Another week, another soup, in honor of National Soup Month.
This week’s soup, French Onion, was inspired by and made for a friend of mine who purchased a bag of onions a few weeks back with the intent of making this soup for herself. Alas, she never quite got around to it. So with her onions sprouting in a colander on her counter, I offered to make it for her. She obliged with one condition, that I make enough to feed my family too.
French Onion Soup is a labor of love. Although made with the simplest ingredients, a complex taste results BUT only if you cook it low and slow. Like a relationship it requires patience, time and attention. And like a relationship, with patience, time and attention it turns into something rich and wonderful. The acrid becomes sweet, the sweet becomes full-filling.
This is a recipe that is perfectly suited to the winter when the larder is bereft of fresh vegetables and all that’s left is the long-lived onion, the lowest of the lot. Despite its mean base this scrumptious soup is often reserved for special occasions, Valentine’s Day especially. But don’t save it for a special day, make it a special day by serving this soup, sharing it with friends and family.
French Onion Soup for a Friend
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 pounds of large yellow onions, halved and sliced into half circles
- 3 large finely chopped garlic cloves
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 3/4 cup dry white wine
- 2 quarts beef stock (I make mine with beef bouillon and water)
- 1/4 cup cognac (a rich red wine or sherry will do in a pinch)
- Your favorite hearty bread, sliced
- Shredded Gruyere, mozzarella or provolone cheese
- Heat the butter and oil together in a large saucepan over medium heat.
- Add the onions (It is going to look like A LOT at first, but I promise you they cook down.) and cook, COVERED, for ten to twelve minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the garlic and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Reduce the heat to low and cook, UNCOVERED, for approximately one half hour or until the onions turn a deep, golden brown; stirring occasionally at first and then more frequently as the onions begin to color, making sure to scrape the bottom of the saucepan as the onions begin to caramelize.
- Sprinkle with flour and stir to blend.
- Stir in the white wine and bubble for 1 minute.
- Pour in the beef stock, increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil, scraping the bottom of the saucepan and stirring well to combine.
- Reduce the heat to low, add the red wine or brandy and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes to an hour.
- Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit.
- Slice your favorite hearty bread to fit your bowls and top with shredded cheese.
- Toast your bread for a few minutes, until the cheese is melted.
- Place a piece of cheese toast in the bottom of each bowl, ladle in hot soup and serve.