This is not a quick throw-together soup using canned beef stock. To get the deep beefy flavor just right, you really need to start with a really good beef stock. This recipe is a combination of one that I made early in my food service career and one that I loosely followed from the Culinary Institute of America’s Book of Soups cookbook
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 8 cups sliced onion, see note below
- 3 or 4 parsley stems
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- ½ teaspoon dried tarragon
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- ½ cup brandy
- 6 cups homemade beef stock (see recipe here)
- Salt to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- French bread
- 2 cups shredded Gruyère Swiss cheese
- To slice the onions, cut off root and stem end then cut in half vertically. Cut each half in half again, cutting vertically so you have four thick slices. Now cut slices, staying with the grain, about ¼ to ½ inch thick.
- In a large heavy bottomed pot such as a Dutch oven, melt butter and oil over medium low heat. Add onions and stir once. Do not touch again for 15 minutes.
- After 15 minutes, stir and do not touch again for another 15 minutes.
- Move heat to medium and cook 15 or more minutes until onions are nice and browned and caramelized. Watch closely at this point so they do not get too dark or stick to the bottom. Add a little water if they are sticking.
- While onions are cooking, place parsley stems, dried thyme leaves, dried tarragon leaves and the bay leaf onto cheese cloth. Wrap tightly and tie with a string. Hold for later.
- Add garlic to onions and cook for one minute.
- Add brandy and cook to evaporate.
- Add stock and herb bag. Cover loosely and simmer for 45 minutes.
- Add salt and pepper as needed.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Place oven proof bowls or crocks into a baking pan and pour hot tap water about half way up outsides of bowls.
- Discard herb bag and divide soup between bowls or crocks. (Number of servings depends on size of your bowls or crocks. The finished soup is roughly 8 cups).
- Slice French bread into half inch slices and cover the tops of each bowl, overlapping bread slices if needed.
- Divide cheese between bowls by covering the tops of the bread.
- Place pan with water and soup crocks in oven and cook for 20 minutes.
- To get the tops browned and bubbly, place crocks under broiler for a few minutes.
- Serve hot and bubbly.