The best. The one and only. The greatest. The end-all, be-all. I can’t stand these terms.
When was the last time you tried something that fell under these declarations, and any of them lived up to the hype?
I’m putting this out there, because this might be the one time I tell you that this is the BEST of anything. In this case, French Onion Soup.
My mother whipped this up some years ago and when the weather started suggesting such warmth was necessary, and I realized I had been neglecting my Soupy Sunday posts, this was the natural first choice.
Thinking, “Eh, not interested in some silly old onion soup.”? Make it for the smell! Your house will be giving off the most divine smell for hours while these onions are cooking.
It does require some serious cook time, but I assure you that every minute of roasting, deglazing, and showing these onions some extra-special attention, will be noticed in every sweet bite; I’m positive that cooking procedure is the reason this is the best. I can take absolutely no credit for this and pass it all to those tireless, culinary geniuses at America’s Test Kitchen, man, they know their stuff.
The recipes recommends not using sweet onions or it will taste overly sweet. The entire process of caramelizing the onions is extremely important in overall flavor, so be patient, the entire process should take between 45 minutes to an hour. And if you don’t have the proper pot that will withstand the oven, you can broil the bread and cheese on a baking sheet until the cheese melts, then float them on top of the hot soup.
I recommend doing the first two steps on a Saturday, and finishing and serving on a Sunday, or whatever two days work for you. It saves on spending an entire day whipping up one dish.
The only thing I altered in my preparation was to skip the part of baking the croutons. I got a day old baguette, cut the slices, let them sit out for a bit, and voilà, same affect, one less step! I’m also partial to rye, so I’d switch that up next time as well.
I absolutely love the simplicity of the ingredients and the whole process involved in turning them into a big bowl of comfort, and I know you will too. It is after all, the best!
Classic French Onion Soup
4 pounds yellow onions, halved and sliced pole to pole into 1/4-inch thick piece
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 3 pieces
Salt and ground black pepper
1/2 cup dry sherry
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups beef broth
6 sprigs fresh thyme, tied with kitchen twine
1 bay leaf
1 small baguette, cut on the bias into 1/4 inch-thick slices
8 ounces Gruyere cheese, shredded (2 cups)
For the Soup: Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Generously spray the inside of a large Dutch oven with vegetable oil spray, then stir in the onions, butter and 1 teaspoon salt. Cover and bake until the onions wilt slightly and look moist, about 1 hour.
Stir the onions thoroughly, scrapping the bottom and sides of the pot. Cover partially (leaving about 1 inch of the pot open) and continue to cook in the oven until the onions are very soft and golden brown, 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours longer, stirring the onions thoroughly after 1 hour. (At this point, the pot of onions can be cooled, covered, and refrigerated for up to 3 days before continuing with remaining steps.)
Carefully remove the pot from the oven and place over medium-high heat. Using oven mitts to handle the pot, continue to cook the onions, stirring and scraping the pot often, until the liquid evaporates, the onions brown, and the bottom of the pot is coated with a dark crust 20 to 25 minutes. (If the onions begin to brown too quickly, reduce the heat to medium. Also, be sure to scrape any of the browned bits that collect on the spoon back into the onions.)
Stir in 1/4 cup water, thoroughly scraping up the browned crust. Continue to cook until the water evaporates and the pot bottom has formed another dark crust, 6 to 8 minutes. Repeat this process of deglazing 2 or 3 more times, until the onions are very dark.
Sir in the sherry and cook until it evaporates, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chicken broth, beef broth, 2 cups more water, thyme bundle, bay leaf and 1/2 teaspoon salt, scraping up any remaining browned bits. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for 30 minutes. Remove the thyme bundle and bay leaf and season with salt and pepper to taste.
For the Croutons: Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Lay the baguette slices on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until dry, crisp, and lightly golden, about 10 minutes, flipping the slices over halfway through baking.
To Serve: Position an oven rack 6 inches from the broiler element and heat the broiler. Set individual broiler-safe crocks on the baking sheet and fill each with about 1 1/2 cups soup. Top each bowl with 1 or 2 baguette slices (do not overlap the slices) and sprinkle evenly with the cheese. Broil until the cheese is melted and bubbly around the edges, 3 to 5 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.