Posted by: highmountainmuse | July 12, 2009

French Onion Soup

French onion soup for dinner

French onion soup for dinner

I’ve been considering sharing recipes for camp cooking. You know, good ol’ ditch diggers fare. But I don’t know many who do or even want to cook over the open fire as we do in camp.  And I don’t know anyone who needs a recipe for Hamburger Helper… Yes, it’s true.  When we’re up at camp, even the most simple of foods taste wonderful.  And after a day of digging, the easier the better.

But weekends and days back home, we enjoy baking on the old wood stove (We?  OK, me.) and serving up a little more fancy fare, as occasion, energy and ingredients allow.  We don’t have a great deal of opportunities for town trips this time of year either (though you know by now how good I am at putting those things off), so available ingredients are often slim picking.

Can’t tell you how grateful we are for generous neighbors, who may share their “leftovers” as they clean up their summer home-away-from-home and reluctantly head off the mountain and back to the heat of their main home.  Last night, its past 8 pm, the day was too nice to work inside, the dishes left undone, and dinner in desperate need of cooking for us three tired and hungry mountain folks.  Lo and behold, our neighbors stop by and present us with the gift of a whole cooked turkey… still warm.  Talk about counting your blessings…

Otherwise, we’d be doing the pantry scraping, creative cooking. Which really isn’t too bad.  As long as there is some fresh bread around, and for some reason, I usually do manage to keep up on my baking.  Strange sense of priorities, I suppose.

French Onion Soup is a good example of that pantry scraping cooking style.  Chances are pretty good we can scrounge up all the necessary ingredients in the pantry or on the counter to put this one together.  It’s a rich, satisfying meal with minimal fuss and even fewer ingredients.  Simplicity at it’s finest. 

Well, if anyone is interested in how to cook simple meals over the open fire, tips on how to avoid smoke in the eyes and soot on your clothes, please let me know.  In the meanwhile, I’ll share this recipe with you.

French Onion Soup

In a medium size heavy pot (I use a dutch oven without legs) over moderate heat, melt:

            2 tablespoons butter

Slice in half and then in long even thin curls, and sauté in that butter until tender and golden brown:

            2 large onions

Stir in:

            2 tablespoons flour

Then slowly add, stirring constantly:

            5 cups beef broth; or 5 cups water and bullion cubes or beef base.

            ½ cup white wine or dry vermouth

            1 teaspoon sugar

            ½ teaspoon thyme

            A small pinch nutmeg

            A dash of white pepper

            Fresh ground black pepper to taste

Let the soup simmer for 20-30 minutes, covered over medium-low heat.

Meanwhile… toast and smear with butter:

            6 small slices of day old French bread. 

Actually, any kind of bread will do.  I’ve used old hamburger buns when that’s been all we have in the house, and it still tasted great.

In a separate bowl, grate:

            2 cups swiss cheese

Now, assemble the soup.  I start by stirring in ½ cup cheese, then layering on three pieces of buttered toast, then ½ cup cheese, then the final three pieces of buttered toast, topped with the final cup of cheese.

Put this in a medium hot oven without a cover for 15 minutes.  The toast will be crispy, the cheese hot and bubbly, and everything soaked together really well.

Hope you try and enjoy!



  1. Gin,

    Great recipe for the French Onion Soup. I may try it on a cold evening in Colorado soon.

    Would also love to have a recipe or two suitable for Ditch Camp cooking! I may cook them on a suitable small creek over a pine wood fire to go with Brown or Rainbow trout.

    It’s 106 here right now, in case you want to know.

    Tell those Colorado Texans to enjoy the cool!


  2. This West Virginia girl loves French Onion soup. I will be trying your recipe soon. However, it is too hot for soup at this time.

    Love your blog.


  3. Thank you so much for the onion soup recipe, I’ll be trying it as soon as it cools down here!

    I’ve recently found your blog, and enjoy it immensely! Although in the desert right now, we are hoping to relocate back to the northwest, with a few acres within the next couple of years.

    Thanks again!

  4. I find it so interesting how often scarcity + hunger = delicious food via creative cooking. I often engage in creative cooking when Jamal is on business trips because I hate to take time to go to the store (unless I’m out of cream for my coffee!).

  5. Mmm, I do love French onion soup! I thought some of your readers might like this recipe for Chicken Maengo. It would be a pretty easy one to do while camping, after all it was invented in a camp kitchen. Maybe not bother with dredging the chicken in flour.

    I agree with Wendy. Limited options stimulate creativity. I love to scrape the bottom of the barrel.

    The photo on the top of your blog is absolutely dreamy!

  6. Kim, Thanks so much for stopping in and sharing your recipe suggestion. I’m excited to try a new one there, and to check out your site for more ideas. Thouhg I’m thinking it may be a bad idea to look at recipes first thing in the morning… my stomache is already growling! Hope to keep in touch,

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