Ahhh, Sundays. A day of endless possibilities. And it's almost the time of year - almost cool enough to actually be called "Fall" - when spending hours in the kitchen sounds like a joy. For the last five months, spending hours at a time in my small kitchen with a hot oven and a pot of something bubbling on the stove sounded more like some kind of terrorist torture method than a soothing, relaxing activity. There's a reason that iced tea and lemonade reign supreme here in the Deep South.
But it's not that time of year quite yet. So I had to find something that would fill the growing need to cook something in the middle of the day that is more complex than a grilled cheese sandwich without becoming a drooping, humid mass of frustration. I went to the store and wandered around the produce section, searching for inspiration, when I found a sale that made my heart go pitter-patter:
Sweet onions, 3lb bags, BUY ONE GET ONE FREE.
Ladies and Gentlemen, there are few things in this life that make me happier than the B1G1F sales at Publix. As soon as I saw the mounds of onions glistening there in front of me, I knew what I wanted to cook. And I planned on making enough to freeze some for later in the year, when I'm rushed with holiday shopping but still want something warm and soothing. In fact, I need something soothing right now - I just missed out on not one, but THREE great deals on Amazon because I waited a day too long to hit that purchase button.
Pass those croutons, STAT.
The Simplest French Onion Soup EVER
1 stick butter
2 pounds sweet onions, sliced thin
a few healthy pinches of Kosher salt
6 cups Beef stock, chilled and defatted
2 cups white wine (optional)
1 tsp dried thyme
Big Fat Crusty French Bread Croutons (See below)
A Heap of Grated Cheese (I'm not going to be picky and tell you what kind, but I used Mozzarella this time)
In a stock pot or other large pot, melt the butter on medium-low heat and add the onions and a quick pinch or two of salt. Swirl the onions around to get them nice and coated with buttery goodness, then leave them alone for about 10 minutes. Walk away to somewhere cool and comfortable. Then you can come back and stir them around occasionally, cooking for another 20 minutes or so. You're waiting for them to let out all their onioniy love juice and carmelize;
they'll dramatically reduce in size.
Once your onions are ready, add the wine, the beef stock, the thyme and a dash or two of pepper. Or if you, like me, think of pepper as the best thing to happen to food since fire, then put in a bunch more. Then give everything a big stir, cover the pot, put the heat on low and walk away for at least 45 minutes. I let this batch bubble and brew for a little more than an hour while I sat outside in the shade with a beer and a book.
When you're ready to eat, ladle the soup into your bowls, throw a few good sized croutons on top and top with the shredded cheese. Put the whole she-bang under the broiler until the cheese is melted, bubbly and starting to brown.
Now, you have two options:
A.) Horde it and don't tell anyone in the house that it's ready, or
B) Build up some good karma and share your creation.
Note: I really really prefer this soup with fresh grated Romano cheese melted on top. But in my soupy-dream-filled delirium at the grocery store, I forgot to pick some up. So I used the whole milk Mozzarella that I had at home. And you know what? It was still yummy.
Big Fat Crusty French Bread Croutons
I've never measured anything for my croutons, but here's how I do it:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
cut about half a loaf of french bread into good size chunks, about 2" - cubes;
Melt a stick of butter. Add a few shakes of garlic powder and onion powder, plenty of fresh cracked black pepper, a few shakes of celery salt and a good dose of Italian Seasoning.
Gently toss the bread with the butter mixture and spread the cubes on a greased baking sheet. Bake for about ten minutes, turning half way through.