Upon entering the seventh grade, each student at my school had to pick a language. Looking back on it, I should have picked the logical choice and taken Spanish. But, because I’m me, I wanted to be different. So, I picked French. I didn’t just take French in the seventh grade. I took French for five years. Five. And five is about how many French words I know now.
Last week, I was browsing the Internet for inspiration for Tuesday’s dinner and I stumbled upon a French website. I was shocked to discover that I could actually comprehend about ten percent of what they were saying. That is about seven percent more than I expected. Basically, it was a French cooking blog and the author had made soup the previous week. From what I gathered from my five French words and the pictures it was a delicious success, but I could have misinterpreted and it could have said it was the nastiest thing they ever ate.
Regardless of what it actually said, it inspired me to make my own French soup. I decided to go with a classic, French Onion. I know I often boast about how easy soups are, but French Onion is not easy! It takes along time and if you are cooking anything else at the same time you will be running around the kitchen like a dog in heat. All sweaty and panting. Ew.
Even though the soup was a challenge, the results made it totally worth it. If you are up for a challenge or have a rainy afternoon to spend in the kitchen, I highly recommend this recipe. But be prepared, cutting that many onions made even me with my stone heart shed some tears.
Love and Beer Floats
Extra-virgin olive oil
8 large onions, thinly sliced from stem to root end
6 ounces dry sherry
4 bay leaves
1 bundle thyme
2 quarts chicken stock
12 thin slices baguette
1/2 pound Gruyere, grated
1/2 bunch chopped chives
Coat a large deep pot with olive oil. Add the onions and sprinkle generously with salt. Bring the pan to a medium heat. Stir the onions to coat with oil. Cover the pot and sweat for 15 to 20 minutes.
Once the onions have gotten very soft and let off a lot of water, remove the lid and let the onions cook looooow and sloooooooooow. That's right low and slow to really develop their rich brown color and sweet flavor. There is no shortcut or rush for this, DO NOT TRY! Caramelized onions take a long time, about an hour, accept it and move on.
When the onions are very brown and have gotten considerably smaller, add the sherry and cook until the sherry has reduced by half. Add the bay leaves, thyme bundle and chicken stock. Bring to a boil and reduce heat and simmer for at least 1 hour. TASTE for seasoning, you probably will need to season with salt. If the stock reduces too much add water to keep the liquid level up- this IS a soup after all. When done, the soup should be thick and very full flavored. TASTE! You may need to resason, caramelized onions are very sweet and require a fair amount of salt.
Toast or grill the baguette slices. Fill ovenproof crocks 3/4 of the way with the onion soup, float 2 toasts in each bowl and top with grated Gruyere. Place the crocks under the broiler to melt the cheese and make it brown and bubbly. Top with chopped chives.