When I went to France 10 years ago, I sat in a little restaurant on top of a hill and had French Onion Soup to die for. Now, 16-year-old me wasn’t really into food. In fact, I had so many new-to-me food allergies that I didn’t know what to do and I wasn’t used to eating anything that wasn’t frozen and bought at Costco. But ever since then, I’ve been a fan of French Onion Soup.
This recipe is original from Cookography where they call it the Best French Onion Soup Ever, and while I still think that restaurant beat this (but that could be me romanticizing my Europe trip), I do think this is damn good soup. Jason thought it was little labor intensive — I made him stir a lot –, but from what I’ve read about French Onion Soup, this recipe is actually an easier one to make. Though Jason did admit that delicious soup was worth that little extra labor every once-in-a-while.
French Onion Soup
For the best flavor, make the soup a day or 2 in advance.
3 tbsp unsalted butter , cut into 3 pieces
6 large yellow onions (about 4 pounds), halved and cut pole to pole into 1/4-inch-thick slices
2 cups water, plus extra for deglazing
1/2 cup dry sherry
4 cups vegetable broth (original called for low-sodium chicken broth)
2 cups beef broth (okay, yes, I know beef broth comes from cows, but you can’t have french onion soup without it)
1/2 tbsp thyme (original calls for 6 sprigs fresh thyme, tied with kitchen twine)
1 bay leaf
Ground black pepper
1 small baguette , cut into 1/2-inch slices
8 ounces shredded Gruyère cheese (about 2 1/2 cups)
Adjust the oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 400°F.
Generously spray the inside of a heavy-bottomed large (at least 7-quart) Dutch oven with a nonstick cooking spray. Place the butter in the pot and add the onions and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook covered for 1 hour (the onions will be moist and slightly reduced in volume). Remove the pot from the oven and stir the onions, scraping the bottom and sides of the pot. Return the pot to the oven with the lid slightly ajar and continue to cook until the onions are very soft and golden brown — 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours longer — stirring the onions and scraping bottom and sides of pot after 1 hour.
Carefully remove pot from oven and place over medium-high heat on stove. Cook onions, stirring frequently, until the liquid evaporates and the onions brown — 15 to 20 minutes — reducing the heat to medium if the onions are browning too quickly. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the pot bottom is coated with a dark crust, roughly 6 to 8 minutes, adjusting the heat as necessary.
Stir in 1/4 cup water, scraping the 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 the sherry and cook, stirring frequently, until the sherry evaporates, for about 5 minutes.
Stir in the broths, 2 cups of water, thyme, bay leaf, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Increase heat to high and bring to simmer. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove and discard herbs, then season with salt and pepper.
For topping, arrange the baguette slices in single layer on baking sheet and bake in a 400-degree oven until the bread is dry, crisp, and golden at edges, about 10 minutes. Set aside.
Adjust oven rack 6 inches from broiler element and heat broiler. Set individual broiler-safe crocks on baking sheet and fill each with about 1 3/4 cups soup. Top each bowl with 1 or 2 baguette slices (do not overlap slices) and sprinkle evenly with Gruyère. Broil until cheese is melted and bubbly around edges, approximately 3 to 5 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.