French Onion Soup
This recipe is a happy marriage between 2 of my favorite chefs’ versions of French Onion Soup. While Alton Brown’s recipe looked interesting and elaborate, I didn’t have all of the ingredients (who has beef consommé just lying around, anyways?). Julia Child’s recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking looked delicious and straight forward, but I wanted to add a little more flair (and more onions). Thusly born, my French Onion Soup. It does take about two and a half hours to make, but is not labor intensive and makes your kitchen smell like a French bistro. Or a warm ski cabin. Or just plain delicious.
- 3 tablespoons of butter
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 5 sweet onions (4 lbs), sliced thinly into half-moon shapes (see photo below)
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- 3 tablespoons flour
- ½ cup of wine (I used rosé because that’s what was in the house, white or red would work equally well depending on your preference)
- 2 quarts of beef broth (I just used the organic kind in the box)
- Kosher salt
- 1 Bay Leaf
- Gruyère cheese, shredded
- Parmigiano Reggiano or Parmesan cheese, shredded (not that sprinkle crap in a can)
- 1 loaf crusty bread
To make: Melt butter and oil in a large pot. Add sliced onions one large handful at a time (equal to about 1 onion). After each layer, sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Let the onions sweat undisturbed at medium heat for 20 minutes, then add the sugar. Stir occasionally until the onions are uniformly brown (about 45 minutes to an hour). Make sure the heat is on medium, if it is too low the onions will reduce but not brown correctly. Once the onions are a lovely, rich brown sprinkle in 3 tbsp of flour, mix in with the onions, and cook for 3 min. Tie the herbs together with kitchen twine (or unflavored dental floss, for those of us who are less prepared but hygienic) to make a nice little bouquet garni. Add the wine, broth, and the bouquet garni to the pot. Stir and scrape up any onion bits stuck to the bottom. Simmer partially covered for an hour. Remove and discard the bouquet garni. Add pepper, then taste and adjust seasonings if needed. For the soup to be ready it should taste rich and complex, not just like hot broth with lots of onions. Keep tasting as you go and you’ll know what I mean.
To serve: Slice the crusty bread into rounds about ½ inch thick (you want enough bread to cover the top of the soup, so adjust how many based on the top surface area of your bowls and how many people you are serving). Put them on a baking sheet and place under the broiler for 1-2 minutes (do you want to burn your bread? No? Ok, then don’t leave the room). Place oven-proof soup bowls on that same baking sheet, then ladle in soup, leaving about 1 inch at the top free. Place croutons toasted side down right in the soup and sprinkle liberally with a mixture of the cheeses. Put the pan back under the broiler and watch very attentively for about 3 minutes until the cheese is bubbling aggressively. Remove and serve with multiple warnings about bowl temperature.