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French Onion Soup with Garlic Butter Croutons

Unapologetically rich, boozy and indulgent, French Onion Soup asks nothing of you but time, but gives back a thousandfold in flavor, warmth and comfort. It may become your new winter BFF.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time2 hrs 30 mins
Total Time2 hrs 45 mins
Servings: 6 servings
Author: Emily Clifton

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter plus more for toasts
  • 3 pounds yellow Spanish onions sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry sherry such as Amontillado
  • 1/2 cup brandy or Cognac
  • 1 1/2 cups good dry white wine
  • 2 quarts homemade beef or chicken stock or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon Asian fish sauce optional
  • 16 slices baguette cut 3/4 inch thick
  • 1 large clove garlic cut in half length-wise
  • 1 pound Gruyere cheese grated
  • Freshly minced chives for garnish

Instructions

  • In a large dutch oven or sauté pan, melt butter over medium-high heat until foaming. Add onions and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 8 minutes. Remove the cover and lower heat to medium-low and cook, stirring frequently, until onions are very soft and a rich, golden brown color, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. During this time, if the bottom of the pot develops a crust that threatens to burn, add 1 tablespoon of water, scrape up the browned bits, and continue cooking. You may need to do this several times, especially towards the end of the process.
  • Raise heat to medium-high, add sherry and cognac and bring to a simmer, scraping up any browned bits. Cook until mostly reduced, about 5 minutes. Add wine and simmer for 15 minutes more. Add stock, thyme, and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Add fish sauce, if using, and season with salt and pepper. Discard thyme stems and bay leaf.
  • Preheat broiler and position oven rack to top position. Toast the baguette slices and while the bread is still warm, rub the surface of one side with the cut end of the garlic clove. Spread a thin layer of butter over the garlic toasts (if you want, you can cut each slice in half to make them easier to fit in the bowls).
  • Spoon a small amount of soup into the bottoms of 4 oven-proof serving bowls, then top with half the toasts. Sprinkle some grated cheese on top of toasts, then spoon more soup on top, nearly filling the bowls. Set the remaining toasts in each bowl, pushing to nearly submerge them. Top with remaining grated cheese and set bowls on a rimmed baking sheet. Broil until cheese is melted and browned in spots. Garnish with chives and serve.

Notes

  • Use the best stock you can find. Beef and veal are traditional but good chicken stock is perfectly fine. In fact, I’m not a fan of canned beef stock so unless you can find a good one, go with chicken. We got our beef stock from Barb’s Butchery and it was delicious.
  • Use any onions you like. Red ones turn a slightly dour gray when cooked for so long but you won’t be able to tell in the soup. I think sweet onions like Vidalias would get too sugary (for my taste) but some people like them.
  • When making the garlic toasts, rub the bread lightly with the clove or it can be overpowering. If you don’t like garlic at all GET OFF MY SITE. Ha, ha, just kidding (sort of), you could easily skip it altogether.
  • The fish sauce seems like an odd ingredient but it works really well. Use it sparingly though. Just a mere teaspoon is enough here.
  • If you don’t have oven-safe soup bowls, prep the toasts with the butter and garlic, place them on a sheet pan and sprinkle cheese over them. Broil until cheese is melted and a bit browned on top. Place them into the soup and serve.
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