Sunday, December 5, 2010

French Onion Soup With Gruyere Cheese

I’ve tried a lot of onion soup recipes. I can’t imagine there is a recipe out there better than this one from Martha Stewart.

The Gruyere cheese is what makes this soup so don’t substitute another kind. I use a bit more sherry and always make homemade beef stock as it gives this soup a ton of flavor. Use sweet onions and buy a fresh French baguette from Foodstuffs, one of my favorite gourmet food stores in Lake Forest.

This is a great kickoff to any holiday dinner.

Bon Appetit!

French Onion Soup

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 pounds yellow onions, sliced 1/4-inch into half circles

1 teaspoon sugar

1 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 cup dry sherry

3 cups Homemade Beef Stock

2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme or 3/4 teaspoon dried thyme

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 small French baguette, sliced crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces

8 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated on the large holes of a box grater (about 3 cups)

Melt butter in a large Dutch oven or heavy pot on medium-low heat. Add onions. Spread them out in as thin a layer as possible. Sprinkle with sugar, and cook, stirring just as needed to keep onions from sticking, until they are melting and soft, golden brown, and beginning to caramelize, about 1 hour.

Sprinkle flour over onions, and stir to coat. Add sherry, stock, and thyme, and bring to a simmer. Cook, partially covered, for about 30 minutes, to allow the flavors to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, lightly toast bread under a broiler; set aside. Ladle hot soup into six ovenproof bowls. Arrange the bowls on a baking pan. Place 1 or 2 slices of toasted bread over each bowl of soup. Sprinkle 1/2 cup grated cheese over bread in each bowl, and place under the broiler until cheese is melted and crusty brown around the edges. Watch carefully that bread doesn't burn. Serve immediately.

Homemade Beef Broth

Makes 6 quarts

8 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley

6 sprigs fresh thyme or 3/4 teaspoon dried thyme

4 sprigs fresh rosemary or 2 teaspoons dried rosemary

2 dried bay leaves

1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns

1 pound beef-stew meat, cubed

5 pounds veal bones, sawed into smaller pieces

1 large onion, peel on, quartered

2 large carrots, cut into thirds

2 stalks celery, cut into thirds

2 cups dry red wine

Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Make a bouquet garni by wrapping parsley, thyme, rosemary, bay leaves, and peppercorns in a piece of cheesecloth. Tie with kitchen twine, and set aside. Arrange meat, veal bones, onion, carrots, and celery in an even layer in a heavy roasting pan. Roast, turning every 20 minutes, until the vegetables and the bones are deep brown, about 1 1/2 hours. Transfer the meat, bones, and vegetables to a large stockpot, and set aside. Pour off the fat from the roasting pan, and discard. Place the pan over high heat on the stove. Add wine, and use a wooden spoon to scrape up the brown bits; boil until the wine has reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Pour all of the liquid into the stockpot.

Add 6 quarts of cold water to the stockpot, or more if needed to cover bones. Do not add less water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a very gentle simmer. Add the reserved bouquet garni. Liquid should just bubble up to surface. Skim the foam from the surface, and discard. Simmer over the lowest possible heat for 3 hours; a skin will form on the surface of the liquid; skim off with a slotted spoon, and discard. Repeat as needed. Add water if at any time the level drops below the bones.

Strain the stock through a fine sieve into a large bowl. Discard the solids. Transfer the bowl to an ice bath, and let cool to room temperature. Transfer to airtight containers. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours, or overnight. Stock may be refrigerated for 3 days or frozen for 4 months. If storing, leave fat layer intact to seal the stock. Before using, remove the fat that has collected on the surface.