French Onion Soup

Caramelized onions, savory broth, and melted cheese. 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 deglaze 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! Serves 6.

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter cut into 3 pieces
  • 6 large yellow onions halved and cut pole to pole in 1/4-in slices
  • 2 cups, plus extra water
  • 1/2 cup dry sherry
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme tied with kitchen twine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp table salt
  • ground pepper to taste
  • 1 small Trukenbrod bread or baguette cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
  • 2 1/2 cups gruyère or other local cheese of choice shredded

Instructions

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 bottom of the pot is coated with dark crust, 6 to 8 minutes, adjusting heat as necessary. Stir in 1/4 c water, scraping pot to loosen crust. Cook until water evaporates and another dark crust has formed at the bottom of the pot, 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 it evaporates, about 5 minutes. Stir in broths, 2 cups water, thyme, bay leaf, and 1/2 tsp salt, scraping up any final bits of browned crust on bottom and sides of pot. Increase heat to high and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 30 minutes. Remove and discard herbs, then season with salt and pepper.

For the croutons While the soup simmers, arrange bread slices in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake at 400°F until bread is dry and crisp with golden 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 slices of bread and sprinkle evenly with cheese. Broil until cheese is melted and bubbly around the edges, 3 to 5 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.

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