Dish of the Week: French Onion Soup
From classic comfort foods to regional standouts and desserts, we'll be sharing a new recipe with you each week. Find other dishes of the week here.
This week, we figured we'd get one more (slightly) cold weather recipe in before it warms up for good. We're covering French onion soup.
Made simply with onions and stock and often served with toasted bread and melted cheese on top, the origins of French onion soup can be traced back to Roman times. Back then, the abundance of onions made onion soup a popular food amongst peasants. It wasn't until the 18th century France that the dish was fancified. Caramelized onions and beef broth gave the soup a richer base, while the addition of croutons and gooey cheese added a buttery bite.
Today, the soup can be made with a variety of stocks and cheeses, from veal and chicken stock to nutty Gruyere and fontina cheese. You'll also often find the addition of wine, brandy, or sherry.
Although it may seem like something to reserve for the steakhouse, French onion soup is incredibly easy to make at home.
This recipe, from Serious Eats, takes flavor into consideration every step of the way -- from choosing the right onion all the way through a stacked crouton method. A hint of sherry and cider vinegar provide depth to the stock, while an optional teaspoon of Asian fish sauce brings the ultimate umami flavor.
French Onion Soup (Soupe à l'Oignon Gratinée)
Ingredients serves 4 6 tbsp unsalted butter, plus more for toasts 3 lbs yellow or mixed onions, sliced 1/8 inch thick (mixed onions can include a mix of yellow, sweet (Vidalia), red onion, and shallots) Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 1/2 cup dry sherry (such as Amontillado) 2 qts homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock 2 sprigs thyme 1 bay leaf 1 tsp Asian fish sauce (optional) 1 tsp cider vinegar 8 bowl-size slices rustic bread, toasted until crisp 1 medium clove garlic 1 pound Gruyere cheese, grated Freshly minced chives, for garnish
In a large stainless steel or cast iron saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat until foaming. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 8 minutes. Lower heat to medium-low and cook, stirring frequently, until onions are very sweet and a rich golden brown color, about 1 to 2 hours. If browned onion juices on the bottom of the pot threaten to burn, add 1 tablespoon of water, scrape up the browned bits, and continue cooking. Season with salt and pepper.
Add sherry and bring to a simmer, scraping up any browned bits. Cook until alcohol smell is mostly gone, about 3 minutes. Add stock, thyme, and bay leaf, raise heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer. Lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
Add fish sauce, if using, and cider vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Discard thyme stems and bay leaf.
Preheat broiler and position oven rack to top position. Butter toasts and rub with garlic clove until fragrant. Spoon a small amount of broth into the bottoms of 4 oven-proof serving bowls, then top with half the toasts. Sprinkle some grated cheese on top of toasts, then spoon more soup and onions on top, nearly filling the bowls. Set the remaining 4 toasts in each bowl, pushing to nearly submerge them. Top with remaining grated cheese and set bowls on a rimmed baking sheet. Broil until cheese is melted and browned in spots.
Garnish with chives and serve.
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