It is rich. It is warm. It is a little sweet and a little salty. Its depth of flavor will make you close your eyes in delight. And it can easily be found on menus but not necessarily what you want. (Okay, where am I going with this?)
I am talking about French Onion Soup. My first memory of this soup was when I was in Canada with my dad. We went out for dinner and the menu, which was written in French, was very intimidating. I tried to reach into my brain for some words I may have picked up in my few months of French class but all I could remember was an inquiry about the bathroom. (Où sont les toilettes?)
After whimsically asking the waiter three times where the bathroom was located, my dad made me order. I played it safe and asked for the soup du jour. I knew those words too and felt pretty safe that it would be something I like to eat.
My soup arrived and I felt like it was Christmas on a plate. Not only did I get a cute little crock of soup, it was smothered in bubbly cheese! I dipped my spoon in and was surprised once again with the crouton on the inside. (It doesn’t take much to make me smile.) I pulled back the spoon with my first luscious helping and the cheese just clung on for dear life. It was beautiful. (I did get yelled at for twirling the goopy cheese with my finger but it still didn’t ruin the magic of the moment.)
I placed the spoon in the soup and started slurping (more getting yelled at) and it was unbelievable. I couldn’t get over the flavor. It didn’t taste like an onion it was almost sweet. The only bad part is that it ruined me for every French onion soup I’ve tasted ever since that moment….until now.
I have been trying for the past 20 years to find a recipe worthy of this first experience but I’ve never been able to recreate it properly. With some more cooking experience under my belt, I wanted to give it another try. (Plus no on was going to yell at me for playing with my cheese.)
After years and years of longing for a great version of this soup, I was able to regenerate the memory. (Or I’m just getting old and my fading memory has told me to get over it.)
French Onion Soup
2.5 pounds of onions (I used Vidalia, yellow and a shallot) sliced incredibly thin
3 Tbsp butter
1 cup sherry
4 cups of water
2 cups of beef broth
Fresh thyme sprigs (about 3 tied together)
1 Bay leaf
1 small baguette cut into thin slices
About a cup of Provolone or Swiss cheese, shredded (I like them both)
1 clove of garlic
In a large, heavy saucepan (cast iron preferred), melt butter over medium heat. Add onions and reduce heat.
Let it cook for 1.5-2 hours, stirring occasionally. (I am serious about the time; you need to caramelize the onions for the depth of flavor.) This is a slow process, go catch up on my previous blogs while you wait.
Once your onions are broken down, add the sherry to deglaze the pan. Scrape up all of those brown bits; you won’t regret the flavor!
Reduce the sherry by half and then add the water, broth, thyme and bay leaf.
Simmer over medium heat for at least 30 minutes and taste for seasoning. I added a dash of worchestire just because I like it instead of adding salt. Just a personal preference.
Toast the baguette slices with a little olive oil and rub with garlic when they come out of the oven.
Dish out the soup into individual OVENPROOF bowls, top with crouton(s) and shredded cheese. (Do I need to state the obvious of taking out the bay leaf and thyme?)
Broil until bubbly. (Warn your guests that the bowls may be hot so no one ruins their experience with a burnt finger.)
I am so happy that I finally figured this one out. I will admit that I had tried different methods and could not achieve the depth of rich, oniony goodness. I tasted my broth numerous times until I was more than satisfied with the result.
The best part is that my husband actually liked French onion soup for the first time in his life. (And HE didn’t get yelled at once!)