French Onion Soup
Serves 6 – 8
Unsalted butter or olive oil
4 large red onions, peeled, cut in half through the poles, then sliced thinly crosswise (save the peels and trimmings to put in the stock while it reduces if you like)
7 cups low-sodium chicken broth*
3 cups low-sodium beef broth*
½ cup dry red wine*
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper
½ teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
12 to 18 baguette slices
1 cup grated Swiss cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Put the stocks, wine, thyme, and bay leaf in a nonreactive saucepan (along with the onion trimmings if you still have them), heat to boiling over high heat. Reduce the heat to keep it at a good boil and reduce until it all measures 8 cups, about 15-20 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and the onion trimmings if you’ve used them. Set the stock mixture aside.
In a large Dutch oven with a lid, melt 2 tablespoons of butter or heat up the same amount of olive oil. Add the sliced onions and ¾ teaspoon of salt, ½ teaspoon of pepper, and the sugar. Stir everything up to coat the onions. Then put the lid on and cook for 15 minutes over medium-low heat. Take the lid off and stir. There will be liquid in the pot, and maybe a little browning. Continue to cook, stirring frequently. The liquid will evaporate and the onions will start to brown. You’re looking for a nice deep brown color, and a good bit of brown stuff stuck to the pot, too. If you see that it might be burning, add ¼ cup of water and stir everything up, including scraping the brown stuff off the pot and into the onions – then keep going. All in all, this will take up to 45 minutes. You will have something that looks like jam but also has some visible onion structure.
Add the stock/wine mixture, and scrape up the bottom of the pot to incorporate all the brown stuff one last time. Add the vinegar and simmer for 10 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper.
In the meantime, assemble the bread and cheese. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Brush the bread with a little butter or olive oil, then put them on a baking sheet and into the oven for 5 minutes, until lightly golden and a little crisp. Remove the pan from the oven, mix the two cheeses together, and top the bread slices evenly. Put them back into the oven to melt the cheese and get it just a little brown, 5 to 7 minutes. You can float the bread on individual servings of soup, or serve the toasts alongside.
* You can also start with 9 cups of low-salt vegetable stock and 1 cup of red wine and boil them down to 8 cups.