French onion soup is something I always associate with the thin broths peasants might have eaten in the feudal era: some water, onions, and flavorful weeds thrown into a cauldron with a cow femur. But then the French got their dirty mitts on it and added cheese and baguettes, as they are wont to do. Now the soup is rich, heavy, and portends intestinal distress for the lactose intolerant. And that is as it should be.
Here's how I adapted* a New York Times recipe that was recently published. You don't need oven-proof bowls to do it, but if you're rich enough, or mercurial enough to buy them anyway, you should use some. I didn't, because I am a shining example of moderation and sensibility.
French Onion Soup
8 onions, preferably Vidalia (That sounds good, right?), finely sliced
4 celery stalks, chopped
4 medium carrots, chopped
2 bay leaves
4 thyme sprigs
8 T butter
1 c port wine
2 garlic cloves, halved
2 quarts beef stock
1 T dry sherry
French bread, sliced into 1/2" or so pieces
Gruyere, grated. . . like, a lot; half a pound, 8 oz or so
Heat the butter at medium heat in a big pot, preferably a cauldron, because that would be neat. If you were smart, you used a food processor to slice the onions for you, but if not, slice all those onions at the last minute.
Add the thyme and bay leaves, alongside the celery and carrots. Cook for about ten minutes. According to the original recipe, this is where you'd start making a beef stock from scratch. That ain't gonna happen.
Now caramelize the onions in the butter. This will take a long time to do it right. Just accept that you'll be cooking them at medium or even low heat for at least a half hour, but probably closer to an hour. Stir when needed. Don't be an asshole and burn them.*
Add the salt and pepper, cooking for a few minutes more. Pour in the port wine, scraping up whatever fond has formed. Add the broth and simmer for a half hour, perhaps longer.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees and toast the bread slices. Rub the garlic on the bread, then chop it up before adding it to the pot. "It" refers to the garlic. . . not the bread. Don't add the bread yet.
Stoke up your broiler. Float the bread in either the pot itself or, ideally, individualized bowls. Layer on top of that the cheese. Broil whatever you end up with for about five minutes, or until the cheese has browned.
Feed, like the filthy monster that you are.
* This is actually not what I did. Or maybe it is. What you've got here is my attempt to recreate what it might have been, roughly a year later.
** Did you burn them? Sigh, fine. According to a comment to one recipe, that's not necessarily a big deal if you didn't burn a lot of them. They claim that this will even enhance the soup. That sounds wrong, but I suppose you could find out.