The other day I mentioned that I was going to make French Onion Soup because it was my husband's favorite soup. The people I was talking to acted like I was going to try to make a 5 star gourmet 7 course French meal! Realistically speaking - other than needing to be home for an hour to stir the onions occasionally - it's probably one of the easier things I make. I actually saw on TV the other day (watching the Kitchen - love Geoffrey Zakarian) how to caramelize onions in a slow cooker. I am going to try an experiment and caramelize the onions overnite in the slow cooker and then add the rest of the ingredients and cook the soup all day... but that is another time. This soup was an experiment in cooking less. I am still having issues trying to cook 2 people's worth of food - even though it's been almost 5 years since the Angie went away to school!
One large sweet onion (this one is from Chile - but if you can get Vidalia or Walla Walla go for them! ) I think the sweet onions caramelize better.
I slice mine on a mandolin - it's easier to get nice thin slices that way. I also slice 2 cloves of garlic.
I then take out my enameled cast iron pan. If you don't have one ( I think the red ones work better.. not a scientific opinion however) a heavy bottomed pan is important or you will have to stir more often to prevent your onionsfrom burning. I melt about 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter, when the butter is melted, add the onions, garlic, a bay leaf( I used three - but I really need a new bottle of them) , about half a palm full of thyme (if you have fresh probably one or two sprigs will work, some salt and pepper, and a half palm full of Herbs de Provence (if you don't like this leave it out - I love the stuff - but only a few brands of it)
Keeping the flame super low, stir maybe every ten minutes for about an hour. Your onions will begin to caramelize.
Now wine. I usually use red, I have used white, I've also used beer. They say only use a wine you would drink... problem is I don't drink wine. I like the little "single serve" bottles of wine to cook with because I don't have to worry about the rest of the wine going bad on me. (When I use Guinness or ale I don't have that problem :) ) A friend of mine who doesn't drink or eat an alcohol says he uses 1 tablespoon of vinegar to a cup of stock to deglaze with - so you can try that if you'd like. Once the onions have caramelized and when you stir you leave "spoon tracks" on the bottom of the pan (you will also have some browning on the bottom of the pan - this is good) add you wine, bring up to a boil and then lower the heat again. Continue to occasionally stir on a very low heat until the onions are pretty much the same consistency as they were before.
Now add just over a tablespoon of flour and stir to cook out the flour taste - about 10 minutes stirring every couple of minutes.
Add one box of unsalted beef stock and 3/4 to 1 cup of water depending on your stock. Raise the heat to bring the soup to a slow simmer, cover and simmer for about 25 minutes.
Now the toast and cheese part. It's fun to toast some french bread, put slices in the bowl of soup, cover with cheese and put under the broiler for a few minutes until the cheese is hot and bubbly and starting to brown. Or you can do what I did ( a trick I saw on a cooking show a long time ago - I don't remember whose show so I can't give credit where due) I also couldn't get a whole wheat baguette, so I used whole wheat Portuguese rolls instead. Sliced them, put them on a foil covered baking sheet. I toasted them for a few minutes and then turned them over. I covered each with a slice of gruyere and a slice of swiss and put them under the broiler until they got all bubbly and started to brown.
Then I put these in the bowl and let them absorb some soup before I served them.
Only 12 ingredients - if you count the bread and cheese. Total time is about 2 hours - but I was doing other things for those 2 hours just remembering to go stir every ten minutes or so. The hardest part is not burning the cheese on the bread.
I do wonder if Curt thinks I have ulterior motives when I make this though....