Out our way, the fall was warm and sunny this year – with the shortening days eventually delivering on cooler days and cold nights only over the last week or two.
We love to make onion soup on cool days like this – see my earlier “Scott’s Favorite French Onion Soup” recipe for one of our favorite recipes. The problem with that recipe is that it’s one of those “stand over the stove and stir” recipes – and, if you get a bit impatient and over eager with the heat, you’ll subtly char the onions and have a bitter result. It’s frustrating – you’re looking for a great soup but it just takes a bit longer than it should.
A recent issue of Cook’s Illustrated included a new “Best French Onion Soup” recipe that took a new and different approach – what I call an “all-afternoon” recipe. The workload is light at the beginning – after peeling/slicing the onions. It involves almost 3 hours of oven roasting of the onions – and then about 30 minutes of repeated deglazing at the end to finish it up. If you’re doing other things in or near the kitchen on a Sunday afternoon, this recipe delivers a great result. You need to not be in a hurry, working on other things, and just enjoying the day! We’ve made this recipe a couple of times recently – here’s our adaptation.
4 lbs yellow onions, sliced
into 1/4 inch slices
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup dry Sherry
2+ cups water
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups beef broth
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp dried thyme
Kosher salt, fresh ground
pepper to taste
- Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Using a large Dutch oven, spray the inside with non-stick cooking spray. (We use a La Cruset 5 qt oval French oven and it’s worked fine – although Cook’s Illustrated recommends at least a 7 qt.)
- Place the butter in the Dutch oven along with all of the sliced onions and 1 tsp salt. Cover and cook in the oven for 1 hour.
- Remove from oven, stir, and return to oven for 1 hour.
- Remove from oven, stir, and return to oven for 45 minutes.
- Remove from oven and place on stove over medium-high heat. Scape the sides and bottom of the pot while the onions brown further for 15-20 minutes.
- Add 1/4 cup water to deglaze, scrape the bottom and sides. When the water has boiled off, repeat two more times. This repeated deglazing takes 20-25 minutes total.
- Add the 1/2 cup dry Sherry and stir while letting it evaporate (4-5 mins).
- Add the 4 cups chicken broth, 2 cups beef broth, 2 cups of water, the bay leaf, and the dried thyme.
- Bring the heat up to high, when simmering, reduce to low, cover and let simmer for at least 30 minutes. Remove bay leaf, season with salt and pepper to taste.
(Added: December 16, 2007 – Menlo Park, California)