French Onion Soup

French Onion SoupBon aperitif!
For the most part, I don’t use a lot of alcohol in the recipes I make. Except for wine. And beer. OK, maybe I just don’t use the hard stuff a lot with the exception of the occasional tequila lime shrimp (or chicken). All kidding aside, I do tend to leave alcohol out of certain recipes if I think they don’t really need it. For example, I leave the booze out of my tiramisu because I think the flavor competes too much with the coffee. Blasphemy, I know.

There are some recipes, though, where that alcohol flavor is a must. Beef and Guinness Stew is one. Coq au Vin is another. (I mean, it’s in the name. You can’t leave it out.) And, of course, desserts too numerous to count, that can either be lit on fire or not. (I see you Bananas Foster Bread Pudding).

Sometimes, you just gotta add a little pick-me-up to whatever your making. A splash of white wine in your Chicken Pot Pie gravy makes a world of difference without overpowering everything else. And having a little glass for yourself while you cook is a lovely reward for your hard work. I confess to having a bit more reward than usual lately. I have found it a little bit harder in recent days to leave the happy bubble that is my kitchen but, alas, we must soldier on.

If there is one recipe that requires the addition of alcohol to make it right, it is French Onion Soup. Not only do the flavors of wine and Cognac give the soup its distinctive flavor, but it’s also just so French.

With the weather actually feeling a bit fall-like this week, I am planning on making Julia Child’s version this weekend. It is quintessentially French and Julia would definitely be okay with a little wine for you as well as the soup…

French Onion Soup
Adapted from Julia Child and the Food Network
Yields 4 servings

1/2 stick butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 cups thinly-sliced onions (about 2-1/2 pounds)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon flour
8 cups good quality beef stock
1/4 cup Cognac
1 cup dry white wine
8 (1/2-inch) thick slices of French bread, toasted
3/4 pound coarsely-grated Gruyere
Fresh thyme leaves for garnish (optional)

Cook the onions
Place a heavy saucepan over moderate heat and add the butter and oil. When the butter has melted, stir in the onions, cover, and cook slowly until tender and translucent (about 10 minutes). Blend in the salt and sugar, turn up the heat to medium-high, and allow the onions to brown, stirring frequently until they are a dark walnut color (about 25 to 30 minutes).

Sprinkle the flour over the onion mixture and cook slowly, stirring the whole time (another 3 to 4 minutes).

Prepare the stock
Heat up two cups of the beef stock. Remove the onion mixture from the stove and allow it to cool a moment. When it has cooled, whisk in 2 cups of hot stock. When the flour is well incorporated, bring the mixture to a simmer.

Add the remainder of the stock, Cognac, and wine. Cover loosely, and simmer very slowly adding a little water if the liquid reduces too much (about 1-1/2 hours).

Taste for seasoning.

Finish the soup
Preheat the Broiler.

Divide the soup among 4 ovenproof bowls. Arrange the toasted French bread on top of the soup and sprinkle it generously with the grated Gruyere and lightly with thyme leaves (optional).

Arrange the bowls on a cookie sheet and place them under the preheated broiler until cheese melts and forms a crust over the tops of the bowls.

Serve immediately.

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