Oh, Atlanta. Your climate is classified “humid subtropical”. Your summers are unbearably hot and sticky. So why do you insist on remaining well below freezing (this Louisianian considers <50 "freezing") for weeks at a time?? The only upside to this dismal weather is the hot foods I'm finding to keep me warm. A few weekends ago, I decided to make a warming comfort food: French onion soup.
I’ve had to try to convince people before that even if you don’t like onions, you will like this soup. I mean, who could resist such depth of flavor, such heartiness, such…cheesy melty goodness? French onion soup does take a while to make properly, but even for my first attempt (for which I am already plotting improvements), it was well worth the time.
Making FOS begins with and centers on caramelizing onions. I used Tyler Florence‘s recipe because I’ve been fairly pleased with dishes I’ve made from his “ultimates” collection. Start by melting butter in a large pot and then add sliced onions and seasonings. I used a mix of sweet, yellow, and white onions for my soup, and also added an onion to the recommended amount (recipe calls for 4, I halved it but used 3 onions). Caramelizing onions involves breaking down the sugars contained in them until they are soft, sweet, and all-around delicious. If the process is unfamiliar to you, there are a ton of tutorials and videos online to show you how. The recipe here suggests cooking them for 25 minutes, but I actually let mine go for longer–about 40 min–for extra flavor (and as a consequence of my mix of onions–they all finish at different times). Here, the recipe deviates slightly from traditional FOSs, which call for dry sherry to deglaze the pan. Instead, red wine is used, which of course adds a more full-bodied flavor. I had some pinot noir hanging around, but I think in the future I’ll try out something a little heavier. Pour this in the pot (and into the glass you have strategically standing by) and allow it to evaporate out. From there, it’s as simple as adding a little flour to thicken the soup and then the beef broth to finish it off.
And now the best part; cut a few rounds of crusty baguette and float them in the soup bowls. Top with copious amounts of grated Gruyere cheese and place under a preheated boiler to get browned and bubbly. Yum! If at all possible, this soup tasted even better the next day. Fellow ATL-area blogger Sean from Take Thou Food also made French onion soup recently. His version contained bacon (drool) and produced much better photos than mine
French Onion Soup
Recipe courtesy Tyler Florence, foodnetwork.com
Prep Time: 15 min
Cook Time: 55 min
Serves: 4 to 6 servings
1/2 cup unsalted butter
4 onions, sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 bay leaves
2 fresh thyme sprigs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup red wine, about 1/2 bottle
3 heaping tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 quarts beef broth
1 baguette, sliced
1/2 pound grated Gruyere
Melt the stick of butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, and salt and pepper and cook until the onions are very soft and caramelized, about 25 minutes. Add the wine, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the wine has evaporated and the onions are dry, about 5 minutes. Discard the bay leaves and thyme sprigs. Dust the onions with the flour and give them a stir. Turn the heat down to medium low so the flour doesn’t burn, and cook for 10 minutes to cook out the raw flour taste. Now add the beef broth, bring the soup back to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.
When you’re ready to eat, preheat the broiler. Arrange the baguette slices on a baking sheet in a single layer. Sprinkle the slices with the Gruyere and broil until bubbly and golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes.
Ladle the soup in bowls and float several of the Gruyere croutons on top.
Alternative method: Ladle the soup into bowls, top each with 2 slices of bread and top with cheese. Put the bowls into the oven to toast the bread and melt the cheese.