I've never been a big soup eater. I don't know why, but soup generally leaves me filling unsatisfied. While there are some exceptions, for the most part I avoid making soups at home. Chili and stews I'm all about. But soups? Not at all.
But then one day I saw Anne Burrell making French onion Soup and I knew I had to make it. I simply couldn't get this soup out of my head. So I buckled down and got to work and I have to say I was both pleasantly surprised and a bit disappointed. Surprised because this dish is wonderful, but disappointed because I'm still not much of a soup person. The soup itself though is lovely. It is really flavorful in a way that you wouldn't expect from these simple ingredients.
I really wish this recipe would include the onion amount in pounds, but I only used six onions. I don't think I could have fit 8 onions in my pot and I used the biggest pot I've got. I used one of those cheap (about $10) "food slicer" mandolins you can find at Walmart. It is probably the best ten dollars I could have spent since it made cutting all these onions a breeze. If you don't have onion proof bowls then just toast the bread and cheese on a sheet pan. I used provolone instead of Gruyere and it was tasty.
Would I make this again? Yes, but next time I plan to puree it and serve it along side roast beef sandwiches.
A lot of people complained that their soup got too salty in the review section so watch the salt. Apparently a lot of people also have problems caramelizing onions. It should not take you hours and hours to caramelize onions. If you're not getting any color then all you need to do is turn the heat up a little. If you're getting too much color too quickly, then turn the heat down a little. Easy peasy.
French Onion Soup
Extra-virgin olive oil
8 large onions, thinly sliced from stem to root end
6 ounces dry sherry
4 bay leaves
1 bundle thyme
2 quarts chicken stock
12 thin slices baguette
1/2 pound Gruyere, grated
1/2 bunch chopped chives
1. Coat a large deep pot with olive oil. Add the onions and sprinkle generously with salt. Bring the pan to a medium heat. Stir the onions to coat with oil. Cover the pot and sweat for 15 to 20 minutes.
2. Once the onions have gotten very soft and let off a lot of water, remove the lid and let the onions cook looooow and sloooooooooow. That's right low and slow to really develop their rich brown color and sweet flavor. There is no shortcut or rush for this, DO NOT TRY! Caramelized onions take a long time, about an hour, accept it and move on.
3. When the onions are very brown and have gotten considerably smaller, add the sherry and cook until the sherry has reduced by half. Add the bay leaves, thyme bundle and chicken stock. Bring to a boil and reduce heat and simmer for at least 1 hour. TASTE for seasoning, you probably will need to season with salt. If the stock reduces too much add water to keep the liquid level up- this IS a soup after all. When done, the soup should be thick and very full flavored. TASTE! You may need to resason, caramelized onions are very sweet and require a fair amount of salt.
4. Toast or grill the baguette slices. Fill ovenproof crocks 3/4 of the way with the onion soup, float 2 toasts in each bowl and top with grated Gruyere. Place the crocks under the broiler to melt the cheese and make it brown and bubbly. Top with chopped chives.