"But, Abelman," you are saying, "Why should we make your French Onion Soup?"
Because it is delicious. I love French Onion soup, which means it must be good. Case: My failed food blog. You realize the truth now? You see how amazing this soup must be?
Why is it called french onion? I don't know. I would guess it is because you french the onions. Rudimentary research (read: my imagination) also shows that the French peasantry would use this soup to utilize an abundance of beef bones and onions.
This is a great soup for impressing the ladies or gentlemen callers that frequent your home because you are all so attractive. It's also fairly simple to make when you've got relatives coming over for a few days. Impress your friends!
This soup freezes well and can be prepped in a microwave.
Step 1: INGREDIENTS!
If you have the time, you definitely ought to make your own stock (this is Instructables, after all) but I'm using it from a can/box combo. That Said, here is what you need. (I apologize I do not have a mise en place photo, but I realized this would make a good Instructable as I was cutting the onions. And if you don't know what an onion is, you have far more to learn than this Instructable will provide.)
Onions! Six or so largish ones. About the size of a grapefrut. I use a mix of yellow and red because I like yellow and red. These are the onions that have some sweetness to them, which is what you want in the soup. The color won't matter in the very end, so its all a taste issue.
Butter: If you're bothering to chef it and you're using canned broth, use the real butter. Oil works well, too, but you need one with a high smoke point and that can sometimes equal less flavor. Of course, a good oil means your dish can be more vegetarian friendly. Which is a nice thing. You only need three tablespoons, but you can add more if you want to.
Salt! I use Kosher because I like for people to think I am fancy. You'll only need about a tablespoon so if you are using "normal" salt, kick this back to about a teaspoon.
Beef Stock - try to make sure you have stock, not broth. I find stock tastes way better. Any commenter can respond with the science if they want - I would be interested. You'll need about four cups.
Any Stock: Can work. Tradition calls for the beef kind, but there's nothing wrong with chicken if you've got it or even vegetable - this dish can easily be vegan if you want it to.
Wine: White, red, whatever! If you're like me (and if you are, we should totally hang out - I need non-baby/wife companionship) then you have a bottle of wine your wife drinks a glass out of and forgets about because she's on call and can't drink. My poor wife :( But it leaves me with lots of wine for cooking, and it tastes great! You only need a cup, so you can always open a fresh bottle if you're that type. Just remember you're working with blazing hot metal as you drink.
Herbage: Parsely, sage, rosemary, thyme? Definitely some thyme. It is great stuff. I use the dried, but fresh would be terrific as well. I find dried is really not too different in a soup preparation so long as it's not too old. You'll want a bay leaf, fo-sho. That's my choice for this particular dish, but it won't suffer if you love the flavor of tarragon or other herbs.
Baguette: A nice crusty loaf. You should totally make one yourself. They can be had at a lot of grocery stores these days near the checkout, and they work well - but homemade bread is amazingly easy.
Cheese: Gruyere is a great choice. I don't have it, so I'm using shredded mozzarella. I know, right? You can make your own mozzarella, if you really want to. Toss a little parmesean on as well.
A big ol' Dutch Oven or oven safe pot with a tight fitting lid. We're baking/roasting these onions. Cool, eh?
Oven proof crocks: These can be large ramekins or cool ceramic bowls. They just need to be able to withstand broiling temperatures.
Some helpful Instructables (For you Extreme DIYers - Someday I will join you):
(Note: I don't know these folks, but I thought some readers might like to really make it all for themselves, and so found these. They will help make your slow soup even slower)
Step 2: Cut the Onions - Insert in Oven
I regret I do not have a photo of myself, but the only other person in the room was my 1 year old. I regret, because I wear swim goggles when I cut onions. And you'll need to cut those onions! If you have a mandolin or v-slicer, this job will be amazingly more easy - and if you make your own v-slicer, that's so amazingly cool.
Before slicing, spray the bejesus out of the inside of the dutch oven and throw in the butter.
Anyway, the best way to slice is longitude-style. Chop the roots off and cut in half pole to pole. Then, slice thin wedges. Perhaps, 1/2 cm slices. As you get the slices cut, toss them in the dutch oven. It should be pretty darn full by the time you're done. At this point, sprinkle a generous pinch of salt over the onions.
Put the lid on nice and firm and slide the whole shebang into the oven. Wait one hour.
What's going on in there? The nice tight lid is keeping the moisture in the dutch oven and that is sweating the onions down.
