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Fabulous French Onion Soup

Fabulous French Onion Soup

I’ve been on kind of a forced blogging hiatus for the past few months given some travel and life issues, but that doesn’t mean I’ve abandoned my love of vintage cast iron or of cooking!

Recently I found myself with an over-abundance of onions after a vigorous Sam’s Club shopping spree. What to do? Well, French onion soup, of course.

I went to a trusted resource, Serious Eats. Managing Culinary Director Daniel Gritzer had a recipe that sounded just perfect for my taste. I had to make a few adjustments to Daniel’s original recipe, given what I had on hand.

Good heavens, it was tasty!

How did I make it, you ask?

French Onion Soup

Daniel’s recipe is listed as serving 4 and taking 2 hours to complete. My version would easily serve 8, and took me 6 hours to complete. Yikes!

Note: I should have read Daniel’s instructions more carefully. I caramelized my onions over low heat instead of the medium-low that he recommended. It took me five hours to reach the requisite desired state of caramelization. When I later caramelized 3 additional sliced onions at the medium-low heat that Daniel recommended, it did indeed take just an hour.

Equipment

  • Two cast iron skillets. I used a Griswold no. 8 and a Birmingham Stove & Range (“BSR”) no. 8. It would have been more easily manageable (and less messy) had I used a size 10 or larger. As I have already packed most of my iron, I used what I had available. Daniel notes that enameled cast iron does not work as well to caramelize onions as does black iron; something like this 15″ Lodge would work beautifully for this recipe.
  • Long tongs.
  • Dutch oven. My Griswold chicken pan that doubles as a small-ish Dutch oven is already packed, so I used one of my Mom’s vintage Revere Ware stainless Dutch ovens.
  • Grater. My grater is also already packed, so I made do by thinly slicing the cheese with a knife.
  • Ladle.
  • Heat-resistant single-serve soup bowls. Daniel used these gorgeous cherry red 16 oz. LeCrueset French onion soup bowls. I served mine up in my vintage Griswold cast iron patty bowls.

Ingredients

  • 6 T. butter, plus more for toast.
  • 6 large yellow onions, sliced about 1/8″ thick. I sliced each onion in half lengthwise from root end, peeled, and sliced into thin half-rounds.
  • 1/4 c. brandy
  • 1/4 c. white wine (I used sauvignon blanc)
  • 8 c. chicken stock. I thought I had homemade stock in my freezer, but it turns out I didn’t. I used 2 bags of frozen Bonafide Provisions organic chicken bone broth, and one carton of Thrive Market organic bone broth.
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 t. Red Boat (preferred) fish sauce (optional)
  • 1 t. apple cider vinegar
  • 8 slices toasted rustic bread; more or less to taste. I used slices from a Whole Foods olive oil and salt bread loaf.
  • 1 medium clove garlic
  • Gruyère cheese to taste; grated or thinly sliced. I am not a huge cheese person. I used about 12very thin slices per serving from a 7 oz. package.

Directions

Melt 3 T. butter in each of two cast iron skillets. Add 3 thinly sliced onions to each and cook until softened, about 8 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium-low 1 and cook, stirring and turning frequently. It should take between one and two hours for the onions to caramelize. You want them to be a rich golden-brown color (see Daniel’s description and photos here).

Once caramelized, remove the onions to a Dutch oven.

Deglaze the pans by adding the wine and brandy to the skillets and scraping up any browned bits. Add the liquid and bits to the mix in the Dutch oven.

Add stock, thyme, and bay leaf to Dutch oven. Raise the heat to medium-high and simmer. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Smells delicious!

Add the fish sauce (opt.) and cider vinegar to the pot. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer for at least 10 more minutes.

Discard thyme sprigs and bay leaf before serving.

Preheat broiler. Butter the toasts. I used four small slices for each serving – you can see in the photo below how I placed the bread pieces into my serving bowl to check sizing. Rub the buttered side with a cut garlic clove. Broil the toasts til your desired degree of toastiness (watch closely; it’s very easy to burn the toasts).

Spoon about 1/2 c. broth into the bottom of each (ovenproof) serving bowl. Top with half the toasts. Lay the desired amount of thinly-sliced Gruyère cheese on top of the toasts. Spoon additional soup into each bowl, until almost full. Set remaining toasts in bowls, pushing down to nearly submerge in the broth. Top with desired amount of thinly-sliced Gruyère.

Broil each prepped bowl on the top rack of oven until cheese is melted and browned in spots.

Slurp and enjoy!

Hours later (and the next morning) – muse about how you are going to remove the delicious but pungent smell of caramelized onions from your entire house. 🙂

  1. Here’s where I messed up. I caramelized my onions over low heat (no. 2 on my gas stove) instead of medium-low (no. 3 on my stove). Round one of the caramelization took 5 hours! Round two, where I followed Daniel’s directions and cooked over medium-low, took an hour.

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