Is there an actual technical name for being scared of soggy bread? Cause whatever that phobia is, I have it! There is only one exception to this fear I have: french onion soup. Maybe because the bread is supposed to soak up that oniony liquid gold? Whatever the reason, I absolutely adore french onion soup. There's something about the caramelized onions and nutty gruyere that feels supremely decadent, and the fact that the dish has its own dedicated serving bowls makes it feel like something to order in a restaurant, not make at home. Fortunately, the only advanced skill you need for this soup is patience...onions always take longer than expected to caramelize.
Additionally, if you don't have french onion soup bowls (and let's be honest, who does? I bought these specifically cause I was having a craving!), or even heat-safe bowls that can go in the oven, don't worry! Make some open-face gruyere grilled cheeses, and plop them on top of the soup. No fancy equipment required.
FRENCH ONION SOUP
4 ea yellow onions, sliced thinly
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbs unsalted butter
2 tsp kosher salt
¼ c flour
2 Tbs brandy
4 c beef stock
1 ea bay leaf
few sprigs thyme
¼ tsp ground white pepper
for the top:
4 ea slices of baguette
1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1½ c/6 oz gruyere, grated
In a medium sized pot, combine the olive oil and butter and place over medium low heat. When the butter is melted, add in the onions, and stir well to coat in the oil and butter. Sweat the onions, stirring often, until translucent but not crisping or browning, about 10 minutes. Season with salt, and bring the heat up slightly, to allow the onions to begin to brown.
Continue to stir often, spreading the caramelization throughout the onions as they brown, about 30-40 minutes. Keep an eye on how dry the onions look — if they start to look dry as they brown, instead of slick, add in a tablespoon of water, and lower the temperature slightly.
When the onions are golden brown and soft, sprinkle the flour over, and stir in. Raise the temperature a little bit, and allow the flour to cook out, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Deglaze with brandy, using your spatula to scrape any bits off the bottom of the pot. When the liquid has reduced by half, pour in the beef stock, and add in the bay leaf, thyme, and pepper. Stir well.
Bring the soup up to a low simmer, then cover and simmer for about 30 min, then uncover and continue to simmer to allow soup to thicken a bit, about 15-20 minutes more.
Preheat a high broiler, and place the oven rack in the middle of the oven. Line a small baking sheet with foil, and brush the slices of baguette on either side with olive oil. Place under the broiler until golden, just a few minutes. Remove from the oven, and keep the broiler on.
Place heat-proof bowls onto a baking sheet. Ladle the soup into the bowls. Place the toasts onto the soups. Divide the cheese evenly over the top, then place the whole baking sheet under the broiler. Allow to broil for a few minutes, until the cheese is golden and bubbly, then serve.