French (or Freedom, if you Must) Onion Soup
February 5, 2008
I feel an teensy bit guilty posting about French Onion Soup on this very American Super Tuesday. I thought about baking an apple pie (as American as it gets, sure, but also a little late summer/early fall) or something red, white and blue (but, really, shouldn’t such tri-colored treats be limited to the 4th of July or banished for good?) or, more aptly, something just blue (wink, wink). But since I’ve been too glued to CNN’s Ballot Bowl to have time to make anything new, I’ll have to share the French Onion Soup we made last weekend instead. Call it Freedom Onion Soup, if you must.
My favorite part about making French Onion Soup is watching the onions transform from a pile of crisp half moons to a limp mass of soft caramelized curls. Take a peek at the transformation, which takes about 45 minutes:
And once you get yourself a pot lined with caramelized onions, you stream in even more delicious richness (red wine and beef stock, in my recipe), which will lift up the caramelization the onions imparted on the surface of the pot. Wouldn’t want to let that go to waste, now would we?
(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos and the recipe.)
And if the rich, savory soup that results isn’t good enough, you then get to put it through another evolution. This time, watch it evolve from a naked, humble bowl of soup to a gruyere-and-crostini-draped crock of golden goodness:
The last step, clearly, is a spoon. Stat. It’ll give you plenty of energy to brave the lines at the polls, if you’re in a Super Tuesday state!
French Onion Soup
Yield: 6 bowls
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 pounds onions (I like to use a mixture of yellow, red and shallots), sliced in thin half-moons
1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup red wine
1 quart beef stock
1 1/2 cups water
1 baguette (I like multi-grain), sliced into 1/2 inch slices slightly on the diagonal
6 ounces Gruyere, grated
Fresh cracked black pepper
Additional thyme sprigs for garnish
Heat the butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Once the butter is melted, add the onions, salt, thyme and bay leaves; stir, ensuring that the onions are coated in the melted butter. Cook the onions over medium heat for about 45 minutes, until the onions become very caramelized.
Once the onions have become very caramelized, add the flour and cook for about a minute, stirring continuously. Next, slowly add the red wine, stirring the pot to scrape up the caramelization from the sides of the Dutch oven. Then, add the beef stock and water. Bring the soup to a bubble, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes.
When the soup is nearly done simmering, turn on the broiler. Place the baguette slices (enough to have two to three slices per bowl) on a parchment-lined baking sheet; toast under the broiler for 2 to 3 minutes, or until lightly browned on top. While the slices toast, ladle the soup into oven-safe bowls or crocks. Once the tops of the baguette slices have toasted, remove them from the oven. Float 2 or 3 slices, toasted side down, on the tops of each bowl. Place the bowls on the baking sheet and slide the sheet under the broiler for 2 minutes, until the tops of the baguette slices become very lightly browned. Remove the pan and top each bowl with an equal amount of the shredded gruyere. Slide the pan under the broiler for a final 3 to 5 minutes, or until the cheese is golden and bubbly.
Crack fresh black pepper on top of the bowls and garnish with a small sprig of thyme, if desired.