The best thing about French Onion Soup is undoubtedly the cheesy crouton in it. Is there anything better than hot melty cheese? But even if it is just a vehicle for eating cheese, you really have to make sure that the soup the croutons adorn is worthy. And the only way to do that is the long way - the onions have to be properly caramelised, and this is not a time when you can cheat and speed the process with a spoonful of sugar.
French Onion Soup (as a main meal for 2)
1tbs olive oil
4 large onions, peeled and thinly sliced (I use your basic brown onion, I think red onions add something weird and white onions are somehow acrid)
Sprig of thyme
Splash of booze (I used whisky because it was there, brandy or white wine would be better)
beef broth (I used a can of beef consomme and a can of water)
Salt & pepper to season
Good bread (I used a large square pain rustique roll)
Cheese (I used camembert and gruyere)
Melt the butter and oil together in a large, heavy based saucepan on a very low heat, and before it reaches sizzling point, add the onions. Turn them over in the fat until they are well coated, add the bay leaf and the thyme and clap the lid on, returning to stir them well every 5 minutes for at least half an hour, more like 45 minutes. The onions need to have completely collapsed and cooked to a deep brown without being burnt. A shortcut at this point leaves you with a very indigestible soup.
When the onions are ready, add a splash of booze to deglaze the pan, then add the beef broth. Simmer for another half hour.
Put cheese on bread and grill it - I used a slice of camembert for richness topped with a slice of gruyere for the perfect melt and bubble, but just gruyere is more traditional.
Taste the soup, season with salt & pepper if necessary, divide between two deep bowls and top with ferociously hot cheesy toasts. Enjoy the warmth spreading right to your toes. And even if it is mid-week, it would be rude not to have a glass of wine with this.