One year for Christmas, when I was 19 or 20, my mom gave me this set of french onion soup bowls from Williams-Sonoma (that are sadly no longer made). I already had started a pretty awesome collection of kitchenware, but at the time, these soup bowls easily climbed to the top of my favorites. I had always loved french onion soup and immediately put the bowls to work, cranking out cheese and bread laden bowls full of piping hot soup as often as I could. Now, almost 10 years and countless kitchen/dining purchases later, they are still one of my favorite pieces, and something that I still use on the regular (and they look brand new!). Since I hadn’t shared the iconic dish yet, I thought I’d do a twist on the classic french onion soup with this three onion version (filled with leeks, yellow onions, and shallots) with sherry and white wine.
The part of this soup that takes the longest is the caramelizing of the onions. You have to do it low and slow to really bring out the best flavors. You can rush it but it definitely won’t taste the same. You’ll start out with this mound of onions and wonder how it’ll ever scale down, but it does, and then just turn down the heat a little and let them cook, developing their sweetness and rich flavor. After that, you just de-glaze the pan with some sherry and white wine, and then pour in the stock. I’m using chicken broth here since I didn’t have time to make a homemade beef broth, but if you have it in your house, definitely use that in place of. I wouldn’t recommend using store bought beef broth as there have been many sources that claim that it’s inferior to store bought chicken broth. I use store bought beef broth for many things, but not french onion soup, where you really only want the absolute best in terms of flavor since there are so few ingredients in this.
Then comes everyone’s favorite – the croutons and the cheese. It’s the most mandatory part of any french onion soup. I know I should tell you to wait and let it cool down after it’s been broiled to a bubbly golden brown, but realistically I know that won’t happen. You’ll be burning the roof of your mouth just like me, wanting to get that first cheesy bite.
- 3 Tbsp butter, unsalted
- 3 cups yellow onion (about 2-3 onions), sliced thin
- 2 cups leeks (about 3 leeks), white and light green part only, washed thoroughly and sliced thin
- 3-4 shallots, sliced thin
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- Salt and pepper
- 1/2 cup dry sherry
- 3/4 cup dry white wine (I used Sauvignon blanc)
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 sprigs of thyme
- 4 1/2 cups chicken stock
- 4-6 slices of baguette (may need more slices to cover the whole top of the soup), toasted in the oven until golden brown and crisp
- 1 lb Gruyere cheese, grated
- Thyme leaves, for garnish
- In a large pot over medium high heat, melt the butter. Once heated, add all of the onions and garlic. Stir to coat them in the butter and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Once the onions start to break down, lower the heat to medium low and cook, stirring frequently and scraping up any brown bits on the bottom as to not burn, until the onions are golden brown, anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour (or longer, depending). Season liberally with salt and pepper.
- Deglaze the pan with the sherry and bring to a simmer and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the wine and cook 2-3 minutes longer until the alcohol has had a chance to cook off. Add the bay leaf and sprigs of thyme, followed by the stock and raise the heat and bring the soup to a simmer. Lower the heat and cook for 15 minutes, uncovered.
- To serve, pre heat the broiler to high. Discard the bay leaf and thyme sprig, and ladle the soup into 4 oven-proof crocks. Top with the toasts (use 1-2 depending upon how much soup the slices cover, but don't overlap) and then sprinkle the cheese on top. Broil until the cheese is melted and starting to turn golden brown. Remove from the oven and garnish with thyme. Serve immediately.
Recipe adapted from epicurious