Comfort season is in full force and in my mind there is nothing more comforting than a piping hot bowl of Onion Soup topped with deliciously chewy and melt-in-the-mouth croutons cascading with golden brown bubbling molten cheese.
This is my variation on the classic French Onion Soup. I've changed it slightly because as I much as I love the idea of French Onion Soup I always find I am slightly disappointed when I have it. With this version I use chicken stock instead of the traditional beef stock which gives a slightly milder version (for a vegetarian option you could also use vegetable stock), however even the most die-hard fans of French Onion Soup will not be disappointed with this version – my husband, who absolutely loves French Onion Soup, said this was the best version of Onion Soup he has ever had...praise indeed!
Serves 4-6 (Crouton quantities are for 4 servings)
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1kg onions, peeled and finely sliced ( A food processor makes quick work of this!)
1 tsp sugar
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
125ml white wine
2 bay leaves (fresh if possible, otherwise dried is fine)
1 ½ litres/ 1500ml chicken stock
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper
For the croutons:
8 slices of ciabatta bread or any other chewy, crusty bread
Olive oil for drizzling
½ clove of garlic
225g/ 8oz gruyere or other cheese of your choice
Freshly ground black pepper
Melt the butter with the oil in a large pan until hot and sizzling. Add the onions and sugar and cook over a medium heat for approximately 10 minutes then reduce the heat and add the garlic. Stir well then partially cover the pan with a lid (so it is just open a tiny bit) and cook very slowly over the lowest heat for 45 minutes, stirring from time to time so that they don't catch on the bottom.
While the onions are softening and turning silky make the croutons. Drizzle a little olive oil over both sides of the bread then put under a grill (broiler) and toast until they are just turning golden. Rub the garlic over each slice of toast (you don't need much as it is strong) then set aside – if you prefer, some times at this point I cut my croutons into bite-size pieces so it's easier to eat.
After 45 minutes increase the heat then add the wine and simmer and reduce for a couple of minutes before adding the bay leaves, stock, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and let simmer for 15 minutes. Taste to check the seasoning and adjust if necessary. When ready to serve preheat your grill to high then ladle the soup into bowl. Top with the croutons then divide the cheese between the soup bowls and pile over the croutons. Grind a little black pepper over the top then put the bowls onto a baking tray and put under the grill until the cheese is golden, bubbling and completely melted. Serve at once but don't forget the soup bowls will be very hot!