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Yes, it's the lovely onion soup cooked for long hours in the slow cooker, then tucked with toast and topped with cheese and then, finally, sipped and slurped, slow bite by slow spoon. Is it French onion soup? What makes an onion soup French, per se? I don't know that answer but I do know, a slow-cooked onion soup is delicious stuff.
The bread and cheese add carbs and calories to this dish. I enjoyed the soup, plain – so the bread and cheese aren't necessary, if supremely tasty. Moving on to the cheese-topped version, I was surprised by how much cheese was required just to achieve what looks like a thin layer in the photo (though it tasted like plenty, no one felt cheated). What those home and restaurant bowls with their thick layers of cheese must add up to, calorie-wise, point-wise, I don't want to know (or eat).
SOUP's ON In February 2007, I hosted a food blogger event called "Soup's On". My first soup contribution was spare and simple peasant food, Peasant Cabbage-Tomato Soup. My final contribution is this Slow Cooker Onion Soup, also spare and simple and yet extraordinarily rich, the food of kings that even peasants can afford. Walk through Soup's On, it's a grand collection of soup recipes from food bloggers all over the world. Many thanks to everyone for participating!
SLOW COOKER ONION SOUP
Time to table: about 8 hours (truly best when made 24 hours ahead)
Makes 11 cups
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 pounds large yellow onions, trimmed, peeled and sliced in 1/4-inch half rings
1 cup dry red wine
2 tablespoons port
5 cups beef stock
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 tablespoon flour
Salt & pepper to taste
TO SERVE, per bowl
1 thick slice good bread, toasted
1 ounce Emmentaler or Gruyere or another good melting cheese, sliced thin
CARAMELIZED ONIONS Melt the butter in a large slow cooker on HIGH. Add the onions as they're sliced, stirring to coat with fat with each addition. Cover and let cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Decrease the temperature to LOW. Let cook, stirring occasionally, til browning, about 4 hours. (In 2007, this took 6 hours, in 2014, 3 hours. This is why I slow cookers are so hard, there's just such variability in heat and timing.)
ONION SOUP Add the wine, port and stock. In a small bowl, stir together butter and flour, whisk it into the soup to thicken slightly. Season to taste, then cook for 2 hours. Taste and adjust seasoning.
LET REST While the soup is technically "done" at this point, the flavors meld when left to rest overnight. In fact, if you taste it here, you're going to wonder what all the fuss is about.
TO SERVE Bring the soup back to a boil either in the slow cooker or on the stovetop. Place a scoop of onions in each bowl, top with a bread slice, then fill the bowl with liquid. Top with cheese and place under the broiler until cheese melts and begins to brown, watching carefully, the cheese can go from melty to outright burned in a nanosecond.
ALANNA's TIPS & KITCHEN NOTES
Yellow onions are the right choice for onion soup. So-called "sweet" onions are best for eating raw, not for cooking, because they turn muddy flavored once cooked.
Be generous with the salt, especially if using homemade beef stock that hasn't been seasoned.
I like this soup served plain, without the bread and cheese. It's not pretty, though, so a little fresh parsley adds color and brightness.