I was thrilled when I received a copy of the Balthazar cookbook...and that it contained their recipe for French Onion Soup Gratinee. The secret to their soup’s rich flavor are caramelized onions, wine in the broth, freshly grated gruyere cheese…and a bit of port added to the pot just before each bowl is assembled. We’ve had a stressful week at Casa Garcia, and this soup was the perfect prescription! Michael and I have been fighting off post-holiday sniffles and coughs, and our older cat Lucy came down with a severe inner-ear infection and resulting vertigo. Last weekend, she was in the pet hospital overnight on IV meds and has been very disoriented all week. She’s able to walk a bit now without falling over…and she’s eating and drinking…but only after a few days of syringe feeding and twice-daily meds. We needed comfort food…and this soup was just the ticket on a chilly Texas evening!
We lit the fireplace and settled in for crocks of this delicious and comforting soup. I made a few minor tweaks to Balthazar’s recipe: I used a combo of beef and chicken stock and added 2 beef bouillon cubes for added richness. I also used red wine instead of white wine in the stock -- it's what I had opened. Finally, I added two slices of round provolone picante on top of each bowl for presentation. I figured a little extra cheese couldn't hurt! This soup does take a bit of time to prepare in order to properly caramelize the onions. However, most of the cooking time is hands-off. This recipe went from chopping the onions to ready-to-eat in about 1.5 hours. I made a half batch of the recipe, which makes 3-4 bowls of soup. Feel free to double the ingredients if you have a bigger crowd to feed.
Freaking Good French Onion Soup
adapted from The Balthazar Cookbook
Step 1: Slice two medium yellow onions in half through the root end, and slice each half in to 1/4-inch slices. Heat 3 tbs. olive oil in a Dutch over over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until they turn golden and are very soft -- about 30 minutes. Give them a stir ever few minutes to make sure they don't burn! Then, add the following ingredients to the pot: 1 tbs. butter, 1 grated garlic clove, 2 sprigs fresh thyme, and 1 bay leave. Stir to combine and cook for another 10 minutes, stirring frequently for even cooking. The pictures below show the progression of coloring during the cooking process.
Step 2: Add 1/2 cup red wine to the pot and raise heat to high. Bring to boil and reduce the wine in half -- this takes about 3-5 minutes. Then, add 3 cups beef stock, 2 cups chicken stock, and two beef bouillon cubes to the pan. Bring to a boil, then cover. Lower heat to med-low and simmer for 45 minutes. At the very end, add 1/4 cup port to the pot and give a quick stir to combine.
Step 3: Turn on broiler. Ladle the soup into 3-4 oven-safe bowls or crocks and place on a large baking sheet. Top each bowl of soup with a thick slice of toasted country white bread. Top the bread with 1/3 cup of shredded gruyere cheese and two round slices of provolone picante. Broil for 3-4 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly and starting to brown. Keep a close watch...cheese can go from brown to burnt very quickly!
Verdict: Success…this pot of French onion soup is truly blog-worthy! This hearty soup is a comforting meal in a bowl: rich stock, sweetly caramelized onions, toasty bread, and nutty gruyere combine to make the quintessential French onion soup. The little bit of port added at the end is truly the secret to this soup's rich depth of flavor. It's that little "something" that you can't put your finger on...but you know it's lingering in the background. This soup is essentially a meal in a bowl, but you can add a sandwich or simple salad on the side if you like. This soup tasted just like what we enjoyed at Balthazar – minus the marital spoon fight at the end!
Make sure to join us for a lively #SundaySupper Twitter chat this evening at 600 CST. We'll be discussing foods on our culinary bucket list for 2013...and how we have or will conquer them. What food or recipe is on YOUR bucket list for 2013? Leave me a comment below letting me know...and go visit my fellow #SundaySupper bloggers. They're marking recipes off their personal culinary bucket lists today too, and the recipes are fabulous!