French Onion Soup Gratinée
aka ... Joe's favorite cold-weather food, ever
- Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a large pot over medium-high heat (don't be skimpy, live a little ... the butter helps the onions do their thing). Stir in one teaspoon salt, two large thinly-sliced red onions and two large thinly-sliced sweet onions. Cook 35 minutes, stirring frequently, until onions are caramelized and almost syrupy. (I sometimes let the onions just barely start to stick to the bottom of the pan a bit, and then scrape them off ... the brown goodness scraped up from the bottom helps them caramelize beautifully.)
- Mix one 48-oz can chicken broth, one 14-oz can beef broth (fat-free and low sodium are good for the broths), ½ cup red wine red wine and one tablespoon Worcestershire sauce into pot. Bundle the two sprigs fresh parsley, one sprig fresh thyme, and one bay leaf with twine and place in pot. (or just sprinkle in lame-o dried herbs, like I do) Simmer over medium heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove and discard the herbs. Reduce the heat to low, mix in one tablespoon balsamic vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Cover and keep over low heat to stay hot while you prepare the bread.
- Preheat oven broiler. Arrange four thick French or Italian bread slices (slightly stale and very crusty is good) on a baking sheet and broil 3 minutes, turning once, until well toasted on both sides. Remove from heat; do not turn off broiler. (Quickie "cheat" is to just use large croutons, especially if the idea of cutting into a giant cheese-covered slice of bread doesn't appeal to you.)
- Arrange 4 large oven safe bowls or crocks on a rimmed baking sheet (so you don't wind up with the abundant aroma of blackened sloshed-over-the-sides onion soup, mixed with the gloppy mess of drippy melted cheeses draping your oven elements). Fill each bowl 2/3 (why isn't there a pretty html code for "2/3"?) full with hot soup. Top each bowl with one slice toasted bread, two slices Gruyere (or Swiss) cheese and ¼ of shredded Asiago (or mozzarella) cheese. Sprinkle a little bit of paprika over the top of each one. (the cheese works best at room temperature, so get them out on the counter when you start working the onions, if not sooner)
- Broil 5 minutes, or until bubbly and golden brown. As it softens, the cheese will cascade over the sides of the crock and form a beautifully melted crusty seal. Serve immediately!