Even though we haven't had a traditional winter here, little snow to speak of and only a handful of bitterly cold days, that doesn't mean we should miss out on our opportunity to make some classic winter dishes, before this winter (or what we've had of it) slips away into early spring.
Of course a really great French Onion Soup requires just a couple of ingredients and the time to let them develop into a surprisingly complex soup that hits all the notes; sweet and complexly meaty with a bit of a subtle tang. To create a rich broth with a buttery quality, I simmered roasted marrow bones (which by the way can be found at almost any grocery store for just a couple of dollars) and then in a separate skillet I caramelized onions until they developed a nice golden sheen and sweetness. I do this in a separate pan because if I were to add those beautiful caramelized onions to my simmering stock, I'd run the risk of them disintegrating. Thus, I add them to my soup at the very last minute. Getting back to my stock, along with the roasted marrow bones, I add the classic trio of carrots, onions and celery then a couple of bay leaves and some sprigs of fresh thyme. Then I simmer it for at least 4 hours (although it gets even better the longer you let it go).
Besides the caramelized onions and rich broth, the third part (and my most favorite) is the crouton raft and melted gruyere cheese that sits on top. The bread absorbs the broth and you have to wrestle with the cheese but to me that's the fun of eating French Onion Soup in the first place. And even though I think a grey snowy day is ideal for a soup like this, it's certainly not a requirement. So check out the recipe below and get your stock pot out...it's soup time!
French Onion Soup
- 2-3 marrow bones
- 6 onions; 2 of them cut into fourths, 4 of them cut into thin half-moon slices
- 4 carrots, scrubbed and cut into 1 inch pieces
- 4 celery stalks, cleaned and cut into 1 inch pieces
- Olive Oil for the pan + 1 pat of butter
- 3 Bay leaves
- 7 sprigs of fresh thyme
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Splash of Sherry Vinegar
- Sourdough Bread, cubed and toasted (any bread you have on hand works well here too)
- Enough shredded Gruyere cheese for the top of each soup
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. On a foil lined baking sheet, roast marrow bones until they start to get fragrant and brown a bit. Remove from oven and set aside. In a medium size skillet, melt 1 pat of butter and enough olive oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan. Add the thinly sliced onions and a generous pinch of salt. Stir onions to coat them in butter/olive oil mixture and reduce heat to low, continuing to stir every once in a while until the onions are very soft and deep brown in color.
In a stock pot, Add the other two onions, celery and carrots. Add a pinch of salt and sweat the vegetables until they start to get a little golden in spots. Add the marrow bones, bay leaf and thyme. Add just enough water to cover the bones and vegetables in the pot. Bring water to a boil and then reduce to simmer. Continue to simmer for at least 4 hours, preferably 6-8 hours.
Strain the liquid and discard the vegetables and bones. Return liquid to pot and add caramelized onions. Season to taste with salt, pepper and Sherry Vinegar. Ladle into oven safe bowls and top with croutons and cheese. Heat until the cheese melts and serve immediately.
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