I know what you’re likely thinking: the only purpose for French onion soup is to have something to drown a piece of baguette with melted Gruyere into. Reinvent your tastes just a bit here, and enjoy the soup for the taste it delivers sans bread and cheese.
There are thirteen counties in Georgia—and parts of seven other counties in Georgia—that are the only ones in the country authorized to grow the ever-popular and sweet Vidalia onions. What makes Vidalias so sweet? Evidently it’s due to the low amount of sulfur in the soil in the areas where these sweeties are grown.
This recipe is loosely adapted from Cook’s Illustrated. By caramelizing the onions in the oven, you avoid having to stir all the time, and you enable the onions to keep even more of their delicious flavor.
3 tablespoons grass-fed butter, clarified is preferred
4 Vidalia onions
2 cups (500 mL) red wine
2 cups (500 mL) water, + more for deglazing pan
½ cup (125 mL) sherry
3 cups (750 mL) beef broth
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
- Preheat oven to 400°F (205°C).
- Use some of the butter to grease the bottom of a large Dutch oven, and place remainder of butter and all onions into the Dutch oven. Cover and cook in oven for 1 hour.
- Remove the pot from the oven, stir the onions and butter scraping the sides and bottom, and place back into the oven with lid slightly ajar for another 60–90 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat wine over medium heat, and reduce down until it’s about ¼ cup in total volume. Remove from heat.
- Remove the pot of onions from the oven, and place uncovered on stove on medium-high heat. Scrape the sides and bottom of pan frequently, until the liquid mostly evaporates and the onions are browned.
- Continue to cook until the bottom of the pan has a brown crust, about 6–8 minutes.
- Stir in about ¼ cup (60 mL) of the water, being sure to scrape up the crust on the bottom of the pan.
- Cook until the water has evaporated and you have another dark crust. Repeat this addition of water until the onions are dark brown.
- Mix in the wine and sherry and cook, stirring frequently, until the liquids evaporate.
- Mix in the beef broth, 2 cups (500 mL) water, thyme, and bay leaf, scraping up any bits of fond that may be on the bottom and sides of pan.
- Bring the liquid up to a boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer, cover, and allow to simmer for about 30 minutes. Remove thyme and bay leaf, and season as you prefer with salt and pepper.
Ingredient Notes—If you don’t have access to Vidalias (usually only available in the spring and summer months), you can use any other sweet onions.
Variation—This recipe is a little more labor-intensive process than some. You can absolutely tweak this to make it a little easier. To do so, skip the oven cooking of the onions and simply sauté the onions in a pot on the stove, following along from step 4 above.