May as well start with the classics. We love good French Onion Soup, but I should warn that not overyone is enamored of the Cognac, particularly the young. I understand French Onion Soup in France, and particularly Paris, is regarded largely as a hangover remedy to be served at perhaps 2 or 3 am as the last thing before you go to bed. Works for me, but we traditionally have it as a dinner meal. Ours requires a little preparation and it is worth it. Don’t be in too much of a hurry. The onions will be sweeter the slower they’re cooked and the flavors more intense the more they’re layered.
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoon olive oil
3 pounds of yellow onions, peeled and sliced thin
Large pinch of sugar
4 tablespoons of flour
4 cups of Beef Stock
4 cups of Chicken Stock
1 cup of dry white wine
Cheesecloth herb bag with 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, 24 parsley sprigs, 16 peppercorns, and 2 bay leaves. Or thereabouts!
12 slices of day old very crusty French baguette cut 1 inch thick. The dryer the better, but we will be baking it to make it crusty
2 large garlic cloves, halved
1 cup finely minced onion
4 tablespoons Cognac or Dry Sherry
12 ounces of Gruyere cheese, shaved into thin slices to melt easily
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Kosher Salt and Fresh Cracked Pepper
Place the butter and olive oil in a large saucepan over moderately low heat. Add the onions, and toss them with the sugar. Cook them uncovered over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and caramelized. Usually about 40 minutes, but don’t be afraid to keep going until you get the color.
When the onions are the right color, add the minced garlic and cook for 2 minutes.
Deglaze with your chosen alcohol.
Add the flour and cook, stirring, for another 30 to 60 seconds. Add the stock, chosen alcohol, and cheesecloth herb bag. Salt and pepper to taste, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, partially covered, for 40 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Arrange the slices of bread on a baking sheet, brush both sides with melted butter, season with salt and pepper, and bake for 15 minutes. Turn once while baking or until golden. Rub with garlic at the end.
Transfer the soup to ovenproof crocks. Stir the minced onion and cognac into each crock. Cover the soup with bread slices, covering as much of the surface as possible. Lay the Gruyere slices over each crock, and let the cheese hang an inch or so over the sides. Sprinkle Parmigiano-Reggiano over the top and drizzle with melted butter. Bake for 15 minutes, until the cheese has melted.
Switch to preheated broiler and cook until the cheese is bubbly and slightly brown.
Variations and Embellishments
The Spanish crack and egg into each soup bowl and then broil until the egg is perfectly poached.
Some recipes add 1 Tbsp of Worcestershire sauce. Try it when you add the herb bag.
Fresh thyme or parsley sprinkled over top adds a nice touch of color.
Serve a couple extra cheese topped croutons so people can dip.