I hate french onion soup. There aren't a lot of foods I really detest, but I've made two of them in the last week for this blog (the other to come next week), and french onion soup is one of them. I'd argue my rationale is valid- without going into detail, it involves a Panera, a group study session, food poisoning and missing the first exam of my college career.
Since then, I have never eaten french onion soup (and I lived in France for a year, got married there, spent my honeymoon and three other recent vacations there- my commitment to avoiding it is truly admirable, if I say so myself). Not only have I completely abstained from french onion soup for the last fourteen years, but I also have only eaten anything made with beef broth maybe a half dozen times in that span. My hatred runs deep.
Because I haven't had french onion soup in that long, I have literally never eaten it in front of Judson. But I realised I didn't want to make a giant batch and be stuck with it if he didn't like it either, so I asked him if he did: 'UGH, french onion soup,' he sneered. 'YOU DON'T LIKE IT EITHER? How did I never know this?!' I asked, shocked. He responded 'it's not that I don't like it, it's just a food that's not fancy but that people eat when they want to BE fancy, and that bugs me. Why? Don't you like it?'
And that's how we each found out something new about the person we've been married to for almost six years. On account of all this, I only made us two servings of it because, I mean, what if I couldn't handle it? It turns out that Judson quite likes the act of eating french onion soup, it's just the idea of it he can't handle, so he didn't mind either. And really, what's not to like here? Onions cooked low and slow until they're sweet and soft, a deep, flavourful broth and seriously, what other soup do you get to serve with the melted cheese right on it, already broiled to a crisp?
This version of the recipe is insanely easy- put your onions on and forget about them; add your broth and forget about it; when ready to eat, reheat under the broiler with a mozzarella crouton and you're golden- literally, that's the colour your toast should be. Best eaten with a glass of Pinot Noir and a film you've been dying to see (we went with Mindhorn) while you watch the snow swirl outside your window.
One note: my beef broth phobia runs deep, so I went on a limb and used the best quality I could get for this recipe- since it's literally half the ingredients of the soup, I'd recommend going top-notch with it. I didn't have any homemade, so I used the best quality stockpot I could get my hands on and upping the awesome factor with some fresh thyme, a glug of verjus (you can use wine, I just happened to have verjus to hand), and a generous pinch of brown sugar because I like the way it plays off the onions.
4 spoons out of five. I don't think I can properly call myself a fan of french onion soup yet, but if anything is going to convince me, the simplicity of this recipe will be it.
Chop onions into bite-size pieces.
Heat the butter in a large stockpot JUST until melted, then turn heat as low as possible.
Add onions, stir to coat with butter, and add the brown sugar if using.
Put the lid on the pot and allow to cook for 1 hour, checking occasionally to be sure they haven't dried out.
After one hour, add beef stock.
If using the thyme, bay leaf, and verjus/wine, add it now.
Stir well, and bring to a gentle simmer.
Allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes, until heated through.
Meanwhile, toast baguette slices until just crisped through but not yet browned.
Warm your grill (broiler in the US) and place an oven tray in the top 1/3 of oven.
Taste soup and adjust seasoning (ours needed a hint of brightness, so I added a spoonful more wine here).
Ladle the soup into two ovenproof bowls, place the toasted baguette on top of each bowl, and place the mozzarella on top of the bread.
Place the soup in the oven and toast until mozzarella is blistered and bubbly and soup is bubbling underneath.
Remove from oven, garnish with an extra thyme sprig if desired, and eat immediately.
Yields 2 generous servings.
3 large onions
2 tbsp (28g) butter
Scant 2 cups (400ml) beef stock
2 slices from a baguette
2 slices mozzarella cheese
Optional: 1 tsp brown sugar, 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, 1 bay leaf, 2 tbsp verjus or wine.