~ More Bowl-Food: French Onion Soup au Gratin ~
When I think of winter I think of skiing and fireside dinners at the end of an active day spent outdoors. I think of warm, rich, soul-satisfying meals that are deeply flavorful and nourishing. I think of French Onion Soup.
The key to a good onion soup is time and patience. I’ve written about this before, and there is no denying that the best way to attain a full flavored onion soup – the one with a mahogany burnished broth, butter rich and slick with caramelized onions – is to cook the onions for a long long time. As they cook, they will sweat, break down, release their juices, caramelize and melt into a sweet slump of slurp worthy soup. I’ve posted a recipe which requires 3 hours of slow cooking in the oven, and by all means if you have the time to do this I encourage you to do so. But if you are spending the day skiing the slopes of your favorite mountain (lucky you) or simply working during the week, 3 hours of cooking is simply not possible without a crock pot.
So here is a recipe that still respects the time involved to extract the sweet goodness of onions, yet may be prepared in little over one hour. This gives you plenty of time to warm up from the cold, stoke the fire, pour some wine and relax by the fireplace before your soup is ready.
Onion Soup au Gratin
This soup is very rich, even without the gratineed bread. For a simple rustic meal serve with a big green salad and a platter of salami and cured meats.
Serves 4 to 6
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
5 large yellow onions, about 3 pounds, thinly sliced
3 leeks, white parts only, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
6 cups organic beef stock
3/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup Calvados brandy
Freshly ground black pepper
6 slices peasant style or Levain bread, 3/4-inch thick
1 1/2 cups grated Gruyere and/or Emmental cheese
Melt the butter with the oil in a large Dutch-oven or soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions, leeks and 1 teaspoon salt. Cover and cook until the onions begin to soften, about 10 minutes. Remove lid and continue to cook, uncovered, stirring from time to time until onions are dark golden brown, about 45 minutes. (As a brown crust forms on the bottom of the pot, be sure to stir it up into the onions). When the onions are golden, sprinkle with flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add wine and bring to a boil. Add 4 cups stock, Calvados, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Stir to blend, and add additional stock to desired consistency. Simmer, partially covered, for 15 minutes. Taste for seasoning.
While the soup is cooking, prepare the bread. Heat oven to 350 F. Place bread on a baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn the oven off without removing the bread. Leave bread in until crisp, about 15 more minutes.
Heat oven broiler. Ladle soup into oven-proof bowls or crocks. Cover the soup with bread slices. Sprinkle cheese over the bread. Broil until bread is golden and cheese is bubbly, 2 to 3 minutes. Serve hot.