Eat for Eight Bucks: French Onion Soup

[Photograph: Robin Bellinger]

Shopping List

4 onions: $1.38
Thyme: $1.39
1 quart chicken stock: $3.39
4 ounces Gruyére: $2.00

Pantry items: Olive oil, butter, garlic, bay leaf, salt, pepper, white wine or vermouth, flour, yeast.

Total cost (for 4 portions): $8.16

When I think of French onion soup I think not of Paris but of New York's Balthazar. Now that I live across the country and can't pop in for an impossibly cheesy bowl, it's only natural that I turn to them for a recipe.

I can't fit soup bowls under my broiler, though--it's beneath the oven--and I couldn't afford that much cheese on my eight-dollar budget anyway. So I made cheese toast instead for a slightly healthier, slightly more affordable meal. To stretch my dollar farther, I made my own (no-knead) bread and stock from bones I had in the freezer. If you don't have homemade stock around, buy a quart and replace the second quart with water. And if you don't have any wine, you might try beer or skip the alcohol altogether; those long-cooked onions should still have plenty of flavor.

French Onion Soup

About the author: Robin Bellinger is a freelance editor and shameless cookie addict. She lives in San Francisco and blogs about what she feeds her husband and her daughter at home*economics.

Eat for Eight Bucks: French Onion Soup

About This Recipe



  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 medium yellow onions, peeled, halved through the stem end, sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 4 sprigs of thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine or dry vermouth
  • 2 quarts chicken stock
  • 4 slices of country bread
  • 4 ounces Gruyére cheese, coarsely grated


  1. 1

    In a 5-quart Dutch oven or other large, heavy pot, heat the olive oil over a medium flame. Add the onions and, stirring frequently to prevent burning, sauté until they are golden, about 30 minutes.

  2. 2

    Add the butter, garlic, thyme, bay leaf, salt, and pepper and cook for 10 minutes. Raise the heat to high, add the white wine, bring to a boil, and reduce the wine by half, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock and simmer for 45 minutes.

  3. 3

    When the soup is done, turn off the burner and preheat the broiler. Remove the thyme sprigs and bay leaf from the soup.

  4. 4

    Put the slices of bread on a baking sheet and top evenly with grated cheese. Broil until the cheese is bubbly, just a minute or two, and serve with the hot soup.

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