In the early 80s, my family and I moved from Watertown, South Dakota to New England. I was a sophomore in high school which led to some awkwardness. My dad transferred jobs and needless to say, I was a total fish out of water. My sophomore year we spent on the far northern coast of MA. We rented a home on the beach for the winter and I loved it there. Sadly, the cost of living was way out of our range so that spiring my folks decided to move us to Newfane, VT at the end of the school year.
Vermont is a beautiful state but not when you are a 16 year old girl far away from your friends. I tried my best to find the good in this move and I finally did.
One day I went to Brattleboro, about 10 miles south of our little town, to go shopping downtown. I came upon this restaurant named Walkers. My granny’s maiden name was Walker, so I thought it was meant to be. I made my way into this restaurant all alone. They gave me a seat by the window and I ordered an iced tea. I had the latest Seventeen magazine and was going to find something to like about this part of the world if it killed me. There it was. On the menu – French Onion Soup. I had never had French Onion Soup before but had heard others speak about it. Melted cheese, caramelized onions, how could it be bad? So I ordered it.
When my server brought it to the table, life as I knew it changed. This fancy bowl, cheese melted down the side and the aroma brought tears to my eyes. I started to eat this soup and I was instantly in love. Me, a bowl of soup and Seventeen magazine sitting by a window, watching the world go by. I could do this. I could suck it up for 2 years. As long as I could come here for my new favorite soup, I would be fine.
When I met my husband, I wooed him with my cooking. I love Julia Child (if you haven’t read that blog post, I highly recommend it)! So, I was constantly putting French dishes in front of him. One blustery New England day, I decided to make French Onion Soup. I didn’t have the fancy bowls so i did the cheesy toast on the side. Scot loved it! It is now one of his favorite soups, especially since I invested in the fancy bowls so I can have the cheese melt down the side ala Walkers Restaurant 1983.
I choose to use the combination of sherry and chicken broth. If you want a richer soup you can combine port and beef stock. This can also be made with a veggie stock but I personally have not done tried it.
I highly recommend this soup on a chilly day with a glass of merlot and some French music playing in the background. It might help you to decide that you can get through a difficult time yourself. Soup can do that to a soul. It is magical.
A classic French Onion Soup
Melt the butter in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions and season with about a tsp of salt and pepper. Cook for 40-50 minutes stirring occasionally. You want the onions to become very caramelized and a bit gooey. Don't rush the onions.
Deglaze the pan with the sherry, loosening up all the good bits. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Taste and season with more salt and pepper.
Preheat oven to 400. Cut baguette slices to an inch thick. Place on a cookie sheet and bake for 2-3 minutes. Just to toast a bit, remove from the oven and turn over. Bake again for 2-3 minutes. Remove from the oven. Take the garlic clove and rub it on each slice, on both sides.
Now turn the oven onto broil. Put the soup in oven proof bowls. Place enough croutons on top to cover the surface. Cover in cheese. Set the bowls on baking sheet and place under the broiler for a minute to two minutes. Watch so it does not burn. Server right out of the oven.
Note - if you do not have bowls for this purpose you can leave the toast on the sheet and put the cheese on it then place them on the soup when they come out like large croutons.