I am a fan of soup. I would say that I make soup at least once a week. Usually more, especially in winter.
My husband is a huge fan of French Onion soup. Me, I will eat it, I never order it in a restaurant, but I like it and he loves it, so I figured I would give it a go and see if I could improve its standing with my mouth.
Epicurious is always at the top of my list while searching for “best” recipes. So I started with one on their site called Our Favorite French Onion Soup. They give really good advice, like use homemade beef broth, and use REALLY good cheese. I sort of focused on the first piece there and fell down on the second. So I will say to you, don’t skimp on the cheese. You need a really good and strong cheese on there to make a presence against that rather bland soup. (It’s not bland, but it is tame.) Of course, I substituted beer for the wine for our palates and I think it was a good choice. Be sure to really slow cook those onions to get that carmelized color and most importantly, flavor.
I remembered seeing Paula Deen make a French Onion with actual beef in it years ago, so I looked at her recipe. Of course she used sugar in there which is insane, at that level, don’t do it. But I still like the idea of the meat in the broth. And she uses Worcestershire and thyme to season which were lacking in Epicurious version and I added them.
So I purchased a bone with about 1/4 pound of meat attached and used it to create my broth. Happily I got out my pressure cooker for this task and got it done in about an hour. Yippee. Obviously with broth you can do this anytime prior, and I recommend doing this on a weekend day or some evening after supper and then using the broth on another day to quickly put your soup together. Also, letting it sit in the fridge a day or two actually improves it. When you strain out your veggies, just shred up the meat and toss it back into the broth.
So, all in all this was a successful combination of versions. Epicurious recommends putting the sherry into the soup bowl and then adding soup on top which I think works better than incorporating into the broth like Paula does…or just omit that and you will still be happy. But be sure to get the Gruyere cheese for the top.
The thing that I don’t like about French Onion soup is trying to cut that bread slice with my spoon. You need to use substantial bread so it doesn’t just dissolve in the hot broth. I used a nice ciabatta baguette which held it’s shape really well. But then I had the trying-to-cut the bread problem. When I reheated the leftovers a day later, I cut the bread into oversized croutons…SUCCESS! They survived the broth, but were now pick-upable with my spoon. PERFECTION because by then I had also nabbed a hunk of Gruyere.