When I owned a cafe in Brookings, the No. 1 item requested and served was French onion soup.
I started the day before slicing onions into thin rings, as thin as I could get them with my mandolin. You can get thin slices with a good knife too. Either way, be careful and take precautions not to slice your fingers.
Since I was making a lot of them I would caramelize my onions in the oven. This makes it easy to do a huge panful and you don’t have to babysit it and keep stirring it constantly.
About an hour and a half to two hours was long enough to get the nice brown soft onions with little burnt bits on the edges. Just perfect for the most flavorful soup imaginable.
What’s nice about this soup is that you can make it vegetarian or gluten-free quite easily if you desire. I prefer to use beef broth in mine, but some people like chicken stock or vegetable stock. The other important element to making this a memorable dish is to use the best cheese you have available. I like to use French Gruyere.
There’s nothing like the aroma of onions caramelizing to wake up an appetite. Here’s my recipe, I hope you love it as much as I do.
10 lbs yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 stick of butter
2 tbsp olive oil
4 sprigs of fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried)
4 cloves of garlic, grated or crushed
1 sliced fresh onion
3–4 quarts stock (beef, chicken or vegetable)
2 cups white wine (or beer)
flour (or arrow starch) for thickening
day old toasted bread
In roasting pan, place thinly sliced onions, thyme, butter and olive oil.
Roast in oven at 375 degrees F for nearly two hours.
Every 30 minutes pull out the pan and stir the onions around to keep them from burning on edges too much.
Onions are done when soft, browned and slightly burnt here and there. Sift 1/2 cup of flour (or 1/4 cup arrow starch) over the onions and stir together.
Add onions to a stock pot.
To the onions add the stock, crushed garlic and wine. Simmer for 45 minutes till flavors meld and soup thickens. Add raw chopped onion and cook 5-10 minutes longer.
Ladle soup into oven-safe soup bowls. Place a toasted piece of bread on top, then layer the cheese covering the whole top of the bowl. Place under the broiler just until cheese melts and bubbles up on top of soup. Watch it carefully … this can happen quickly so keep oven door open enough to watch the soup broil. Enjoy.
Anne Boulley is a local chef and culinary instructor with a passion for artisan foods. Her cooking classes and services are offered via her website, www.thegourmetguide.com.