Friday, October 24, 2008

French Onion Soup

This is a restaurant staple the most people think demands high-end ingredients, back breaking labor, and general "chef" magic to make properly. Nonsense. I've made a delicious version while quite literally cleaning out the refrigerator, tossing in odds and ends like the last bits of a can of chicken stock, leftover grated cheddar cheese, and a tinfoil pack of Ramen Roast Beef bouillon(!) This version is a good deal less slapdash, but the technique is the same - and the end result is perfect for a cold autumn night. Enjoy.

Before I begin, let me make one point: there's a reason that the "beef bouillon in chicken stock" trick worked. Store bought beef broth, as a rule, is not very good. I'm testing Progresso's Beef Broth now, and will let you know how it goes... but as a rule, you can use canned chicken stock and trust in the browned onions to lend the soup the dark color and richness you're looking for. I avoid bouillon as a rule - too much salt.

French Onion Soup

4 yellow onions, sliced thin
3 T brown sugar
1/2 t salt
1/4 t pepper
2 T butter
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup red wine
1 quart chicken and/or beef stock
1 bay leaf
1 thin baguette, or any leftover bread
3 cups shredded Swiss, Colby, and/or mild cheddar cheese

In a large saucepan or stock pot, heat the butter until foaming. Add the onions, salt, pepper, and brown sugar. Sautee over medium high heat, stirring often, until onions start to char a tiny amount around the edges and are browning nicely, 15-20 minutes. Add garlic and sautee 1 minute. Add wine and reduce heat to a simmer; stir well, scraping up any brown bits. Add stock and bay leaf and simmer for 30 minutes.

While the soup is simmering, slice the baguette into thin slices. Set oven to broil and toast the baguette on a flat baking sheet until crisp and lightly browned, 5 minutes.

Ladle the soup into bowls. Add baguette slices to the soup and top with shredded cheese (be generous with both cheese and bread.) Place bowls on a flat baking sheet and broil until cheese is fully melted and just slightly browned, 5-7 minutes. Serve hot as a first course, or with sausages for a meal.

Serves 3-4

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