French Onion Soup
It has been quite cold and rainy this weekend here in New England. This change of weather has woken up the (occasional) soup maker in me, and I decided to take a try at one of Elysabeth and my favorites, French onion soup. The two of us are pretty picky about the onion soup we eat, and usually go place to place in various locations (most recently Portland, ME) to find what we enjoy. The best way to describe our ideal soup is a thick, complex, salty beefy broth with very soft onions and lots of piping hot melted cheese. Our favorite is from a local haunt of ours, Sunset Grill & Tap, and what I did today was try my best to come up with the same flavors and textures of that very soup.
I would say that I got *close* to some elements of their soup, but missed a bit with some others. It had the thick broth, the developed complexities and soft onions, as well as a good bit of melted Swiss and Parmesan cheeses. Where it changed a bit was the fact that I used all Vidalia onions that gave a rich sweetness to the soup, which in many cases would be great, but I was unable to get that saltiness that we both craved. That minor flavor difference aside, it was *very* good, and took the entire afternoon to cook!
French Onion Soup (Serves 6):
- 6 Vidalia onions, ends trimmed, peeled
- 1 large (or 2 medium) shallots, minced very finely
- 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tbsp. flour, sifted
- 2 qt. beef stock or broth (we used 1 qt. of each)
- 1 1/2 c. dry white wine (such as Sauvignon blanc)
- 1/4 cup Cognac (optional)
- 6 slices (1″ thick or more, depending on soup bowl size) baguette
- 12 thick slices Swiss cheese
- grated Parmesan cheese
- kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 6 oven-proof bowls, or onion soup crocks
1. Slice onions on a diagonal to create bias-edged rings. Separate rings and place in large bowl until all slicing is done.
2. Heat butter and olive oil over medium heat in large heavy-bottomed pot, such as a dutch oven, pasta pot, or soup pot. When butter is just melted, add enough onions to fill pot, stirring regularly. Keep stirring and turning onions to ensure they all get even contact with the heat and the butter and oil. Gradually add all onions to the pot as they cook down.
3. Cook onions, stirring regularly (every 4-5 minutes) to ensure even caramelization. If you aren’t using a non-stick pot (like me), make sure to keep scraping the bottom while stirring so that browned onion bits don’t stay stuck to the bottom of the pot. The liquid released from the onions should help assist with freeing up these bits. As the onions cook down, the color will start to brown and the heat should be turned down to make sure this color is even and that the onions don’t burn (much). This entire process will take 2.5 to 3 hours; just be patient and keep stirring regularly.
4. Once the onions reach the desired color, stir in the shallots and cook for another 10 minutes until shallots soften. Sprinkle flour over onions and let sit for 2-3 minutes, then stir everything together. Add wine to deglaze, and scrape vigorously to loosen all browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Turn heat up and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Here is a video to demonstrate the deglazing process:
5. Once wine and onion mixture comes to a boil, add the broth/stock, continuing to stir as the full mixture comes to a boil. If not using a non-stick pot, whisk constantly as the liquid heats up to make sure the flour doesn’t get lumpy as the mixture thickens up when boiling. Once boiling, turn heat down to a simmer and let cook for 1 hour, stirring every 10-15 minutes.
6. While soup is simmering, preheat broiler and place baguette slices on baking sheet. Sprinkle salt and pepper on baguette pieces, and optionally drizzle with olive oil. Broil for 1-2 minutes a side, or until bread is hard and browned. Set aside but leave broiler running.
7. Add Cognac to soup mixture, and season with several liberal pinches of salt and black pepper, to taste. This is the last opportunity to add flavor to the soup! Cook another 5-10 minutes while preparing bowls.
8. Ladle soup into bowls, filling 3/4 of the way up. Top with one crouton, and two slices of cheese (tear cheese as necessary to cover entire bowl). Grate Parmesan on top of bowls and place on baking sheet.
9. Place in broiler for 1-2 minutes, or until cheese melts fully and browns. Watch with oven light or by opening the door occasionally to make sure the cheese doesn’t burn or catch fire.
10. Carefully remove baking sheet from oven and let bowls cool for 5 minutes before serving.
11. Enjoy all of your hard work!