How To Use Pork In French Onion Soup For A Rich Flavor Boost

Somewhere between humble comfort and gastronomic masterpiece, you'll find French onion soup in all of its delicious glory. The perfect marriage of sweetly caramelized onions and ultra-savory stock, it boasts incredible depth even before it's topped with a slice of gruyère-laced bread. But, fond as you may be of the classic recipe, sometimes it's worth experimenting with other ingredients in the name of achieving bigger and bolder flavors and more luxurious textures. Purists be warned, the secret to a more decadent soup may just be by adding pork — but, not in the way that you might think.

Rather than add pieces of protein directly into the soup and have them simmer with the onions, working the pork into the recipe can be done in a more discrete way, by rethinking your base stock. Ditching the frequently-used beef or veal versions for a pork-based stock provides an opportunity to boost luxuriousness with various odds and ends of the animal. In fact, using both bacon and bones (specifically, a pig's foot) is a subtle way to tailor a recipe to fit preference, make do with meat scraps, and most importantly, create complexity.

The science behind a good pork stock

Rich in umami, meat and bones are powerhouses of flavor, thanks to their high concentration of the amino acid, glutamate. However, fat also adds flavor, which is why it can prove helpful to let richer cuts of meat stew when making a stock. That said, given its air of richness, opting to render the fat and flavor from various components of pork is a fabulous way to elevate decadence while highlighting more nuanced flavors, and here's how.

Bacon — pork belly that has been cured, and sometimes smoked — will intensify a stock's savoriness, plus add an element of salt, hazy smoke, and a faint sweetness, depending on the variety used. In contrast, a super bony trotter will instead impart a velvety texture, as a result of the collagen from the bones and tendons of a pig's foot being simmered. Unsurprisingly, when used together to build a flavorsome stock, bacon, and bone offer the best of both worlds.

Unsure how to go about making pork stock? Simply add chunks of bacon into a stock pot with a pig's foot and some other herbs and vegetables of your choice before covering them with water and letting things simmer low and slow for several hours. After straining the smokey and salty stock, use it in place of the beefy broth that the French onion soup recipe suggests. You'll be amazed at how the broth benefits from this unexpected stock option.