French Onion Soup / Soupe à l'oignon
With soupe à l'oignon you have to have the patience to let the onions caramelize, it will make or break the soup. Because it is a dish with few ingredients it makes it that much more important to patiently balance the ingredients and season everything carefully. I love hearing the origins of dishes, especially one as classic as this. It is believed that this French staple originated when Louis XV had only onions and flat champagne while hunting. It is possible that it was created long before then, but I prefer a story involving a French monarch. I remember visiting France when I was 11 and ordering “French onion soup,” they looked at me like I had seven heads. Just ask for onion soup, they will get the point.
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium red onions, thinly sliced
2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
2 fresh thyme sprigs
1 cup red wine
8 cups beef stock
¼ cup brandy, optional
1 French baguette, sliced into ½”-thick slices, approximately 15 slices, toasted
10 ounces shredded Gruyère cheese
Heat a large Dutch oven or large pot over medium heat, add the olive oil and heat through. Add the butter and allow to melt. Add the onions and toss quickly to remove the moisture from the onions. Sauté until the onions are soft and tender, about 10 minutes, then sprinkle the sugar and salt over the onions (to help them caramelize) and reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are uniformly brown and caramelized, about 30 to 45 minutes.
Add the garlic, bay leaves and thyme, stirring to combine. Pour in the wine to deglaze the pot, and bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the wine has almost evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add the beef broth, bring the soup back to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Discard the bay leaves and thyme sprigs.
Heat the broiler to high. Ladle the soup into ceramic dishes. Add a finishing splash of brandy, if desired. Arrange the toasted baguette slices on top of each bowl of soup in single layer so that the surface of the soup of each is covered. Generously top with Gruyere cheese, and broil until bubbly and golden brown, about 3 minutes. Serve immediately.