French onion soup is one of those traditional dishes that I always think about ordering at a Bistro but never do. I can’t actually remember the last time I ate this amazing peasant style soup.
I was inspired to make it after one of the wine vendors I work with at Co-opportunity mentioned that the first time he tried the sherry he had just sold me (Tio Pepe) was drizzled over French Onion soup, in France no less. Well, that was all the prompting I needed! Particularly when I noticed that the co-op had some gorgeous vidalia onions, there was nothing to do but give this a go.
While French onion soup is most known for its mass of carmelized onions, the stock is an extremely important supporting player. This is one of the few times that I would adamantly recommend making your own stock, be it beef or lamb or vegetarian. The stock and the onion are what give the soup its flavor, so don’t skimp on either!
I had some lamb bones in the freezer leftover from Easter dinner and placed them in a pot full of water with a dash of cider vinegar to make my stock. Just boiling them for 1 hour was enough to create a great stock. The addition of chicken stock (which can be store bought) and the water helped cut the richness of the lamb stock but ensured a firm base of a complex stock. I added the fresh bay leaves and rosemary to round out the savoriness of the soup, a personal preference.
French Onion Soup
4 large Vidalia onions, peeled, halved and sliced in 1/4 inch slices
3 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups beef/lamb/vegetable stock*
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup water
2 bay leaves (fresh if possible)
3 inch sprig fresh rosemary
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
crusty french bread slices, 1 per serving
Sherry for drizzling
*if you use vegetable stock be sure to add a piece of kombu seaweed when you make the stock to give it the complexity of flavor that animal stocks provide.
In large pot sweat butter and onions until carmelized (30-40 minutes over medium high heat). Add the stocks, water, salt, bay leaves, rosemary, salt and pepper and bring to boil. Reduce to simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Skim fat off the top if you choose. Serve immediately with toasted bread set on top of the bowl, sprinkle cheese on top and run under the broiler for a few minutes until cheese is melted and browned. Allowing the soup to sit overnight will enable the flavors to marry. Drizzle Sherry on top if desired.
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