I’d been having one of those cravings lately that are all encompassing and border on obsessive. This time, all I could think about was French onion soup and its cheesy, rich goodness… so satisfying on a cold, dreary day.
When I decided to make it, I knew I had to come down to reality a bit. That crock of soup overflowing with brown, bubbly cheese that existed in my fantasy wasn’t what I was going to make for myself. I don’t own those oven-proof bowls and I wasn’t going to buy them now. I also knew that I could never allow myself to put as much cheese as the people who work in restaurants put onto of those oven-proof crocks that I don’t have. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about cheese, cheese and more cheese but they’ve got to put handfuls upon handfuls of Gruyere on there to get it overflowing like that. If I’m going to buy that much cheese, fuck the soup. I’ll eat it on its own.
All of this self-imposed bubble-bursting meant only one thing… the soup itself had to kick ass.
After only 2 hours, my soup came out just perfectly. I served it topped with a big, cheesy crouton. And I was very satisfied.
French Onion Soup
3 tablespoons butter
6 onions (I think, I lost count), very thinly sliced*
1 cup white wine
1 quart beef stock
2 bay leaves
2 to 3 juniper berries**
1/2 baguette, sliced lengthwise then cut into halves
Shredded Gruyère or Swiss cheese
*I had tons of onions left from my CSA so I used up what I had. It was a mixture of yellow and Vidalia onions.
**I’ve had the same container of juniper berries for years. They actually make a big difference when you use them. I do recommend buying them once, then you’re set for life.
The secret to onion soup is to cook the shit out of the onions. If you think it’s been long enough, you’re only halfway there.
Cook onions in the butter over medium-low heat for as long as you can stand it. I cooked my onions for an hour, until I thought they’d completely melt into nothing. I admit I was getting bored at the end of the time so I cranked the heat up just a tiny bit so they’d brown faster but you have to be careful about not burning them in the slightest or they’ll get bitter.
Once they turn deep caramel in color (if you’re patient) or even light caramel (if you’re not patient), deglaze the pan with white wine and let that cook off a bit. Add the beef stock, bay leaves and juniper berries, and simmer for 30 minutes or so for the flavors to combine.
To serve, mound as much cheese as you can get on the bread without feeling guilty or gluttonous then place under the broiler until it’s brown and bubbly. Ladle soup into bowls, top with a crouton and maybe a sprinkle two or more of cheese, for good measure.