from Bisous & Brioche
Is there anything more French than French onion soup? I think not, and few people do it better than the Burgundians. It happens to be exactly what I feel like when the thermometer plummets, whether I’m in the icy fog of Burgundy, or the sleeting rain of the Pacific Northwest.
French onion soup has an important role to play in traditional French weddings. I didn’t know this until Franck and I began the meal planning (a BIG deal) for our wedding reception in a wine cellar in Nuits-Saint-Georges. He and his family were insistent that w serve bowls of French onion soup in the wee hours of the morning to our wedding guests. French onion soup, as it turned out, was crucial to everyone getting their second wind and ensuring the wedding was a success. In Burgundy, a wedding that doesn’t go until dawn is considered a rather paltry affair.
As it turns out, at three o’clock in the morning I was more than happy to down a comforting bowl of this hot, oniony broth to further fuel my dancing and revelry. In my experience, French onion soup tastes best when you are wearing your wedding dress (seriously, try it if you have one kicking around), but it is plenty delicious the rest of the time too.
6 Tbsp butter, divided
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
5 medium-sized sweet onions, halved and thinly sliced
1 ½ cups dry white wine
6 cups Beef Stock
10 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
1 Tbsp dry sherry
1 best-quality baguette, sliced diagonally into 12 pieces
1 garlic clove, peeled and halved
4 oz Gruyere cheese, grated (about 1 cup)
In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, melt 2 Tbsp of the butter and the oil. Add the onions and season with sea salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft, golden brown and caramelized, about 50 minutes. Lower the heat if the onions are getting too brown.
Add the wine to the onions and increase the heat to high. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has reduced a bit, about 10 minutes. Add the broth, keeping the temperature high. Add the thyme and bay leaves (it helps to tie the sprigs and leaves together with a little twine, like a bouquet garni).
Give it all a stir to combine.
Bring to a boil then turn down the heat to a simmer, and cook, uncovered, until the broth is deep and flavorful, about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in 2 Tbsp of the butter and the sherry. Remove the thyme and bay leaves, taste, and season with sea salt and pepper. Cover to keep warm.
Heat the oven to broil. Place the baguette slices on a large parchment-lined baking sheet and spread the top with the remaining 2 Tbsp of butter. Broil until nicely browned and crisped, about 4-6 minutes. Rub each toast with the halved garlic clove and set aside.
Place six large ramekins or ovenproof bowls on a large baking sheet. Ladle soup into each one. Top each bowl with two slices of toast. Divide the cheese among the bowls, covering the bread. Carefully transfer the baking sheet to the oven and broil until the cheese is melted and browned, 6-8 minutes. Serve immediately. (If you don’t have ovenproof bowls, sprinkle cheese on top of the baguette slices after rubbing them with garlic and return to the oven until the cheese is bubbly and brown, 4-6 minutes. Top each bowl of soup with cheesy toast and serve. ~ RW)
Recipe by Laura Bradbury and Rebecca Wellman, from Bisous & Brioche, copyright © 2020 by Laura Bradbury and Rebecca Wellman. Reprinted with permission of TouchWood Editions.
Nada’s Tips & Tricks – Once you get past the time-consuming onion caramelizing, the rest is a breeze. Yes, there are a few more instructions but the end result is wonderful. The longer you can simmer the broth, the more flavor you’ll get in the soup. We had sliced Swiss cheese on hand but of course the authentic Gruyere would give it the earthy flavor (try Stonetown’s Grand Trunk!).