My friend Maggie's husband is a great cook. Not only is he a master pit master, 'cuing up mixed grills for his family to munch on all through the week, but he's handy with indoor cooking, too, making a mean pot au feu and a killer pasta with garlic and anchovies. Recently he's been working on the perfect beef broth so he can make Vietnamese pho at home.
The Cooking of Provincial Francefrom the Time-Life Foods of the World series. The gorgeous hard-bound books my mother ordered (and never looked at) have long since gone, but the small, cardboard-covered recipe books that came with them are treasured resources that I spent hours of my youth poring over.
French Onion SoupAdapted from The Cooking of Provincial Francefrom the Time-Life Foods of the World series
For the soup:
4 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 pounds onions, thinly sliced (about 7 cups)
1 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. flour
2 qts. beef stock or beef and chicken stock, combined
Salt and pepper, to taste
For the croûtes:
4 slices of French bread, cut into one-inch thick slices
2 tsp. olive oil
1 garlic clove, cut
1 c. grated Swiss cheese or Swiss and freshly grated Parmesan cheese, combined
In a heavy 4 to 5-quart saucepan or a soup kettle, melt the butter with the oil over moderate heat. Stir in the onions and salt and cook uncovered over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 20 or 30 minutes or until the onions are a rich golden brown. Sprinkle flour over the onions and cook, stirring, for 2 or 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. In a separate saucepan, bring the stock to a simmer, then stir the hot stock into the onions. Return the soup to low heat and simmer, partially covered, for another 30 or 40 minutes, occasionally skimming off the fat. Taste for seasoning, and add salt and pepper if needed.
While the soup simmers, make the croûtes. Preheat the oven to 325°. Spread the slices of bread in one layer on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. With a pastry brush, lightly coat both sides of each slice with olive oil. Then turn the slices over and bake for another 15 minutes or until the bread is completely dry and lightly browned. Rub each slice with the cut garlic clove and set aside.
To serve, place the croûtes in a large tureen or individual soup bowls and ladle the soup over them. Pass the grated cheese separately.