A French onion soup recipe isn’t exactly uncommon. I am not even going to say this one is the best as in best ever French onion soup because that would be like saying my religion is the best, or the only, which is just not true.
So why publish or blog this recipe? Well because it is a really solid recipe and I want to talk about technique. In other words even if you already have an onion soup in your repertoire and have no intention of ever making a different one maybe you might pick up a little tidbit of information that you might want to apply to your already fantastic recipe.
There is nothing complicated about this recipe so if you have never made French onion and think you might want to, well, here ya go.
I did use rendered bacon fat in the recipe and here is why. I wanted to replicate some of the richness that I find in the ramen noodles recipe from the Momofuku cookbook. The smokey onion-y goodness of the fat is unbeatable. If you take offense to bacon fat then oil or butter would work just fine.
I use fontina cheese here. It is not the traditional comte or gruyere. Use what you like. I like all three but one is easier on the pocket book but that is your call.
Check your broiler and make sure it works before you start the recipe.
Makes 6 servings
1 1/2 tablespoon bacon grease, butter or vegetable oil
7 cups yellow onions, trimmed and cut into 1/4 inch slices
1/4 cup garlic, peeled, trimmed and sliced thinly
1 cup red wine
4 cups richly flavored stock
1 tablespoon dried thyme
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
1/2 pound Fontina, grated
4 to 6 toast rounds, or as I did, I griddled an English muffin half in rendered pork fat
1. Place one of your soup crocks on a sheet tray and put it in the oven. Try to adjust the oven rack so the top of the crock is about 5 to 8 inches from the broiler. Remove the tray.
2. Place a heavy bottomed large pot, the wider the pot the better the onions will cook, over medium heat and add the fat.
3. Once the fat has melted add the onions. Season them with about a 1/2 teaspoon of salt and, I like lots, fresh ground black pepper.
4. Walk away from the pan and do something else in the kitchen. Don’t stir them until all the onions have wilted down. The more you stir them the longer they will take to color. Don’t up the heat either you don’t want them seared brown but gently browned. So if your pan is not so heavy bottomed you may need to turn the heat down. Cooking the onions to the right color and consistency will take at least a half hour maybe even an hour. Drink a glass of wine, listen to some music and call it happy hour. Get your zen on and be the turtle, slow and steady. The hare’s onion soup sucks don’t go there.
5. Cook the onions until they soften, have gone from amber to brown and you notice brown bits of onion on the bottom of the pan. Those brown bits are flavor be careful not to burn them, turn the heat down if you need to. Add the garlic and thyme and cook until the garlic becomes fragrant. About a minute.
6. Add the cup of wine to deglaze the pan and reduce it by half.
7. Add the stock and bring the pot to a boil. You can turn up the heat if you need but then reduce the heat and simmer the soup to bring all the flavors together, twenty minutes or so.
8. Grab a tasting spoon and take a taste. Adjust the seasoning as necessary.
9. Preheat your broiler. Bowl up the number of bowls you need. Place them on a sheet tray. It is much easier to grab one tray then to try to grab 4 or 6 crocks with gooey cheese on top. Get the sheet tray out.
10. Top each crock with a toast round or English muffin, then pile on the cheese and bake under the broiler till everything is gooey and golden brown. Remove them from the oven and wait at least 5 minutes before digging in- these things are thermonuclear.