It's all about the onions (and stock) in Lindy's French Onion Soup.
The making of Lindy's French Onion Soup
When my oldest son came to visit, he had a hankering for some very specific foods, and one of them was my French Onion Soup. A lot of recipes, and chefs, will tell you it's the stock, and yes, good stock is important, I also find that slow caramelization of the onions is just as important. Low and slow is the way to go...
"Slow caramelization of the onions is key to Lindy's French Onion Soup"
How to Properly Caramelize Onions
First of all, as I mentioned before, slowly.
There are a number of methods that chefs use, the worst of which, IMHO, is to add sugar to them to speed up the browning process. This method might result in the right "look" but it won't result in the right "taste.
Mark Bittman, in his book How to Cook Everything Vegetarian states "If there ever was a dish that you could cook until done, this is it" and I totally agree. You can have onions that are caramelized almost to jam, and those that are very limp and light brown. How deep you color them depends a lot on what you are going to use them for.
For this recipe, we are going for a medium-dark. Nice browned edges, a little bit of translucency, and a lot of flavor.
That's not too much to ask for, is it?
I don't think so.
About Beef Stock
Making homemade beef stock is a pain in the a$$. Really, it is.
But it can be so rewarding.
As Julia Child says in her book The Way to Cook, "making your own stock will give your soup its own special flavor" And that is so true, but you have to:
Get the bones.
Make the Mirepoix (that's the combo of onion, carrots, garlic, celery, herbs, you know, Mirepoix = French for chopped veggies)
Roast it all in the oven until nicely caramelized.
THEN: Put in a stockpot and cook for a few hours at least to get all the flavor you can.
AND THEN: Strain and use.
If you have time, the bones, and the energy, do it.
If not, buy a good-quality beef stock.
I actually like Rachael Ray's Stock (not so much her, sorry Rachael) and I don't like Kitchen Basics anything.
If you do, then I'm sorry.
Not about Rachael, but about Kitchen Basics.
Buy low-sodium when you can. As I always say, you can add too much easier than you can take away.
Now, let's cook some Lindy's French Onion Soup!
Lindy's French Onion Soup
- 3 pounds onions cut in half and sliced (I don't slice mine super thin, nor super thick, just between ¼ and ½ inch, what is that? ⅓ inch?) I used a combo half Vidalia (or other sweet onion) and half regular yellow.
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil or butter, or combo of the two
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 large cloves garlic sliced
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- ½ cup dry white vermouth
- ¼ cup dry sherry
- 6 cups beef stock use homemade or a quality low-salt one
- 1 cup water
- Rind of the gruyere if you have it
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 6 slices about ½ inch thick French bread, toasted in the oven
- 6 ounces gruyere cheese grated or sliced
- Special Equipment: 6 8 - ounce flameproof soup crocks or ramekins
- Heat the oil (and butter) over medium-high heat in a heavy pot or Dutch oven; when hot, add the onions, stir well. Once the onions start to cook and just begin to brown on the edges, turn the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally for about 1 hour, or until they are caramelized and very soft. Turn the heat up to medium. Stir in the garlic, thyme and bay leaf; sauté for 1 - 2 minutes, then add the flour, stir in and sauté again for a few minutes; now pour in the vermouth and sherry and stir, allow to cook down for about 5 minutes. Add the beef broth, water, and gruyere rind (if using), simmer for 30 - 45 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings with salt and freshly ground pepper.
- Meanwhile: Toast the French bread slices in the oven and grate or slice the cheese.
- Ladle the soup into the crock, place a bread slice on top and top with grated cheese. Place under the broiler until the cheese melts, about 2 - 3 minutes. Serve hot!