Friday, March 2, 2012

French Onion Soup

It's time for another recipe I have had forever and am just now getting around to!  I found this recipe for French onion soup quite some time ago and I had never had French onion soup before so I saved it.  I made this last Friday when I needed a meatless meal and something comforting on a chilly day.
I shouldn't have waited so long.  This is a Cook's Illustrated recipe, so I knew it would be good, but I couldn't have known just how good it was going to be.  As I said, I have never had any other French onion soup so I can't compare it to others, but I thought this was pretty spectacular.  I took one bite of this and went, "uuuummm." 

The base of this soup is well caramelized onions, which take a little time, but almost no effort.  And they are totally worth it.  I left the house while the onions were in the oven.  When I got back home, I opened the door and was immediately met with the delightful smell of caramelizing onions.  It's fantastic!  The soup is topped with a slice of toasted bread and melted cheese just for extra deliciousness.

If you've got a few hours and a little patience, please make this soup!  Start by slicing about 4 pounds of yellow onions and placing them in a well greased pot with 3 tablespoons of butter and some salt.  Don't use sweet onions!
Cover the pot and put it in a 400 degree oven for an hour.  No work necessary during this time!  Take 'em out after and hour and this is what you will have:
Stir it up, and put it back in the oven for another hour and a half or so.  Again, no work!  Just stir at about the one hour mark.  Take it out of the oven, stir it again, and put it on the stove top over medium-high heat.  Cook the onions until they are brown, about 15 minutes.  It's important to scrape the bottom and sides of the pot as you go so the brown crusty goodness can flavor your soup!
Cook for another 6-8 minutes. Then stir in ¼ cup water, scrape the pot bottom to loosen the crust, and cook until the water evaporates and you have another dark crust, 6 to 8 more minutes.
This is what we in the biz call "deglazing."  Do this 2 or 3 more times until the onions get pretty brown. 
Then stir in wine and cook until it evaporates, about 5 minutes.
Now add broth, soy sauce, and water.  The original recipe called for chicken and beef broth.  I used vegetable broth instead of chicken broth and soy sauce/water instead of beef broth because I wanted this to be vegetarian.  Also add the seasonings, bring to a boil, and then simmer for about 30 minutes.  I guess I forgot to take a picture of this!

For serving, the original recipe instructed to put soup in individual crocks, top with a baguette slice and Gruyere cheese, and broil.  I don't have broiler proof crocks and couldn't get my hands on Gruyere cheese.  I did actually make my own loaf of French bread (more on that to come!) and some mozzarella cheese.  So I sliced the bread, topped the slices with mozzarella cheese, and broiled them on high for a few minutes until the cheese melted.  
I topped each bowl with a slice and dug in.  The toasty bread is great for sopping up the flavorful bread.  And it has melted cheese so you know it's good!
Now, someone else who has had a different version of French onion soup has to make this to tell me how this recipe stacks up.  Consider it your homework for the weekend!

French Onion Soup
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 3 pieces
6 large yellow onions (about 4 lbs), halved and cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
Table salt
4 cups water, plus extra for deglazing
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 cups vegetable broth
1/4 cup soy sauce 
1 3/4 cups water
2 tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
Ground black pepper
For serving:
1 small baguette, cut into 1/2-inch slices
8 oz shredded cheese (about 2 1/2 cups, (Gruyere, Swiss, or mozzarella)
 Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees F. Generously spray inside of heavy-bottomed large (at least 7-quart) Dutch oven with nonstick cooking spray. Place butter in pot and add onions and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, covered, 1 hour (onions will be moist and slightly reduced in volume). Remove pot from oven and stir onions, scraping bottom and sides of pot. Return pot to oven with lid slightly ajar and continue to cook until onions are very soft and golden brown, 1½ to 1¾ hours longer, stirring onions and scraping bottom and sides of pot after 1 hour.
Carefully remove pot from oven and place over medium-high heat. Using oven mitts to handle pot, cook onions, stirring frequently and scraping bottom and sides of pot, until liquid evaporates and onions brown, 15 to 20 minutes, reducing heat to medium if onions are browning too quickly. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until pot bottom is coated with dark crust, 6 to 8 minutes, adjusting heat if necessary. (Scrape any crust that collected on spoon back into onions.) Stir in ¼ cup water, scraping pot bottom to loosen crust, and cook until water evaporates and pot bottom has formed another dark crust, 6 to 8 minutes. Repeat process of deglazing 2 or 3 more times, until onions are very dark brown. Stir in wine and cook, stirring frequently, until wine evaporates, about 5 minutes.
Stir in broth, soy sauce, 4 cups water, thyme, bay leaf, and ½ teaspoon salt, scraping up any final bits of browned crust on bottom and sides of pot. Increase heat to high and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 30 minutes. Remove bay leaf, then season with salt and pepper.
To serve: Place baguette slices on a baking sheet.  Top with cheese.  Adjust oven rack 6 inches from broiler element and heat broiler. Broil bread for about 2 minutes or until cheese is melted bubbly.  Top each bowl with baguette slice.

Recipe adapted from Cook's Illustrated

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