I love French Onion Soup, but I've always balked at the time required to make a pot. Well, that and I really just didn't have a great recipe... Until now! The other day I was flipping through one of my favorite cook books and came across this recipe, named after Eastern Washington's sweet onions. It was time-consuming, but the house smelled fabulous as it simmered away on the stove, and it gave me time to bake an apple crisp and broil some Croque Monsieurs to go alongside our bowls of screamin' hot soup! Perfect fall evening!
5 cans (14-ounces each) beef broth
3 cups apple cider or apple juice
2 bay leaves
6 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 pounds Walla Walla sweet onions, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon sugar
2/3 cup dry sherry
8 baguette slices (1 inch thick)
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
sliced Gruyere cheese
Combine the beef broth, apple cider, bay leaves, thyme, pepper, and a good pinch of salt in a large stockpot. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer, covered, for an hour.
While broth is simmering, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until beginning to soften, about 8 minutes. Add the sugar and cook, covered, but stirring occasionally, until the onions are very tender and nicely browned, 40-45 minutes. You may have to add 1-2 tablespoons water if the pan gets dry. When the onions are soft and brown, stir the sherry into the pan, scraping up any cooked bits from the bottom.
Add the onions and sherry to the broth. Cover and simmer for 1 hour. Remove the bay leaves and thyme sprigs and taste the soup for seasoning, adding more salt to taste.
Preheat the broiler. Ladle the soup into ovenproof bowls, top with a slice of baguette, sprinkle with Parmesan and top with 1 or 2 slices Gruyere. Broil until the cheese is melted and bubbly, 1-2 minutes.
Recipe adapted from Celebrate the Rain by the Junior League of Seattle.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
12 ounces Gruyere, grated
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
16 slices white bread, crusts removed
8 ounces baked Virginia ham, sliced
Preheat the broiler to high, as for the soup above.
Melt the butter over low heat in a small saucepan and add the flour all at once, stirring with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes. Add the milk and cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce is thickened. Remove from heat and add salt, pepper, nutmeg, 1/2 cup of the Gruyere, and Parmesan, stir until cheese is melted and set aside.
Place the sliced bread on baking sheets and bake for 5 minutes on one side and 2 minutes on the second side to toast.
Lightly brush half the toasted bread slices with mustard, add a slice of ham, and sprinkle with half the remaining Gruyere. Top with another piece of bread. Slather the tops with the cheese sauce, sprinkle with the remainder of the Gruyere, and broil for 5 minutes, or unti the topping is bubbly and lightly browned. Serve hot.
Makes 8 sandwiches.