This time of year has become my favorite, but not for the usual reasons. Amy’s travel seems to hit a lull in December and we’ve immensely enjoyed a solid month together now because of it. The basement laundry and office area is painted a beautifully cheerful Bora Bora blue and the kitchen pantry is currently under construction. With all this tinkering going on, I decided to make a decadently seductive soup as a big thank you for all the amazing DIY projects Amy has been managing about the house. I’ve only made French Onion soup one other time and that was several years ago as a vegetarian entree at one of my Winter Solstice soirees I used to host, but I didn’t even get to have a bowl of it. So it’s been on my list of things to make from scratch again to make sure I’ve got the knack of it down. It seemed fitting that I take on the bit of extra effort and risk involved in cooking a soup I’ve only attempted one other time to compliment all the hard work around the house Amy’s been up to. Normally when cooking soup I just dump a bit of this and that into my dutch oven, sit back and let the magic happen. This caramelized onion soup however, has more layers than that and requires quite a bit of attention for a bit more than hour from start to finish. Typically french onion soup is topped with aged Gruyere or sometimes Swiss cheese but I was inspired by a Giada De Laurentiis recipe. She opted for Fontina cheese for it’s mild flavor and incredible melt-ability. Since I’d never tasted Fontina, I was hooked on using it in this recipe. I also used the rustic French loaf Amy had baked a couple days before for my large skillet toasted croutons, but you can use any baguette or loaf you like. Turns out, I do have the knack of this soup down and it was a big hit with both of us. This soup is an indulgent tango of flavors, with energetic twists and dips of sweet, tangy, and umami spoonfuls trailed by the delicate warmth of the melted Fontina cheese. The French loaf greedily soaks up the broth and makes you want to dive back in for another bite like turning the pages of your favorite book in front of the fireplace. Comforting, sexy, and delicious all in one bowl! It’s definitely staying on my winter soup rotation!
4 to 5 large Vidalia or Candy onions
1/2 teaspoon raw sugar
1 cup red wine
3 cups beef stock
3 cups vegetable stock
3 sprigs fresh Thyme, leaves removed and stim discarded (reserve a bit for garnish if you like)
1 teaspoon Spanish Paprika
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon Garlic Powder
1 cup Fontina cheese, shredded
6 oversized toasted French loaf croutons, or bread of choice (serves two)
2 tablespoons EVOO
Salt and Pepper
In a dutch oven or large soup pot, heat the olive oil until it is shimmering over medium heat. Add in the onions, sugar, and salt. Pepper to taste. Saute the onions until they are translucent, then reduce heat to the lowest setting. Continue cooking the onions until they are a deep golden brown for about 30 to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep them from burning. Once the onions have caramelized, deglaze with the one cup of wine stirring all the fond from the bottom of the pan. Add the paprika and garlic powder and simmer until the wine has completely reduced, about 15 minutes. Once the wine has reduced, add in the stock and fresh thyme. Continue to cook the soup an additional 20 to 30 minutes or so until it has reduced and thickened a bit. Once finished, turn off the heat and adjust seasoning as needed.
Turn the oven broiler on. Ladle the soup into oven safe bowls or ramekins. Place the bowls on a baking sheet, and top each of the soup bowls with 3 French loaf croutons and a generous portion of the shredded Fontina cheese. Place in the oven and broil until the cheese is melted and slightly golden. Garnish with additional thyme.