Mary Anne here. This recipe was created for my youngest son Christopher. Despite his youth, he’s become somewhat of a connoisseur when it comes to French Onion Soup…and I mean connoisseur in the sense that he’s tried every variety out there. He’s eaten the weakest, saltiest, rubber-cheesiest charlatans, but so strong is his love for this soup that ‘Topher’s palate refused to discern between good and downright dishwater-awful. Refused, that is, until I created this rich version. I was determined to show him that this savory dish is surprisingly easy and, with a bit of attention, it can be served as a main course alongside a crisp green salad and a glass of Shiraz.
French Onion Soup
Note: I originally prepared my take on this classic with Armagnac, since I had a bottle in the pantry. When I re-created it for Feast, however, I only had Cointreau in my larder, so in it went. I’ve been known to use Cognac and I suspect brandy or real sherry would work as well. But if your cabinet is dry, fear not: this soup is delicious without these pricey liquors, so don’t go breaking the bank for a few extravagant teaspoons!
5 or 6 large Vidalia onions (12 cups after slicing and quartering) – $3.75
1 stick (8 Tablespoons) sweet butter – stock
6 cloves roasted garlic, chopped *See note – $0.60
6 Teaspoons sugar
6 Tablespoons Armagnac, Cognac, Brandy, sherry, or Cointreau (optional)
10 cups beef stock – $5.00
½ teaspoon dried thyme – stock
4 sprigs fresh parsley – $0.99
¼ cup heavy cream (optional)
2 cups (generous) grated Gruyere cheese – $2.58
Sprinkling of Parmesan cheese (optional)
1 thin baguette/French bread, sliced and toasted – $1.99
Whole cloves of raw garlic, peeled – included above
Grand Total Assuming Well-Stocked Pantry: $9.91
Total Per Serving: $1.24
Note: To roast the garlic: Separate the cloves, being careful to leave as much of their paper jackets intact as possible. Drizzle with about a ½ Tablespoon of olive oil and roast, wrapped in a tin foil packet, for about 30 minutes. They are done when easily pierced by the sharp point of a paring knife. Carefully remove the paper jackets and chop as per the directions above.
For the bread: * Make extra to freeze and you’ll have a nice stash of ready-croutons!
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Slice the loaf into ½ inch thick pieces. You’ll need at least 8 slices if you are using a “fat” loaf; for a thin baguette, plan on 2 or 3 slices per soup bowl. Transfer slices to a cookie sheet and rub bread with peeled cloves of garlic. Bake until lightly browned, about 8 minutes per side.
For the soup:
1. Slice the onions as thin as possible, and then cut the slices into quarters.
2. In a large stockpot melt the butter. Add the onions and sauté over medium-high heat until deeply golden, stirring often, about 30 to 40 minutes.
3. After the onions are deep gold and caramelized, add the roasted, chopped garlic and sauté for another 5 minutes. Sprinkle the sugar over the onions and garlic, stirring and sautéing an additional 5 minutes.
4. Pour in the beef broth, add the seasonings and bring to a boil, partially covered. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, 15 minutes.
5. Add Armagnac or liquor and heavy cream, if using, and continue cooking another 5 minutes. When finished, fish the parsley sprigs out with a pair of tongs and discard.
6. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Transfer the soup to 8 ovenproof crocks. Top each bowl of soup with toasted bread and sprinkle with grated Gruyere cheese. Place the filled crocks on a cookie sheet (to contain the inevitable spills) and bake until the cheese is melted and just beginning to brown at the edges. Dust the tops with grated Parmesan and garnish with a bit of chopped parsley.