French Onion Soup

My take on the French classic. This isn’t a quick soup and can take hours to develop a deep rich base. Great to do on a cool Saturday.

2 lbs yellow or white onions (mixed use)
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp thyme, dried or fresh (if using fresh, toss in the stems as well) 4 cups chicken or beef stock (I prefer beef)
2 tablespoons oil
salt and pepper
1/4 cup red wine (optional)
1 cup or more of sturdy bread, cubed and toasted
A couple handfuls of shredded gruyere or compte cheese (Depending on taste)

I don’t have an exact recipe for this, more like a method, the important thig is to have enough time to truly reduce the first layer of onions until they are a golden brown goo. At least an hour but better if two. The object of this soup is to have three “layers” of onions. The first will be cooked down to almost a paste, this will provide the base flavor of the soup. The second layer will be onions cooked until they basically just fall apart. The third layer will be onions cooked just until tender.

Take one pound of onion and cut into small dice. Heat a heavy bottomed pan or dutch oven over medium heat and add the oil. Once the oil is hot, add the chopped onion, garlic, about a teaspoon of salt, pepper, thyme, and bay leaves. Once this starts to simmer, turn down heat to low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions have fully cooked down and are a dark golden brown. It should be almost gooey. At least an hour, but the longer they cook the better they are.

When the onions have reached “goo” stage, chop another half pound of onions into medium dice. Add to the goo and cook until caramelized and soft. Probably 20 minutes. They should be a consistency that the easily mash with a spoon.

Once the second layer have reached “mashable” stage, chop the remaining half pound of onion into thin strips about an inch long. Add this to the pot and stir until they get to the just barely soft stage. Add the stock and wine, if using. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer. Taste and adjust seasonings. Remove the bay leaves and any thyme stems.

Cut the bread into 1/2 inch cubes and toss with a bit of olive oil. Spread out on a baking sheet and place under the broiler. Watch the bread and toss occasionally to make sure it gets toasted on all sides. Remove from the oven.

To Serve: Ladle soup into bowls and top with the bread cubes. Put a good pile of cheese on top. I prefer to use a hand torch to melt the cheese, but you can put the bowls on a baking sheet and place under a broiler to melt and toast. I prefer the hand torch because you don’t have to deal with a burning hot bowl.