PROVENÇAL FRENCH ONION SOUP
For good reason, bowls of French onion soup hold a sacred spot on bistro menus worldwide. How can you go wrong with slowly cooked caramelized onions, hearty broth, crusty bread and Gruyère cheese? We had nine feet of snow in Boston this year and this simple to prepare soup made its way onto our table more than usual. Yes, the herbs de Provence are unorthodox, but trust me, they just seem to work. After a slog home from a hockey rink in bitter cold conditions, the smell of simmering French onion soup causes my family to arrive at the table before the cheese has a chance to blister in the oven.
Nota bene: Whole Foods sells the demi-glace brand "More than Gourmet"--it works great and once opened, may be refrigerated for several weeks. A handheld mandoline makes an easy, quick job of slicing the onions thinly and uniformly. Any yellow or Spanish onion will do, but use the sweet Vidalia onion when in season for even more nutty flavor, golden color and silky texture.
6 large yellow onions, thinly sliced
5 cups water
1 tablespoon veal or beef demi-glace
2 tablespoons chicken demi-glace
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons herbes de Provence
2 cups Gruyère, shredded
Day old baguette or petite French square toast crackers
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. In a large dutch oven on medium low heat, add olive oil to coat bottom of pan. Add sliced onions and cook slowly until golden. If skillet gets dry, add more olive oil. This takes time, at least the better part of an hour to get the rich golden color.
3. When onions are ready, add water, both demi-glaces, butter, and herbes de Provence and bring broth to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes.
4. Divide soup into oven safe bowls. When ready to eat, place bread or French toast crackers on top of soup bowls.
5. Divide the shredded Gruyére over tops of each bowl (be generous and cover the bread all the way to the edges of the bowls so the cheese melts over sides of bowls).
6. Place bowls on 1/2 sheet and place in the oven. Watch carefully until the cheese is bubbly and brown. Remove from oven and serve immediately.