I’ve been doing this recipe for years now and I absolutely love it. There’s really no point for a long and drawn out introduction, it’s Baked French Onion Soup and there’s not much more that needs to be said other than, “Let’s cook!”
What you’ll need.
4 large yellow onions, julienned
6 cloves of garlic, minced
3 sprigs of thyme with the stems removed.
2 tbsp. butter
¼ cup of Balsamic Vinegar
¼ cup Brandy
4 qts. beef stock
In a medium sized stockpot brown the butter over medium heat.
What do I mean by “brown” the butter, you ask?
Well, browning the butter simply refers to heating the butter past the point of melting, to the point where you’re actually cooking the milk solids of the butter. When the milk solids begin to brown, you’ll notice a slightly nutty smell and flavor. I will warn you, there’s a very fine line between browning and burning the butter. The trick is this. Heat the butter to the point where it begins to sizzle or bubble. Once the bubbling ceases, add in the julienned onions, the garlic and a few pinches of salt.
Now that the onions, garlic and thyme are slowly basking in their brown buttered glory, it is certainly fine to let them go for a while. There are instances when fast and aggressive cooking methods are appropriate and this is not that time. French Onion Soup is as you guessed it, all about the onions so the more attention you give to them the better. When the onions have turned a deep brown color, deglaze the pot with the balsamic vinegar and brandy. Using a wooden spoon or a high heat spatula, scrape the bottom of the pot to release all the fond that has accumulated. Add in the beef stock, bring to a slow simmer and let it go for a few hours. This is certainly one of those occasions when the flavors become more and more complex as the soup cooks. If you’re looking for an instant French Onion, you might as well go to Panera. This soup isn’t for you!
When the soup is at your liking, season with salt and pepper and serve with a few toasted croutons and shredded Gruyere, Fontina and Parmesan cheeses.
If you have heat durable crocks like the one in the photo and you want to do the baked version, the procedure is easy. Ladle the crocks full with the hot soup. A few thin crostini, preferably from a baguette go on top of the crock. The crostini will act as a raft. The idea here is to have the cheese rest on the raft and overlay the sides of the crock. Place the crocks on a sheet pan and set underneath your broiler until the cheese turns a nice golden brown color. You can also place the sheet pan in a 375-degree oven and bake until the cheese reaches the desired color. It takes more time to do it this way and the crocks become ridiculously hot so be careful. It is essential that you use a sheet pan to transport the crocks, trust me. You don’t want to try to retrieve these piping hot crocks one by one from an oven or broiler with a dry side towel. You will burn yourself I promise, and it’s not pleasant. Use a sheet pan!
I can’t imagine a better way to spend a flurry filled December day than with a warm crock of Baked French Onion Soup, a bottle of red from the Loire Valley and someone that matters.