Coquette's Onion Soup Gratinee Makes 8 servings
8 baguette slices (cut to fit the top of the soup crocks)
Vegetable oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper to season croutons
2 ½ pounds Spanish onions
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
20 crushed black peppercorns
4 cloves garlic, peeled
10 parsley stems
½ cup clarified butter (do not substitute, see note)
1 cup dry white wine
12 cups chicken stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
¼ cup dry sherry
6 cups coarsely grated French Gruyere cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cut baguettes on the bias into ¼-inch slices. Lightly oil and season with salt and pepper. Toast in preheated oven until golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Set croutons aside.
Peel onions. Cut in half from stem to stem and remove core. Cut into thin slices lengthwise. Set aside.
In a cheesecloth bag, combine thyme, bay leaves, peppercorns, garlic cloves and parsley stems.
Preheat a 5-quart stockpot over high heat. Add clarified butter and, when it's smoking, add onions. Cook 15 to 20 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon occasionally, until onions are an even gold color without any burnt black specks. The onions must be very dark or you will not get the correct flavor. When onions are very dark brown, add wine to deglaze and cook until reduced by half. Add stock and cheesecloth bag and bring to a simmer. Simmer until reduced to 8 cups total volume. This will take 30 to 40 minutes.
Remove the cheesecloth bag and season soup with salt and pepper and add dry sherry. Divide soup among 8 onion soup crocks. Set a crouton on top of each soup, evenly divide ¾ cup of the cheese over the top of each crouton and place soup under the broiler until cheese melts and browns to a crisp crust, 1 to 2 minutes. Serve hot.
Note: To clarify butter, melt butter over low heat in heavy saucepan without stirring. Milk solids will sink to bottom of pan, leaving a golden liquid on the surface. Skim any foam off the top, then slowly and carefully pour the clear ("clarified") liquid into a dish, leaving the milky layer in the saucepan.
Column compiled by Joanne Kempinger Demski.