First of all, let me say I wouldn't be making this soup if Spring were REALLY here. But it's still cold and rainy here in Central New Jersey, despite the crocuses peeping up through the earth. You know how they say "If you carry an umbrella, it won't really rain?" Well, maybe if I make this wintry-weather soup, spring will really arrive.
This soup recipe is from one of my favorite cooks - Julia Child. My dog-eared and tattered copies of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" are decades old. I learned long ago that her recipes, while typically very long and detailed, are fail-proof. But still, I alter her recipe slightly, using chicken stock instead of beef, and fontina cheese instead of the usual Swiss or gruyere.
Onion Soup all'Italiana
1 1/2 pounds, or about 5 cups of thinly sliced yellow onions (the food processor is great here)
3 Tb butter
1 Tb oil
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar (helps the onions to brown)
3 Tb flour
2 quarts boiling chicken stock
1/2 cup dry white wine or dry white vermouth
salt, pepper to taste
3 Tb. cognac
rounds of toasted French or Italian bread
1 to 2 cups grated Fontina cheese
Cook the onions slowly with the butter and oil in a covered saucepan for 15 minutes. Uncover, raise heat to moderate, and stir in the salt and sugar. Cook for 30 to 40 minutes stirring frequently, until the onions have turned an even, deep, golden brown. Sprinkle in the flour and stir for three minutes.
Off heat, blend in the boiling liquid. Add the wine and season to taste. Simmer partially covered for 30 to 40 minutes or more, skimming occasionally. Correct seasoning.
Just before serving, stir in the cognac. Toast the bread rounds lightly in a toaster or broiler. Place soup in individual, oven-proof bowls and top with the bread and grated cheese. Place under the broiler a few seconds until the cheese is melted.
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