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French Onion Soup

April 3, 2012
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The weather is officially starting to drive me crazy.  A couple weeks ago it was like 80 degrees out, and this morning I wake up to 35 degree temperatures and a layer of frost on the yard.  (Come on little seeds in the garden– don’t die!)   I guess I should be glad that the weather is more spring-like than it was before.  If it’s 80 degrees in March, can you imagine what the weather will be like in July?  Yikes.

Anyway. I feel kind of weird writing about a soup in the beginning of April.  After all, soups are a cold-weather/winter thing.  Does that mean I should save this post until October or November?  No, I don’t think so.  This French onion soup is so good, it wouldn’t really be fair.

I wish I made French onion soup more often– it’s really not that much work.  The most tedious part is cutting up all the onions (and dealing with the tears).  You need so many onions, a mandolin would probably make it easier.  But there is nothing like breaking through that solid layer of melted cheese and crusty bread and getting a spoonful of caramelized, sweet onions.  Although, honestly, the cheese might be my favorite part.  I love how it gets stuck to the spoon and then you get cheese with every bite!

French Onion Soup
From Cook’s Illustrated

The beauty of this recipe is that the majority of the cooking is done in the oven.  It’s easy to do the prep-work for the topping while the soup is cooking, and it comes together really easily.  I like to use good-quality Gruyère that adds a lot of flavor.  It might not melt as well, but it tastes great.  Also make sure you let the soup cool before you serve it, otherwise you will burn the roof of your mouth.

  • 6 large yellow onions (about 4 pounds), halved and cut from top to bottom into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • Table salt
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter , cut into 3 pieces
  • 2 cups water , plus extra for deglazing
  • 1/2 cup dry sherry
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Ground black pepper
  • 1 small baguette , cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 8 ounces shredded Gruyère cheese(about 2 1/2 cups)

For the soup:

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Generously spray inside of heavy-bottomed large (at least 7-quart) Dutch oven with nonstick cooking spray. Place butter in pot and add onions and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, covered, 1 hour (onions will be moist and slightly reduced in volume). Remove pot from oven and stir onions, scraping bottom and sides of pot. Return pot to oven with lid slightly ajar and continue to cook until onions are very soft and golden brown, 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours longer, stirring onions and scraping bottom and sides of pot after 1 hour.

Carefully remove pot from oven and place over medium-high heat. Using oven mitts to handle pot, cook onions, stirring frequently and scraping bottom and sides of pot, until liquid evaporates and onions brown, 15 to 20 minutes, reducing heat to medium if onions are browning too quickly. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until pot bottom is coated with dark crust, 6 to 8 minutes, adjusting heat as necessary. (Scrape any fond that collects on spoon back into onions.) Stir in 1/4 cup water, scraping pot bottom to loosen crust, and cook until water evaporates and pot bottom has formed another dark crust, 6 to 8 minutes. Repeat process of deglazing 2 or 3 more times, until onions are very dark brown. Stir in sherry and cook, stirring frequently, until sherry evaporates, about 5 minutes.

Stir in broths, 2 cups water, thyme, bay leaf, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, scraping up any final bits of browned crust on bottom and sides of pot. Increase heat to high and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 30 minutes. Remove and discard herbs, then season with salt and pepper.

For the topping:

While soup simmers, arrange baguette slices in single layer on baking sheet and bake in 400-degree oven until bread is dry, crisp, and golden at edges, about 10 minutes. Set aside.

To serve:

Adjust oven rack 6 inches from broiler element and heat broiler. Set individual broiler-safe crocks on baking sheet and fill each with about 1 3/4 cups soup. Top each bowl with 1 or 2 baguette slices (do not overlap slices) and sprinkle evenly with Gruyère. Broil until cheese is melted and bubbly around edges, 3 to 5 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.

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