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. When visiting France, never order “French onion soup,” they will look at you like you have seven heads. Just ask for onion soup, they will get the point.
½ cup unsalted butter
2 medium red onions, thinly sliced
2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon granulated white sugar
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
2 fresh thyme sprigs
1 cup red wine
8 cups beef stock
Salt & pepper
¼ cup brandy, optional
1 French baguette, sliced into ½”-thick slices, approximately 15 slices, toasted
10 ounces shredded Gruyère cheese
Melt the butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and toss quickly to remove the moisture from the onions. Sprinkle the sugar 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 45 minutes to an hour.
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. Season the soup to taste with salt and pepper.
To serve: 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. Sprinkle with Gruyere, and broil until bubbly and golden brown, about 3 to 5 minutes.