Here we are. The fifth course: French onion soup. If I may paint a picture for you folks, my friends and I had been eating, cooking and talking for around four hours and we still had four more courses to go. The wine was flowing and as you can imagine, the level of conversation was growing much deeper and exponentially louder. At one point, I sat back and just took in the sheer volume that nine people were conversing at.
There’s no doubt that preparing an 8-course dinner for nine friends requires some deliberation, down to the details (like, even which salt to use for each dish!) But there’s a point in the night when it becomes abundantly clear that cooking for friends – cooking well for friends- just offers a simple satisfaction achieved no other way than through the stomach. There’s just something magical about the laughter, the conversation, and the comfort of enjoying (not rushing) time with each other one indulgent dish at a time!
By this very jovial point in the evening, we were all excited to welcome our next course, which by the way, these rich spoils can’t be rushed either.
Warm bread and bubbly cheese hid a bowl full of sweet and savvy onions, caramelized to perfection. We used Sel Gris again for this dish to bring out the great flavors of the onion without overshadowing the simplicity of the soup. As I mentioned, this soup takes some serious patience; do not rush the onions! Drink some wine or run a couple loads of laundry–but wine is more fun.
- 1 1/2 pounds (about 5 cups) thinly sliced yellow onions
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon Sel Gris, plus more to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar (helps the onions to caramelize)
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 quarts (8 cups) beef or other brown stock*
- 1/2 cup dry white wine or dry white vermouth
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons cognac or brandy (optional)
- 1 tablespoon grated raw onion
- 1 to 2 cups (to taste) grated Swiss (I often use Gruyere) or a mixture of Swiss and Parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon butter, melted
- 12 to 16 1-inch thick rounds French bread, toasted until hard
- Melt the butter and oil together in the bottom of a 4- to 5-quart saucepan over moderately low heat
- Add the onions, toss to coat them in oil and cover the pot.
- Reduce the heat to real low and let them slowly steep for 15 minutes
- Uncover the pot, raise the heat slightly and stir in the salt and sugar
- Cook onions, stirring frequently, for 30 to 40 minutes until they have turned an even, deep golden brown
- After the onions are fully caramelized, sprinkle them with flour and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes.
- Add the wine in full, then stock, a little at a time, stirring between additions. Season to taste with salt and pepper
- Bring to a simmer partially covered for 30 to 40 more minutes, skimming if needed
- Stir in the cognac, if you choose too. I think you should
- Preheat oven to 325. Arrange six ovenproof soup bowls on a foil-lined baking sheet
- Divide soup eventually between each bowl
- To each bowl, add 1/2 teaspoon grated raw onion and a tablespoon of grated cheese. Stir to combine
- Dab your croutons with a tiny bit of butter and float a few on top of your soup, covering it
- Cover each bowl with a generous amount of grated cheese
- Bake soups on tray for 20 minutes, then preheat broiler
- Finish for a minute or two under the broiler to brown the top lightly
- Serve immediately