Friday, April 3, 2015

Viva La France!

Fabulous French Onion Soup
Mmmmmmm! So cheesy! So tasty!

Typical Oregon Spring . . . it's 70˚ outside - tank tops and flip flops for all! Just kidding, it's suddenly back down into the 30s, with damp foggy air! After flirting with the idea of bare legs and light summery dresses, I'm back to tights and sweaters. I'm also wanting something to warm me from the inside out. I LOVE French onion soup! It seems so elegant and sophisticated, but it's actually really easy to make and people love it. The only necessary special equipment are oven-proof crocks. I picked up two at the local thrift store for a few dollars last week so I can finally satisfy my craving for this hearty, cheesy soup. I did this batch vegetarian since I'm still in the midst of my Lenten meatlessness. Traditionally, the soup is made with beef broth, so if you're going meat-free bolster up that veggie stock with a little extra sherry for a deeper flavor! One of the other tricks I used, was rather than using a couple of slices of baguette for the topping, I made a batch of garlic croutons so that the melted cheese had more crevices to stick to. Croutons are such a great way to add heft to any soup and make use of stale bread. I included the "recipe" for the croutons, but really, it's just about toasting bread cubes in the oven with some olive oil. This soup recipe makes enough soup for two . . . if you have more mouths to feed, it's easy to double!

- 1 qt. vegetable stock
- 2 large sweet onions, peeled, halved and cut into thin slices
- 1 Tbsp. fresh thyme
- 1 Tbsp. butter
- 2 Tbsp. dry sherry
-  1 c. garlic croutons
- 1/2 c. grated cheese (I made a blend of gruyere, sharp cheddar, and Parmesan)
- 1 Tbsp. chopped Italian parsley
- salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350˚F and line a heavy baking sheet with foil. Arrange 4-6 cups bread cubes on the foil in an even layer. In a small bowl mash together 4 cloves garlic with 4 Tbsp. olive oil, whisk in 1 tsp. salt. Drizzle olive oil mixture over the bread cubes and toss together to coat evenly. Toast in oven for about 20-30 minutes until bread begins to dry out and turn golden brown. Remove from oven and set aside.
While the croutons are toasting, start caramelizing the onions. Melt butter in a large, heavy-bottomed pot (I used my round Dutch oven) over medium heat. Add sliced onions and stir to cover with melted butter, sprinkle with salt and pepper and chopped thyme. Once the onions have softened and just begun to brown, lower the heat and allow the onions to caramelize. Stir the onions occasionally as they cook down for 30 minutes or so. They should be very tender, brown, and sweet. Increase the heat to medium high and stir the onions. When the pan is hot add the sherry and deglaze the pan, scraping in brown bits of caramelized onion from the bottom with a wooden spoon. Add stock to the pan and bring to a boil. Decrease heat to medium-low and allow soup to simmer for 20-30 minutes until the broth has cooked down and the soup has thickened slightly. Remove pot from heat and turn on the broiler. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Ladle hot soup into oven-proof crocks then top soup with croutons. Sprinkle cheese blend and parsley on top of croutons. Set crocks on a baking sheet and place under broiler for the cheese to melt. (This will happen very quickly, so keep and eye on your oven so that you don't get a bunch of burned cheese.) When the cheese is hot and bubbly, remove crocks from oven and serve! Enjoy being warm and satisfied!