Last week, online magazine Grantland offered a Super Bowl alternative for those who are more culinarily and less athletically inclined: the Souper Bowl. Thirty-two soups went head to head in a bracket whose results were determined by readers’ votes on their favorite soups, from Borscht to Alphabet to Cream of Broccoli.* Like any good tournament, the race to the Final Four was dramatic, culminating in number 4 seeded French Onion’s upset over top-seeded Pho.
Though the soups strike different appetites and moods, the rich comfort of French Onion is tough to beat. Thinly sliced onions are slowly sauteed in butter and herbs, developing a sweet and creamy consistency. Once the onions are caramelized, they simmer in beef stock and dry wine, forming a sweetened silky broth. A floating crust of bread covered in a blanket of melted Gruyere cheese seals in the sweet onion flavor and the soup’s heat. Take your first bite with caution – burnt tongues are a common hazard of this irresistible soup.
*Patriots fans still smarting from Sunday’s game might be comforted to know that New England Clam Chowder took the championship. Manhattan didn’t even come close.
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1 pound medium yellow or red onions, halved and thinly sliced lengthwise
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 Turkish bay leaves
Salt to taste
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups low sodium beef stock
1/2 cup water
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 1/2-inch slice of fresh baguette
1 cup Gruyere cheese, coarsely grated
1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese, finely grated
- Melt the butter in a 4- to 5-quart heavy pot over moderate heat. Add the onions, thyme, bay leaf and sold and cook uncovered, stirring frequently, until the onions are very soft and deep golden brown, 20-30 minutes.
- Add the flour and cook for 1 minute, stirring.
- Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes, stirring.
- Add the broth, water and pepper and simmer for 30 minutes, uncovered. Stir occasionally.
- While the soup simmers, preheat the oven to 350Â°. Arrange the baguette slices on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 5 minutes per side until bread is completely dry and crusty.
- Remove bread from the oven and preheat the broiler. Discard the bay leaves and thyme. Ladle the soup into three oven-proof bowls or mugs. Float a slice of toast in each, and top with the shredded Gruyere and Parmesan.
- Broil 4 to 5 inches from heat until cheese is melted and bubbly, 1 to 2 minutes.