Who can resist FRENCH ONION SOUP, with its cheesey bread topping, encrusted over a savory soup?!
You may think FRENCH ONION SOUP is one of those foods only obtainable at a restaurant. (And when I worked in a fancy Beverly Hills restaurant, we did serve it.) But it’s actually easily made at home, and my vegetarian version (no beef or chicken stock) is every bit as tasty as that expensive version ordered out.
Three points of caution:
- It’s essential to use soup crocks that are broiler-proof.
- Allow 4 hours from beginning to end. Don’t fret, though! Nearly all that time is hands off.
- Make sure your Dutch oven or saucepan has handles & knobs that can withstand high oven heat.
FRENCH ONION SOUP – serves about 7
- 4 lbs yellow onions, thinly sliced
- 3 T butter
- 1 T olive oil
- 1½ tsp salt, divided
- 1/2 cup Sherry
- 8 cups vegetable stock (if purchasing, use one that’s not too flavorful)
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1/2″ slices of baguette or rustic bread (don’t use sandwich – it’s too mushy)
- about 2 cups Gruyère cheese, shredded
- about 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
In an oven proof Dutch oven or large saucepan, put the onions, butter, olive oil, and 1 tsp salt. Stir together (don’t worry that the butter isn’t melted yet) and cover tightly with lid. Put in a 400º Fahrenheit oven and cook 1 hour without disturbing.
After an hour, stir onions and replace lid but leave it slightly askew to allow steam to escape. Let bake 1½ hours, undisturbed.
Place saucepan on stove and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes to develop a nice dark fond (the baked-on food that sticks to the bottom – it’s full of flavor!). Stir occasionally.
NOTE: If you’re using a saucepan with a handle, I suggest you put an oven mitt or towel on the handle to remind yourself how hot it is. Remember it’s been in that 400º F oven!
Now you’re going to deglaze the fond by pouring in 1/4 cup water and stirring over medium heat, until the water is gone and new fond develops – about 5 minutes. Do this 3 more times (total of 1 cup water).
Pour in the Sherry for a final deglazing. Cook until Sherry evaporates (about 5 minutes).
Add the vegetable broth, 1/2 tsp salt, thyme, and bay leaf to pot. Bring to boil, cover, lower heat, then let simmer for 30 minutes.
Add in pepper and remove bay leaf.
Leaving room for the bread, ladle soup into BROILER-PROOF crocks. Top with bread, then sprinkle on Gruyère, followed by the Parmesan. Place crocks about 3″ under broiler element, and cook until toasty brown. Keep an eye out – it takes about 6 minutes, but that can vary.