Normally after the market on Saturday I head home, have lunch, and either work on our books or get started on production (or both). I've been feeling tired lately, so I decided laziness was in order and rather than focusing on the business, I turned my attention the Slow Food Challenge.
I love french onion soup. The sweetness....the saltiness....the gooey cheese. Yum. For a long time I was in search of the best recipe that I could make at home. Turns out that the folks at Cook's Illustrated were doing quite the same thing! Since we don't eat meat and try to avoid meat broths whenever possible, I adjusted the recipe a bit. Every time I make it, I vary it slightly depending on what we have around the house. I'm not sure what it tastes like made exactly as written, but I never been unhappy with a result.
This is a not a quick recipe, but its not a demanding one either and the time spent is truly worth it. Without fail, I decide to make this mid/late afternoon meaning that it's finally done at 9 or 10pm. Thankfully, it's even better the next day, so I'm never sorry.
Best (Veggie) French Onion Soup Ever (really....I mean ever)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 3 pieces
6 large yellow sweet onions
8 cups water, plus more for deglazing
2.5 tablespoons Seitenbacher Veggie Broth (amazing stuff....small container of seasonings that you add to water...we no longer buy veggie broth)
1/2 cup dry sherry (I left this out...thought I had it and didn't)
6 springs fresh thyme, tied with kitchen twine
1 bay leaf
Bread/bagette for croutons
Cheese - your choice (Gruyere is typical and lovely, but quite expensive...anything swiss-ish will do)
For the soup:
1. Adjust the oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Generously spray the inside of a heavy-bottomed large (at least 7-quart) Dutch oven with a nonstick cooking spray. Place the butter in the pot and add the onions and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, covered, for 1 hour (the onions will be moist and slightly reduced in volume). Remove the pot from the oven and stir the onions, scraping the bottom and sides of the pot. Return the pot to the oven with the lid slightly ajar and continue to cook until the onions are very soft and golden brown, 1½ to 1¾ hours longer, stirring the onions and scraping bottom and sides of pot after 1 hour.
3. Carefully remove pot from oven and place over medium-high heat. Using oven mitts to handle pot, cook onions, stirring frequently and scraping bottom and sides of pot, until the liquid evaporates and the onions brown, 15 to 20 minutes, reducing the heat to medium if the onions are browning too quickly. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the pot bottom is coated with a dark crust, roughly 6 to 8 minutes, adjusting the heat as necessary.
4. Stir in ¼ cup water, scraping the pot bottom to loosen crust, and cook until water evaporates and pot bottom has formed another dark crust, 6 to 8 minutes. Repeat process of deglazing 2 or 3 more times, until onions are very dark brown. Stir in the sherry and cook, stirring frequently, until the sherry evaporates, about 5 minutes.
5. Stir in the broths, 2 cups of water, thyme, bay leaf, and ½ teaspoon salt, scraping up any final bits of browned crust on bottom and sides of pot.
6. Increase heat to high and bring to simmer. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove and discard herbs, then season with salt and pepper.
For the bread:
1. While the soup simmers, arrange the bagette slices in single layer on baking sheet and bake in a 400-degree oven until the bread is dry, crisp, and golden at edges, about 10 minutes. Set aside.
Adjust oven rack 6 inches from broiler element and heat broiler. Set individual broiler safe crocks on baking sheet and fill each with about 1¾ cups soup. Top each bowl with 1 or 2 baguette slices (do not overlap slices) and top with cheese. Broil until cheese is melted and bubbly around edges, 3 to 5 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.
Quick version: Warm up soup, toast bread, top with cheese. The heat of the soup & bread will melt the cheese in just a few minutes. Still just as yummy.
Total Time - A little over five hours (I warned you)
Total Cost (approx) - $20
Total Servings - 6
Cost per Serving - $3.33
So, a hearty, satisfying meal for $3.33? Woohoo....Slow Food Challenge Success!