French Onion Soup

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If you’re freezing cold, have five hours to spare, a dutch oven, and love onions then this recipe is for you. This is one of Rob’s absolute favorite things in the world, and I usually make it (mess it up) once a year. Last year I burnt it so badly I had to add about a cup of sugar to it to even it out. He was sweet (no pun intended) and said he couldn’t even tell I’d royally messed it up. This year the stars must’ve been aligned or something because onions were on sale, it was like 5 degrees or something ridiculous on my day off, and I had motivation. This year it went smoothly, I only almost burnt 6lbs of onions once, and Rob skipped straight over the “mmm” of approval to, “is there more?”

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Ingredients:

5 – 6lbs of onions, halved then sliced into about ¼” slices (using the lines on the onions as guides. Go with them, not against them. If you go against them you’ll have stringy onions).
5 TBS butter cut into 3 pieces
Salt & pepper
1 Cup water plus extra for deglazing
2/3 C dry sherry
4-5 C chicken broth
2 C beef broth (I use better than boullion and hot water)
6 sprigs of fresh thyme tied together
1 bay leaf
Optional:
Croutons – as many as the number of people you’re serving
Gruyere cheese for the top shredded or sliced, whatever.

Heat your oven to 400 degrees and put the rack in the lower middle position. Spray your dutch oven with cooking spray and add all the onions, butter, and 2tsp of salt.

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Put the cover on and cook the onions in the oven for one hour.

onions after 1 hour of cooking in the oven at 400
onions after 1 hour of cooking in the oven at 400

Remove from the oven, stir the onions, and return to the oven with the lid slightly askew for another 1hour 45 minutes. After an hour take the onions out and stir them and scrape the sides of the pot.

onions after an additional hour in the oven, lid askew
onions after an additional hour in the oven, lid askew
onions after the final 45 minutes in the oven, lid askew
onions after the final 45 minutes in the oven, lid askew

Remove the onions from the oven and put them on the stove over medium high heat. Cook them and stir FREQUENTLY scraping the sides and bottom until the liquid evaporates and onions brown. (can take 15-20 minutes). If you feel like this is happening too fast turn the heat down to medium.

When the bottom of the pot is coated with a dark crust, add a 1/4 C water and scrape like hell to deglaze. All that good brown stuff will coat the onions and deepen their flavor.

I forgot to take a picture before deglazing the pan.  this is after one deglazing cycle.
I forgot to take a picture before deglazing the pan. this is after one deglazing cycle.

Cook until the water evaporates and another dark crust has formed, and deglaze again. Do this 3 or 4 times total until the onions are wicked dark brown and you can’t take it anymore.

what brown crust? oh, that brown crust.
what brown crust? oh, that brown crust.
like I said, scrape like your life depends on it.
like I said, scrape like your life depends on it.

Cook’s Note: DO NOT WANDER AWAY ONCE YOU PUT THE ONIONS ON THE STOVE. THEY ARE YOUR BABY. DO NOT TURN YOUR BACK ON A BABY. (trust me, if you burn them after you’ve put in 3+ hours of work you’re going to cry.)

Add the sherry and cook, stirring frequently, until the sherry evaporates. The onions will get a little gummy looking. I highly suggest taking a full 5 minutes for this step so that the flavor of the onions with the sherry really develops.

I use this sherry because the guy at the liquor store told me to.  He hasn't steered me wrong yet.
I use this sherry because the guy at the liquor store told me to. He hasn’t steered me wrong yet.
gummy sherry onions. YUM.
gummy sherry onions. YUM.

Stir in the 2 cups of beef broth to loosen the mass of onions that has developed so that the liquid and onions are evenly combined.

half the liquid added, onions evenly dispersed.
half the liquid added, onions evenly dispersed.

Then add the chicken broth and stir some more. If you taste this and you feel like you got slapped in the face with meat broth, add the cup of water. Use the liquid to scrape any brown bits from the sides of the pot, and then add the herbs.

look I tied a cute little bow just for this picture
look I tied a cute little bow just for this picture
I used two tiny bay leaves instead of one big one because that's all I had.
I used two tiny bay leaves instead of one big one because that’s all I had.

Increase heat to high until the soup simmers, then cover and reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes. After the 30 minutes discard the herbs and season with salt and pepper to taste.

FOR SERVING:

Arrange the croutons in oven safe dishes, ladle soup over the croutons, and arrange cheese on top. Put in the oven on broil (8 inches from broiler unit) and pull once the cheese has melted. This is optional. The soup is just as good without the frills. Also, supposedly you’re supposed to shred the cheese but I always seem to forget that step and just slice it.

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Now open the door or the windows because your kitchen is probably A THOUSAND DEGREES and you’re ready to fall over.

Happy husband can't believe I made him pose for a picture before allowing him to take a bite.
Happy husband can’t believe I made him pose for a picture before allowing him to take a bite.
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