French Onion Soup
French Onion Soup
4 hours 30 minutes total time
4 hours 30 minute active time, because of intermittent stirring
It was a late night on Jacques Pepin’s first visit to my home in Cleveland about 30 years ago, and Jacques decided to make onion soup at midnight. I didn’t have any stock, so we used water. We didn’t spend hours making it, but sitting in my robe, eating that onion soup at 2:00 am was one of my most special culinary moments.
Cooking note: If you like a richly flavored onion soup, be sure to cook the onions slowly until they are well caramelized and use the best stock possible. It takes patience for perfect onions! If you like a lighter soup, use chicken stock and use beef for a deeper flavor. Many butcher shops now sell their own housemade stock. The soup can be made and refrigerated for a day or two before finishing with the croutons and cheese.
¼ cup unsalted butter
8 cups thinly sliced onions (by hand or in a food processor)
2 bay leaves
6 sprigs fresh thyme
¼ cup dry sherry
7 cups homemade or low-sodium chicken or beef stock
1 baguette, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
Extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
8 very thin slices Comté cheese, no greater than 1/8-inch thick, at least 4-inches square
1 cup shredded Comté cheese
Melt the butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions and 1 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring every 10 minutes, until they are wilted and have given off their liquid. Lower the heat as necessary to keep the mixture bubbling but not browning the onions at this point. This could take up to an hour.
Increase the heat slightly to allow the liquid to evaporate, stirring every 10 to 15 minutes, keeping a watchful eye that the onions do not scorch. Once the liquid has evaporated, continue to cook the onions, stirring often and adjusting the heat as necessary, until the onions are deeply browned and caramelized. If you are patient and cook at a low heat this could take up to another 3 hours.
Meanwhile, tie the bay leaves and fresh thyme with a piece of twine. Add the sherry to the pot and scrape the bottom of the pot to release any browned bits. Stir in the stock and herbs and bring to a simmer. Simmer for about 45 minutes to reduce the stock to about 6 cups of soup. Remove and discard the herbs.
While the soup is simmering, place the oven rack on the second rung down and turn on the broiler. Place the baguette slices on a baking sheet and brush each side lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Broil the baguettes on each side to a rich golden brown. Remove and set aside.
Turn on the oven broiler. Bring the soup to a simmer. Ladle the soup into four 1 ½ cup onion soup crocks or cocottes set on a baking sheet. It should come to within ½-inch of the rim. Top with 2 croutons (do not push them into the soup) and overlap 2 slices of cheese over the top of each crock, letting the cheese extend past the rim of the crock (so that it will melt down the sides).
Place under the broiler for 2 to 3 minutes until the cheese has melted. Pull out the rack and divide the shredded cheese over the top. Continue to broil until the cheese is melted and browned in spots.
Serve immediately, but be careful, it will be hot!
- ¼ cup unsalted butter
- 8 cups thinly sliced onions (by hand or in a food processor)
- Kosher salt
- 2 bay leaves
- 6 sprigs fresh thyme
- ¼ cup dry sherry
- 7 cups homemade or low-sodium chicken or beef stock
- 1 baguette, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 8 very thin slices Comté cheese, no greater than 1/8-inch thick, at least 4-inches square
- 1 cup shredded Comté cheese