French Onion Soup

It seems strange to post a recipe for French onion soup when it is over 100 degrees outside today. But good food is good anytime of the year…and this is good soup!

Years ago I tried America’s Test Kitchen’s French onion soup recipe straight out of The Best Recipe cookbook. In that version, they used red onions and enhanced the flavor with red wine and balsamic vinegar. Overall it was OK, but I thought the wine and vinegar distracted from the rich onion flavor. A few years later they re-engineered the recipe and decided to drop the wine and changed the main ingredient to yellow onions. The results were much better…

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 3 pieces
  • 6 large yellow onions (about 4 pounds), halved and cut pole to pole into 1/4 inch thick slices
  • Salt
  • 2 cups 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
  • Ground black pepper
  • 1 small baguette, cut into 1/2 inch slices
  • 8 ounces Gruyere cheese, shredded

Instructions:

1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Generously spray inside of large (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 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 the bottom and sides of pot after 1 hour.

2. Remove pot from onion and place over medium-high heat. Cook onions, stirring frequently and scrapping the bottom and sides of pot, until liquid evaporates and onions brown, 15 to 20 minutes, reducing heat to medium if onions brown too quickly. 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 cup water, scraping bottom of pot to loosen crust, and cook until water evaporates and pot bottom forms 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.

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

4. 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.

5. To serve, adjust oven rack 6-7 inches from broiler element and heat broiler. Set individual broiler-safe crocks on baking sheet and fill each with about 1 3/4 cups of soup. Top each with 2 baguette slices and sprinkle evenly with cheese. Broil until cheese is melted and bubbly around the edges, about 3-5 minutes. Let cool before serving.

 

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