From Julia's Kitchen to Your Table in About 30 Minutes
Julia Child's classic soupe à l'oignon recipe from her masterwork, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," basically serves as the de facto archetype for all succeeding versions of the dish. But the recipe has one weakness, particularly for busy moms who don't have a lot of time to make dinner: Julia advises cooking the onions for 40 minutes or more. You can, of course, caramelize onions in 40 minutes, but you can also caramelize them in around 10 minutes, with little to no deviation in flavor.
Total Time: 35 minutes | Prep Time: 15 minutes | Serves: 6 to 8
- 2 1/2 pounds yellow onions, thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- Pinch of sugar
- Pinch of salt, plus more to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 8 cups beef stock (you can substitute vegetable or chicken stock if desired)
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup white wine or white vermouth (optional)
- 3 tablespoons brandy (optional)
- 6 to 8 day-old baguette slices, 1/2-inch thick
- 2 to 3 cups Gruyere cheese, shredded
- 1/2 to 1 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
- Cook the onions in a dry, nonstick saute pan over medium-high heat until well browned, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Lower the heat to medium and add the butter, oil, sugar and a crack or two of black pepper to the onions.
- Cook the onions until limp, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. While the onions cook, bring the stock to a simmer in a separate pan.
- Sprinkle the flour over the onions and stir to combine. Cook the onions for about 1 minute, and then transfer them to the simmering stock.
- Add the wine and brandy, if using, to the stock. Stir the stock and simmer it for at least 20 minutes. Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Heat the oven broiler. Arrange 6 to 8 oven-safe 1-cup crocks or ramekins on a sheet pan and add the soup to each, leaving about 1/4 inch of space at the top.
- Top each soup with a piece of baguette followed by a generous layer of Gruyere, spreading it all the way to the edge of the crocks. Drop a generous pinch of Parmesan in the center of the Gruyere.
- Broil the crocks of soup until the cheese turns a crisp, caramelized dark golden brown. Wait a few minutes for the crocks to cool and set them on heat-proof saucers or trivets to serve.
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A.J. Andrews' work has appeared in Food and Wine, Fricote and "BBC Good Food." He lives in Europe where he bakes with wild yeast, milks goats for cheese and prepares for the Court of Master Sommeliers level II exam. Andrews received formal training at Le Cordon Bleu.