Caramelized French Onion Soup - Easy (But Not Quick)

Not a wedding soup crock.

I'm not sure if I ever mentioned this (recently, anyway), but as a newlywed I only knew how to make 2 main dishes:  meatloaf and Fettuccine Alfredo (not at the same meal, of course).  Over the years, I eventually learned how to make a few other items.  One of the earliest items was French onion soup, mostly because I received a set of soup crocks as a wedding gift and didn't want them to go to waste.

Delicious as it was, onion soup was reluctantly moved to the back of the recipe file, mostly due to the necessity of having to stand in front of a hot stove and saute constantly for what seemed like hours on end, even when it took only 20 or so precious minutes (just like washing dishes seems like hours on end, even if it's only one plate).

Crock courtesy of theDaughter and her hubby.

Then came that magic moment when I discovered that onions can quietly caramelize themselves in the crockpot!  Granted it takes about 10 hours, but those 10 hours can be spent babying something other than onions ... like my nails with a mani-pedi.

Following my motto --  if you are going to make, make LOTS -- the recipe for caramelized onions makes way more than needed for the soup.  Use the leftover for other dishes such as  caramelized onion pizza, caramelized onion dip, Rice, Lentils and Caramelized Onion Pilaf, burger topped with caramelized onions  ... you get the idea.

In order for the onion soup recipe to be easy, you need a food processor or a mandolin to thinly slice the onions.  Some people might call that cheating.  I call it fair use of kitchen tools.  You can simply call it delicious.

Caramelized French Onion Soup 
Yield: 4 servings

2 cups caramelized onions (see recipe below)
4 cups vegetarian beef broth
1/2 cup sherry (or additional broth)
1 small sprig thyme leaves (or 1/2 tsp. dried)
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
4 slices 1/2-inch Italian or French bread, stale or lightly toasted
4 (1 ounce slices) Gruyere or Swiss cheese

Combine onions, broth, sherry (if using), thyme, salt and pepper in a 4 quart saucepan over medium-high heat.  Cover and bring to a simmer.  Reduce heat and continue to simmer for 15 minutes.

Place a bread slice in each of 4 soup bowls or crocks.  Top each with a slice of cheese.  Ladle soup over the cheese and any bread peeking out.  Allow a few minutes for the cheese to melt.  If desired (and if the bowls are heat-resistant), place bowls under broiler for a minute or two before serving to brown the cheese. 

Caramelized Onions
Adapted from The Everything Kosher Slow Cooker Cookbook
Yield:  5-6 cups of caramelized onions

4-5 pounds of sweet white or yellow onions, such as Vidalia
3 Tbl. olive oil
3 Tbl. unsalted butter (use addiional olive oil for a parve/vegan alternative)

If your onions are large, cut in half. Thinly slice onions (a food processor or mandolin makes this job easy). 

Place sliced onions into a 4 to 6 quart slow cooker.  Pour oil over onion slices.  Stir around to separate the slices into half rings. Dot with butter, if using.  

That glow on the top right is not Photoshopped.
Just a very sunny day.

Cover and cook on low for 9-10 hours, or until onions are reduced and are medium to dark brown.  If there is a lot of liquid, increase to high and cook, uncovered, for an additional 30 minutes to allow the liquid to evaporate, leaving behind more flavor.

Remove 2 cups of caramelized onions and set aside for the soup, if making some.  Transfer remaining onions to a covered container; refrigerate for up to 2 weeks or freeze for up to 3 months.


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