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Recipe: French Onion Soup for Two

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French onion soup
Dave Scantland
Recipes for French onion soup seem to fall into two groups -- the ones that focus on the bread and cheese topping, and those that focus on the soup itself. Mine is in the latter camp. Not that I don't like melted cheese, but I think the dish should be primarily about the soup. I use onions cooked two ways and two stocks to add complexity. The combination of the two stocks was a product of serendipity. A couple of years ago I ended up with some leftover stock from mushroom risotto (porcini and chicken stock) and also a little leftover "jus" from a French dip sandwich (beef stock, Worcestershire sauce and sherry). I tried the soup with both and loved it.

Yield: 2 servings

Ingredients:

  • 5-6 medium white or yellow onions, sliced thin (about 6 cups), divided
  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1/3 cup dried porcini mushrooms (optional)
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium beef stock
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme (or 1 sprig fresh)
  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry
  • 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar (optional)
  • 2 thin slices French or Italian bread
  • 1 ounce Gruyere or Emmentaler cheese, coarsely grated

Preparation:

1. Place a large saute pan with a lid over low heat. Add half the butter and heat until butter is melted. Add about two thirds of the onions and stir to coat. Sprinkle with salt and cover the pan. Cook on lowest heat, covered, for at least an hour, stirring every 15 minutes or so. (Because the moisture level in onions can vary substantially, this process can take longer; I've had batches take 2 hours.) The onions will soften, then slowly turn golden and then amber in color. They'll lose volume and continue to darken, until you should end up with about 2/3 of cup of deep amber onions.

2. Meanwhile, if using the dried porcini, heat the chicken stock (either on the stove or in the microwave) just until simmering. Remove from heat and add the porcini. Let steep for 10 to 20 minutes. Pour the stock through a fine-mesh sieve and discard the mushrooms.

3. In a large saucepan, melt the remaining butter over medium high heat. Heat until butter stops foaming and then add the remaining third of the onions. Sprinkle with salt and cook, stirring often, until browned but still slightly firm.

4. Remove the onions from the pan. Pour the sherry into the pan and stir to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Let most of the sherry evaporate and then add the chicken stock, beef stock, thyme and Worcestershire sauce. When the onions from step 1 are done, add them to the soup and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding the sherry vinegar if the soup is too sweet. Just before serving, add the onions from step 3.

5. When ready to serve, turn the broiler on. Reserve two tablespoons of the cheese, and sprinkle the rest over the two slices of bread. Place the bread slices on a sheet pan and put it under the broiler until cheese melts (2-3 minutes).

6. Divide the reserved cheese between two soup bowls. Ladle the soup into the bowls and float a bread slice on top of each bowl.

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