How to Make a Rich Broth for French Onion Soup, and What Keeps the Cheese Up?

French onion soup is one of those dishes that seems simple, until you go to make it. An onion-soup novice recently posed a couple of questions on Chowhound—like how do you get the cheese to float? And what's the secret to getting that rich brown broth?

The first question's easy: The cheese floats because it's baked onto slices of toasted bread, jrvedivici says. If you've ever tried ordering it without bread, you probably noticed that the cheese sank to the bottom.

The second one's a bit harder. The richness of the broth comes from caramelizing a whole lot of onions deeply and thoroughly before adding stock, Perilagu Khan says. "I caramelize my sugared and spiced onions for around an hour," he says—and a good slug of brandy or vermouth definitely ups the richness factor. And for a really rich, memorable onion soup, shaogo recommends using a stock made with oxtails; your local butcher or a well-stocked grocery-store meat counter should have them, or be able to order them for you.

To finish, though they're not at all traditional, a pinch of crispy fried onions sprinkled on top of the gratinéed cheese adds texture and extra flavor, jrvedivici notes.

Discuss: Sometimes it's the little things that impress, new twist on onion soup.

Photo by Chowhound user askdrtodd