French Onion Soup

French onion soup has been a favorite indulgence of mine for as long as I can remember. Growing up, we didn't go out to dinner often, but we did have a favorite spot to grab a bite to eat when we were in Old Colorado City - La Baguette. They make great pastry, but it is easily overshadowed by the truly awesome French onion soup that they serve every day. It comes with a thick layer of bubbling cheese on top of toasted French bread. After you break through the wall of cheese and bread, you are rewarded with a sweet onion broth that is piping hot and oh-so-good.

Needless to say, I was thrilled to see a recipe for French onion soup in the October issue of Bon Appétit. I've never made it at home, but the recipe was simple and delicious. As written, this recipe would serve four as a small main course (to be accompanied by a salad or vegetable dish) or six to eight as an appetizer. I left this recipe as written, but you'll see from my photos that I didn't use ramekins - I only have small ramekins so I prepared the soup in a large, oven-safe dish and transferred individual servings into my regular soup bowls. It did get me thinking that I might just need to purchase a set of these! Also, while this was delicious as-is, I think it could benefit from minor changes to the broth. First, I think it needs more broth. The leftovers we had were very onion-heavy and I found myself wishing for more broth. Second, I think homemade beef broth would have made this perfect. Unfortunately, I had only homemade chicken broth so I went with the boxed version of beef broth. It certainly still tasted good, but I know homemade broth would have set it apart. When I make this again, I'll use 6 cups of beef broth (homemade).

French Onion Soup
October 2011 Bon Appétit
Yield = 4 servings 
Special Equipment = 4 10-ounce ramekins 

2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon brandy
4 cups low-salt beef stock (6 cups if you prefer a bit more broth in your soup as I do)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4–8 1/2"-thick slices baguette, cut to fit ramekins
1 cup grated Gruyère cheese (I'd also mix in Swiss cheese the next time for a bit of a tangier flavor)

Preheat oven to 450°F. Cook onions in a 12" non-stick skillet over high heat, stirring constantly, until soft and caramelized, about 15 minutes. Add butter and toss onions to coat. Remove pan from heat and stir in brandy. Return pan to heat and continue cooking until brandy is absorbed, about 30 seconds. Add stock and bring to a simmer. Simmer until soup is reduced to 4 cups, about 5 minutes. Season soup to taste with salt and pepper.

Place ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet. Divide soup among ramekins. Top each ramekin with 1-2 slices of bread. Sprinkle 1/4 cup cheese over each. Transfer baking sheet with ramekins to oven and bake until cheese is bubbly and browned in spots, about 4 minutes.