Any onion can make a great soup; I prefer whites because they hold their texture better. The real secret is to take the time to caramelize the onions slowly. Make a double batch and freeze the extra—it lends itself to interesting additions and accompaniments. This soup originated at Les Halles, the huge original food market in Paris. It was a workingman’s soup with rich sweet flavors and bubbling fat cheese to fill the stomach and take the chill off.
In a Heavy soup pot over low heat, slowly sauté the onions, garlic, and thyme with the butter and olive oil until they are deep golden brown. Stir regularly to make sure they don’t burn. This may take 20 to 30 minutes or more, but be patient—the results are worth it!
Add the wine, stock, and bay leaves and simmer partially covered for another 45 to 50 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and discard. Correct seasoning with salt and pepper and add the cognac, if using.
Ladle into warm bowls and top with a toasted croûte and about
French bread croûtes (toasted slices), one per serving, grated Parmesan or Gruyère cheese, or a mixture (2 to 3 cups for 6 to 8 servings)
© 2004 John Ash. All rights reserved.