French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup seems to be intimidating for a lot of people. I know some individuals that go out to a restaurant to specifically eat this classic concoction due to the fact that they do not know how easy it is to prepare at home. Warm and cozy, perfect for this time of year - especially if you are living in the frozen tundra like myself. If you have some extra time to spare, I make this while I am making breakfast or lunch and then let it sit until the next meal since you need to let the onions saute slowly for 45 minutes (yes, that is almost an hour) - but that is the secret to this soup. I cut up the bread into smaller pieces so it is easier to eat. Here is how I make it.

4 lb medium onions, halved and sliced as desired
3 sprigs fresh thyme (dried thyme will work, but you will not be able to remove it)
4 bay leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
4 cups beef broth (32 fl oz)
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
6 (1/2-inch-thick) diagonal sliced or cubed of baguette
1 (1/2-lb) piece Gruyère, Comte, or Emmental
2 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Melt butter in a 4-5 qt. pot. Add onions, thyme, bay leaves and salt in butter over moderate heat, uncovered, stirring frequently, until onions are very soft and deep golden brown, about 45 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in wine, broth, water, and pepper and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes.

While soup simmers, put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Arrange bread in 1 layer on a large baking sheet and toast, turning over once, until completely dry, about 15 minutes. Alternatively, you could use bread you have predried in your pantry.
Remove bread from oven. Turn oven on to broil.

Put crocks in a shallow baking pan and preheat broiler.
Discard bay leaves and thyme from soup and divide soup among crocks, then float a slice of bread or cubes in each. Slice enough Gruyère (about 6 ounces total) with cheese plane to cover tops of crocks, then sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Broil 4 to 5 inches from heat until cheese is melted and bubbly, 1 to 2 minutes.

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