French onion soup was always a treat when we went out to a restaurant when I was growing up (or at wedding receptions and funeral luncheons). My dad started making it in the last years of his life, but I'm not sure I ever wrote the recipe down so a year ago I found myself hunting for one. I found one from Epicurious, but when I went to make it again this year, I made some changes to recipe, mainly using the crock pot to allow the ingredients to meld for several hours rather than just thirty minutes. Several people told me this is the best French onion soup they've ever had so I'm sharing exactly what I did.
I also made my own bread (using this recipe) and a day before we were serving the soup, my husband cut the bread into pieces and we let it dry out so it would be hard when I placed it on top of the soup and before I added the cheese.
Finally, I doubled the original recipe because there were five of us and it was served as a main course (and I like having enough to around for a few evenings afterward). The recipe you see below is the doubled version.
Makes approximately 10 servings, depending on the size of bowl that you use. It's also important to use bowls that are heat proof because they are placed in the oven under the broiler to melt the cheese. We have Fiestaware.
4 pounds, mix of yellow and white onions, halved lengthwise, then thinly seized lengthwise
4 teaspoons of dried thyme
5 bay leaves
2 teaspoons salt
1 stick unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
4 teaspoons all-purpose flour
8 cups beef broth (reduced sodium if you can find it!)
3 cups water
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
10 (1/2 inch thick) slices of a baguette or French bread that has been hardened
1/2 pound Gruyere cheese, sliced thinly
1/2 pound smoked provolone cheese, sliced thinly
4 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
Melt butter in a large dutch oven or heavy pot over moderate heat. Add onions, thyme, bay leaves, and salt. Stir, uncovered, about 45 minutes when the onion are soft and golden brown. While they are cooking, mix the water and the broth in the crock pot and turn it on so everything is warm by the time you are ready for it. It can stay on high heat the whole cooking time.
Add the wine and mix, cooking for about two minutes. Then add the flour and mix for a minute. Pour the mixture into the crock pot and allow to cook for several hours. Because the flour went in last, it won't be as dark as most French onion soup.
When ready to serve, place bowls on a sturdy pan and divide soup into crocks. Float a slice of bread on top and then place sliced pieces of both cheeses on top of the soup/bread/bowl to cover the surface. Sprinkle some parmesan to finish it.
Broil several inches from the heat in the oven until the cheese is melted and bubbly, usually a few minutes.