Carmelized onions, savory broth, and melted cheese. Oh, how we adore thee, French Onion Soup. This recipe comes from the online version of the indispensable Cook’s Illustrated. Their secret is to prepare the onions in the oven, and then de-glaze the pot three times. They suggest making the onions up to three days in advance, and the soup a day or two before you serve. You can substitute veggie broth; it may not be quite as full flavored, unless you use a homemade version! Yield: Serves 6.
- 3 T unsalted butter cut into 3 pieces
- 6 lg yellow onions halved, cut pole to pole in 1/4-inch slices
- 2 c plus extra water
- 1/2 c dry sherry
- 4 c low-sodium chicken broth
- 2 c beef broth
- 6 sprigs fresh thyme tied with kitchen twine
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 t table salt
- to taste ground pepper
- 1 small Truckenbrod bread or baguette; cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
- 2 1/2 c gruyère cheese or other local cheese of choice; shredded
For the soup Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 400°F. 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 t salt. Cook, covered, 1 hour.
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 1 hour, and then stir. Continue to cook 30 to 45 minutes until onions are very soft and golden brown.
Carefully remove pot from oven and place over medium-high heat. Cook onions, stirring frequently and scraping bottom and sides of pot, until liquid evaporates and onions brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until pot bottom is coated with dark crust, 6 to 8 minutes, adjusting heat as necessary. Stir in 1/4 c 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 t 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 croutons While soup simmers, arrange baguette— or Truckenbrod bread— slices in single layer on baking sheet and bake in 400°F 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 soup, leaving some room for the bread. Top each bowl with 1 or 2 baguette 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.
photos: CCF staff