“I really can’t stay, but baby it’s cold outside….”
Listen to that song and eat this soup, they go so well together. Warm and cheesy soup goes really well with most holiday songs actually. I love me some French onion soup. If it’s on the menu when we go out to eat, I’m sure to get it. I kind of always assumed there was a huge mystery surrounding the ingredients and preparation. Yeah, there isn’t. It’s really quite straight-forward. Onions, beef stock, and some yummy herbs then melt some cheese over a chunk of toasty bread and you’ve got French onion soup. Not a lot of secrets, just some thyme, pun intended.
Start with your onions. Slice them and throw them into a large soup pot with some hot oil and a tablespoon or two of salted butter. Sprinkle with salt (to draw out the liquid) and some black pepper. Go easy on the salt at first, you can always add more, you can’t take away though. If you’re feeling wild, go for the red pepper flakes (like me) and you’ll have a subtle hint of heat throughout. I threw in a splash of balsamic vinegar, 2 bay leaves, 3 sprigs of fresh thyme (you can fish it out later when all the little leaves have fallen off) and a teaspoon of sugar.
Let those cook down and get really dark and caramelized. We’re talking about an hour or so. Low and slow baby. Low and slow. After about 30 minutes of cooking, I threw in some minced garlic or shallots (whichever you have on hand is fine). Let that go for an additional 30 minutes or so, like I said, about an hour.
When the onion mixture is dark and beautiful, fish out the bay leaves and thyme stems then sprinkle in some flour. About a tablespoon. Turn the heat up a little, and cook for about 5 minutes. Then add a healthy gulp (about a cup) of wine (white or red is fine). With a wooden spoon, deglaze the bottom of your pan, getting all the yummy dark bits up. That’s where the yummy flavor is. Throw in about 1 1/2 quarts of beef stock, kick it up to high, let it boil for a few minutes, bring it down to a simmer, cover slightly and let it cook for a while, another 30 minutes or so. Like all soups, the longer you let it sit, the better. Give it a taste. Adjust as necessary.
Serves about 6
4 medium onions, sliced thin
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 – 3 garlic cloves or shallots, minced
Olive oil, about 1 Tablespoon
2 Tablespoons salted butter
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
Splash of balsamic vinegar, about 1 – 2 teaspoons
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 quart beef stock (or broth), veggie is you’re going vegetarian
White or red wine, about a cup
1 – 2 Tablespoons white flour
Melty cheese, gruyere or swiss is perfect
Heat the butter and olive oil in a large soup pot set over medium heat. Slice your onions into half moons and get them into the pot. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and sugar. Add the vinegar, bay leaves and thyme. Cook over medium low heat for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add in your garlic or shallots and cook for another 30 minutes, over low heat, until the mixture is dark and caramelized, it may take longer than the additional 30 minutes. Be patient, it’ll get there.
When the mixture is dark brown, fish out the bay leaves and thyme. Sprinkle with flour, mix well and turn the heat up to medium. Cook for about 5 minutes. Add the wine. Using a wooden spoon, break up the brown bits that are coating the bottom of the pan. The wine will help to release them. Let the wine evaporate, about 5 minutes.
Add the stock and bring to a boil. Let it boil for about 2 minutes. Bring the heat down to a simmer and cover slightly. Let the soup cook for an additional 30 minutes. Taste and season accordingly.
Get your croutons ready. I don’t have fancy soup bowls that are oven ready, so I make the cheesy croutons then put them on top of my soup bowl. Same flavor, just without the ridiculously hot bowl. If you have fancy bowls, ladle the soup into the bowls, top with baguette and a slice or two of cheese. Set it under the broiler until brown and bubbly. If you’re not using an oven ready bowl, do the same thing, just put your toast on a piece of aluminum foil and set under the broiler. I like to sprinkle a bit of kosher salt over the soup right before serving.