I went to dinner in Philly with a friend recently and my friend ordered French Onion Soup. Unfortunately. They were convinced after this bowl that they didn’t like French Onion Soup. The broth was thin like dishwater and the cheese was mozzarella. The two most important things in this simple French Onion Soup are the broth and cheese - they both need to be flavorful and they were not.
First the stock. If you really want a deep, rich soup, you need to make your own.
3 pounds beef bones (Available at New Castle Farmers Market)
1 pound of marbled (but cheaper) meat like chuck
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1½ tablespoons coarse sea salt, or to taste
1 to 2 celery stalks
1 large carrot
1 large onion, 2 leeks, or a bunch of leek greens
1 whole clove or star anise pod
2 to 6 garlic cloves
5 to 7 sprigs fresh thyme or dill
5 to 7 sprigs fresh parsley
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
Preheat the oven to 450ºF. Lay the bones out on a rimmed baking sheet and roast until well browned, 25 to 35 minutes.
Put the bones in a crockpot and add all the remaining ingredients. Cover with 3 to 3½ quarts of water. Cook on low for 10-12 hours. If you have a pressure cooker, cook it for 3-3.5 hours. Use the broth or stock right away, or store it in the refrigerator or freezer. Using cheesecloth, strain the solids out of the stock. Remove the meat and set aside. Keep broth warm.
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 to 4 large red or yellow onions (about 3 pounds), peeled and thinly sliced
¾ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
2 quarts beef stock (8 cups)
1 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon dry sherry
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon black pepper, plus more to taste
1 box Texas Toast Garlic bread
1½ cups grated Gruyère cheese
Melt butter in a heavy Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions and ½ teaspoon salt, stir and cover, letting onions soften for 5 minutes. Remove lid and let onions caramelize until golden brown over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Adjust heat if onions are browning too quickly. The caramelization process may take 45 to 60 minutes.
Once onions are caramelized, add wine and sherry to the pot and allow mixture to come to boil. Stir in flour and let thicken for a minute or two.
Slowly add warm broth, ¼ teaspoon salt and the pepper to the onion mixture and boil uncovered for 10 minutes. Add more salt and pepper to taste.
Cook the Texas Toast according to directions.
Heat the broiler, and arrange individual ovenproof casseroles on a baking sheet. Ladle soup into casseroles, and cover top with bread slices. Sprinkle each casserole generously with Gruyère.
Broil for a minute or two, watching carefully, until cheese melts and browns. Serve immediately with a bottle of Pinot Noir or a lightly oaked Chardonnay like Lloyd Carneros - one of my faves.