Note: As you slice those onions, keep the skins and trimmings. You can freeze these for another day when you are making stock. Or, put them in the ol' mulch pail for the compost heap. Or save the skins for home dye day. I prefer the stock option - I have a chicken stock bag I keep in the freezer after making chicken and it's great for veggie scraps, too since they all go in the pot.
Step 3: Stir, Repeat Ovening
You'll put the pot back into the oven for more of the same. Stir the onions after an hour. If you're feeling brave, you can leave the lid a cockeyed so steam can get out. I am not so brave as my lid tends to fall off. If you do this, put the pot in the oven before you set the lid on. Mix the onions again after an hour, but you'll leave them in there for about an hour and half.
I don't know the decimal conversion for hours. If only Dan Ackroyd were here.
Step 4: Carmelize and Deglaze
It is at this point you will pull the pot and set it on the stove top over medium heat. The onions are less moist, but a lot of that moisture is still in the pot and you want to get that out. Resist the urge to crank the heat and allow them to carmelize slowly. You're looking for a deep mahogany color.
Mathematically speaking, Mahogany = Delicious if and only if we are not discussing wood.
You'll also have a few onions "catching" on the bottom of the pot. That's okay. After you've reached that perfect color, it is time to deglaze.
To deglaze, pour in your wine and start scraping the bottom. This will get those amazingly delightful little bits off the bottom. Keep your heat high enough and your wine will reduce until you have a lovely syrupy oniony mixture.
EDIT: I thought I'd throw in here, that if you so choose you can pull the onions at this point and use them on hamburgers or for onion jam. It's an amazing burger topping. I can this "jam" for Christmas.
Step 5: Finish for the Day
When your wine has reached a nice syrupy consistency pour in your broth. Do this a cup at a time to help deglaze any extra deliciousness (called "fond" because we're fond of it). This should take a quart of stock, but it could take less or more. It's really up to you. I like a good thick soup, so I do a little less. If you use all the stock, there will be no problems because you can a) leave it as is or b) reduce it until its the consistency you like. Option B will give you a richer soup.
This is the point we add our herbage as well. I toss in my bay leaf and thyme at this point, and sometimes a little extra splash of wine or apple cider (I didn't tell you about that because it is a secret ingredient). If you're using fresh thyme with all the stems and whatnot, you can tie it up in a little bouquet which has a French name as well. You'll take that out later.
Right now, you'll let this all simmer on the stove for 30 minutes. If you're at your preferred consistency this very second, toss in a cup or so of water so it will not get even thicker.
And then, let it cool and toss it in the fridge for the day. This is an optional step, but it tastes so much better the next day. Otherwise, go to the next little bit.
Step 6: Presentation
First things first, set your soup on the stove top to get nice and hot again. You may want to keep the heat low since you are going to be doing other things for a few minutes.
Take your baguette and slice it into... slices I guess. Shoot for about 3/4 in slices or 2 cm (and I know that's not a correct conversion). If you're wise, you'll do this yesterday when you made the soup. But I include the step here because you'll want to give the slices a little toasty-toasty. If you've a toaster oven, that's easy as can be. Otherwise, set them on a baking tray and toast them in the oven at 350. If you sliced yesterday, your bread will already be a bit hard so this will be a quicker process. I only toast one side, but you can do whatever you like. Once the slices are out of the oven, turn on the broiler and get one of the racks about 6 inches from it (this is also a good toaster oven application).
EASY MAKING TIP: Prep your crocks now. Put them on a baking sheet. This will make your life easier.
Once the soup is heated thoroughly ladle it out into your crocks. Leave a little room at the top so you can float the croutons on the top. I like to arrange the bread so there is not a lot of space left for soup to be seen. This is when you'll sprinkle your fancy cheese which I am very jealous of all over the top. I will sprinkle my mozzarella from the sack on it.
Slide the baking sheet into the oven and broil for three to ten minutes. Check this every few minutes because different cheeses can melt at different rates. You're shooting for a bubbly brown cheesy top. I prefer a toaster oven for this, actually, but they don't all have a broil function. If you've got it, it's a lot easier to keep an eye on the crocks.
Step 7: Enjoy!
Make sure the fam knows the crocks will probably be NASA hot when they get them. Burning the in-laws is a Bad Plan.
As I mentioned before, you can do this easily at work if you've got a toaster oven. You can even microwave it, but the bread won't be as crispy.
TIP: Impress your pals at the construction site by using the blowtorch!