French Onion Soup (Zuppa di Cipolle Francese)
I remember what a treat it was to have French onion Soup. It was a rare occasion we even went out for dinner, as my father hated Restaurants. Long before there were cooking shows, recipe magazines, and fancy restaurants, there was this soup. It dates back to Roman times. It was oddly considered a peasant food, since onions could easily be grown and were plentiful. It was not until the 18th century that it made a more sophisticated appearance in the French kitchen. The onions were cooked in butter and a good splash of Cognac or sherry. Who could blame them?
I seem to remember making this ahead of a Prime Rib Roast to be served for Christmas dinner and I had not any wine in the house. I grabbed the Sweet Vermouth.
Today, it seems many are already on the bandwagon of vermouth. A sweet, fortified wine, a bit herbaceous, gives this soup that wonderful taste you long been craving. The traditional Gruyere served over the French version is just to harsh and over powering for us. An Italian Fontina is a more delicate choice and really brings out this soup's full flavor. Enjoy! Buon Appetito!
Make 6 hearty bowls plus leftover
6 oven proof bowls
5 yellow onions (large)
5 tablespoons of butter (one tablespoon per onion)
2 teaspoons of salt
one pinch of sugar
a sprinkling of flour (about a teaspoon)
1 cups of sweet red Vermouth (Martini and Rossi)
8 cups of Beef broth (traditional). I used chicken broth. Beef broth would give it a much darker color.
One Bay leaf (to be removed before serving)
2 slices Italian Fontina cheese for each Ramekin or oven proof bowl (about 12 oz total).
Fresh Thyme for Garnish
Optional first step: Blanch your peeled onions quickly into a pot of hot water. Remove them and dry them off before slicing. This will remove any acidic residue that gets under the skin of an onion.
Slice your onions. Melt your butter over medium heat, being careful not to burn.
In a large, deep, soup pot, place your sliced onions. Cook over low, medium heat for about 35-40 minutes. Continue mixing them, add your salt and a pinch of sugar while cooking. They will reduce to a 1/4 of what you started off with. Not to worry, There is plenty of flavor.
You will begin to notice a slight change in color. Add a sprinkling of flour and mix. At this point when everything is cooked down and soft, add your Vermouth. Give it a mix. Keep mixing as the flour will act as a thickener and just cloud your soup ever so slightly.
Add your broth, bay leaf, and cook for 45 minutes more on a steady simmer.
Place your bowls on a baking sheet. Slice several pieces of crusty bread and place them in your bowl (about 3 small slices). Ladle your soup in each bowl. Crown with slices of Fontina cheese.
(Place your Ramekins on an Oven Proof Baking sheet, remove your fresh thyme).
Place in a 325F degree oven for 10-15 minutes, until your cheese is slightly browned and Melted. Serve immediately~