down the angels who lay their hands on the bones and deliver magic to the process. It takes hours and hours and it makes your house smell absolutely edible. Cooking down onions is the same kind of thing. You just stand there with a big pot2, stirring and waiting as the heat breaks down the sugars in the vegetable and the whole mess of them melt into a brown sticky layer of pure saveur. Then you add the stock. Then you swoon.

Chicken soup will cure the common cold, of that I am convinced. But onion soup, made with love, made over time, will transport you to a place of magic and beauty, that will recharge your inebriated soul.

After a late night in Paris we used to go to Les Halles, the large outdoor markets, where could get steaming bowls of of savory onion soup to revive us. Late or early, this hearty soup is one of my all-time favorites.–Vincent Price”

Can you imagine being a butcher in Les Halles, walking to your booth with a half a cow on your shoulder, passing Vincent Price and his wife, a little buzzed from a night of fine wine and casserolets de la sole d’Laserre, laughing and eating soup amid the sanguine streams of lamb, chicken, pheasants, pigs, and fish?

Soupe à l’Oignon


  • 3 tablespoons bacon drippings
  • 4 large onions, chopped fine (I prefer them thinly sliced)
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, mashed
  • parsley sprig
  • pinch of thyme
  • 1 quart beef stock or brown chicken stock
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon cognac
  • 1 slice toasted French bread per bowl (you can also ask for day old bread and slice it)
  • Parmesan cheese (you may also use Gruyere and Parmesan together)
  • a little melted butter


  1. Heat the bacon grease in a deep saucepan.
  2. Sauté the onions until they are just soft.
  3. Add the flour, salt, and pepper, garlic. Cook until mixture is golden brown but not burned (or until they are caramelized)
  4. Add parsley, thyme, stock and wine. Simmer for 3/4 or an hour, then add the cognac.
  5. Presentation
  6. Serve in individual ovenproof bowls with 1 slice of toasted French bread in each (you can layer a couple of slices if you want a heartier bowl). Fill with the soup then top with the cheese and a little melted butter. Place under the broiler until the cheese melts and bubbles and forms a crust.
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Bull Garlington is an award-winning author and columnist from Chicago. His newest book is The Full English, a humorous travel memoir.
  1. Fine. Gumbo is technically a stew and bisque is a fucking bisque, but they’re both served in a bowl and will be on the menu under soup.
  2. And a beer or six