4 lbs yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced
2 quarts beef stock
1/3 cup vermouth
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
6 sprigs thyme (tied together)
2 bay leaves
bread rounds (day old slices of a baguette or artisan white does well)
shredded Gruyère (I used cave aged Gruyère)
Heat the olive oil and butter in large skillet or saucepan. Add the onions. It is okay if they are mounded high in the pan, they will cook down quickly. Cover and cook the onions until just beginning to soften, stirring occasionally so they cook evenly. Stir in the balsamic and remove the lid. Cook until the onions are caramelized, stirring very occasionally, about 40 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the vermouth. Add the stock, salt, pepper, bay leaves and thyme. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and thyme. Bake the bread and cheese on a baking sheet for 5 minutes at 350 and transfer them to the top of the soup. Alternatively, divide the soup among oven safe bowls. Top with a slice or two of bread and sprinkle with cheese. Bake for 10 minutes at 350. If you have broiler safe bowls and a roomy broiler, top with bread and cheese and broil until the cheese melts.
Note: I wanted to speed up the dinner process so I caramelized the onions and deglazed the pan in the morning and then refrigerated them until I was ready to make dinner. You could do this the night before if desired. Follow the rest of the directions as written about.
I don’t see French onion soup on menus very often anymore (too ’60s?) which is shame because it is one of the few soups that can pull off being elegant and rustic at the same time. Luckily, it is easy to make at home. It is slightly time consuming, there is nothing difficult about the recipe. Caramelizing onions is a hands off activity for the most part and you barely need to stir the soup as it cooks. There are a lot of variations in recipes for the soup: everything from using sweet onions (not needed, yellow onions a quite sweet once caramelized, no need to make candy) to including apple cider (ew!) and a lot of different cheeses. I created this recipe to make my own ultimate French onion soup, one that is very flavorful but not too rich. I dispense with the sugar many recipes call for and use balsamic vinegar to help along the caramelization process while adding to the depth of flavor. I am also fond of floating a slice of bread on the top of the soup rather than broiling the whole thing. Same flavor, maybe slightly less cheese and no need to buy broiler safe bowls.