I am more-than fairly fond of this fabulous figuline-fettered, fromages-festooned French onion froth.
Joan doesn't like onions. I've known my share of picky eaters and she kind of tops the list -- not because she has a lot of restrictions, but because she doesn't like some of my favorite foods. I'm still not sure how I convinced her that she would love french onion soup, but I did.
Your mission: Open a bottle of red wine -- whatever you like, probably a pinot noir. Next: Make onion haters change their mind.
You will need:
4 tbsp olive oil
4 sweet onions finely julienned
1 cup whatever red wine you are drinking.
5 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 quart beef broth
1 cup animal stock (chicken, pork or beef -- all that matters is that it is gelatinous.)
LOTS of thyme (and time)
salt to taste
1/4 tbsp cayenne pepper or more, if you prefer
fresh ground black pepper
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 lb gruyere grated -- if you have a husband/boyfriend/children/roommate you can make them do the grating. And the dishes.
Caramelize your onions in the olive oil. The real trick to making this soup is getting your onions as dark as you can without burning them. You want them to look almost mahogany -- nearly the color of molasses. There will be some very dark caramelized gunk on the bottom of your pan. Don't worry, you want that. Use your red wine, Worcestershire and balsamic vinegar to deglaze the pan of those dark tasty bits -- scraping the pan with a wooden spoon. Cook the wine mixture until it is significantly reduced. Use some cooking twine to tie up several sprigs of thyme leaving a couple sprigs out to use as garnish. It's okay if the leaves come off in the soup, but you don't want to end up biting down on one of the stems later. Add your broth, stock, thyme, pepper, nutmeg and cayenne pepper. Bring the soup to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Let simmer for about 15 minutes uncovered. Now is a great time to make your croutons.
1 baguette sliced into 1" high rounds
3 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Brush your baguette slices with olive oil on both sides and sprinkle salt and pepper on top. Bake until golden brown. That was easy.
Turn your oven on to broil. Remove the thyme sprigs from your soup. Ladle soup into oven safe bowls and float croutons on the top -- you want to fill as much of the surface area as possible making a shelf for your cheese to sit on. Add a liberal layer of gruyere to the top and immediately put the bowls under the broiler. You should put them on a cookie sheet for convenient and safe removal. When the cheese is browning and bubbly you can remove the soup and let cool for just a minute or two. Pull some of your thyme leaves from the remaining sprigs and garnish.