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Gooey, bubbling cheese and caramelized onions certainly make French onion soup enticing, but it is the stock that makes the difference.

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Recipes: French onion soup, stuffed onions and more

  • January 16, 2013 - 4:58 PM

French Onion Soup

Serves 8.

Note: Gooey cheese and caramelized onions certainly make French onion soup enticing, but the stock makes the difference between a great soup and a lackluster one. Use the very best you can get your hands on; pretty much any rich, full-bodied stock will work (chicken, turkey, veal, beef, duck) and that means not using store-bought stuff that comes in cartons. One stock that really shines is smoked chicken stock. To make it, simply use chicken stock in the drip pan underneath chickens being smoked and roasted on a charcoal grill. Gruyère cheese (from Switzerland) is generally the go-to cheese for onion soup, for its distinctive nutty tang. It is quite costly, but a good result can be had with using a half-and-half mixture of Gruyère and fontal cheese, an Italian semi-soft melting cheese. Which alcohol you use for this recipe is really up to you. I think port wine provides the right level of body and caramel notes that enhance the onions the best. Make ahead: The soup can be made well in advance and frozen. The baguette toasts can be made several days ahead and stored in an airtight container. From David Hagedorn.

• 1 baguette, cut into 1/2 -in. slices

• 2 lb. (4 medium) yellow onions, peeled, halved from top to bottom and sliced into 1/4 -in. half-moons

• 4 large bay leaves, divided

• 2 tbsp. canola oil

• 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

• Salt

• Freshly ground black pepper

• 1/2 tsp. onion powder

• 8 c. homemade beef, chicken stock or smoked chicken stock (see Note)

• 1/3 c. port (may substitute Madeira, sherry or dry vermouth)

• 1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme leaves

• 2 c. grated Gruyère cheese

• 2 c. grated fontal cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Spread the baguette slices in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake them for 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly browned and hard.

Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat for several minutes. Spread the onions evenly in the pan, along with 2 of the bay leaves, and let them sit untouched for a couple of minutes. Drizzle the oil evenly over them and dot with butter. Do not stir them for several minutes. (The goal is to let some of the onion’s moisture evaporate and to get some good color on the onions at the start. Once you stir, water will be released, and the caramelizing will end until that water evaporates.)

Stir the onions, using a flat-edged wooden spoon to scrape up all the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let the onions cook, stirring often, for 20 to 25 minutes, until they are golden brown and nicely caramelized.

Transfer the onions to a large pot and add the 2 remaining bay leaves, the onion powder and the stock. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to medium and let the soup cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes, adjusting the heat to keep it at a very slow boil.

Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the broiler to high. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and place 8 ovenproof onion-soup crocks on it.

Stir the port and thyme into the hot soup, and ladle it into the crocks, stopping 1/2 inch short of their rims. Discard bay leaves. Float 2 or 3 slices of baguette on top: You want to cover the surface of the soup without the bread overlapping. Combine the Gruyère and fontal cheese in a small bowl. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the cheese mixture evenly over the toasts in each crock (don’t skimp!) and broil for 3 or 4 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling and well browned. Serve immediately.

Nutrition information per serving:

Calories 390 Fat 24 g Sodium 505 mg

Carbohydrates 22 g Saturated fat 13 g Calcium 470 mg

Protein 21 g Cholesterol 69 mg Dietary fiber 2 g

Diabetic exchanges per serving: 1½ bread/starch, 2½other carb, 1 fat.

 

Oniony Three-Cheese Croque-Monsieur

Makes 4 sandwiches.

Note: Croque-monsieur is the classic French grilled ham-and-cheese sandwich, topped with cheese sauce and passed under a broiler until it’s golden brown and bubbling. The recipe usually calls for nutty Gruyère cheese only, but this decadent version includes fontal cheese, a semi-soft Italian melting cheese, and Camembert, which adds a note of richness and dimension. The sweetness of caramelized onions nicely balances the cheese’s tang. Mornay sauce is a fancy term for cheese sauce, made by adding grated cheese to béchamel, a fancy term for white sauce. Fresh nutmeg makes all the difference in the sauce; what you have at home probably is well past its prime and will not have the same, if any, brightness. The recipe makes about 1 1/4 cups of the sauce, and you might end up with about 1/4 cup left over. Deli ham in grocery stores often is loaded with water. It is a good idea to portion the ham for your sandwiches, place the portions on a plate between a double thickness of paper towels and microwave the ham for 30 seconds. This releases a lot of the water. Blot the ham with the paper towels as much as possible. Make ahead: If you make the components ahead of time, assembling the sandwiches to order will be much easier. The onions can be prepared several days in advance. The mornay sauce can be made a day in advance. From David Hagedorn.

For the onions:

• 1/2 lb. (1 medium) yellow onion, peeled, halved and sliced into 1/4 -in. half-moons

• 1 small fresh bay leaf

• 1 tbsp. canola oil

• 1 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 4 cubes

• Salt

• Freshly ground black pepper

 

For the mornay sauce:

• 2 tbsp. unsalted butter

• 2 tbsp. flour

• 1/2 tsp. salt

• 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

• A few grates of fresh nutmeg or 1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg

• 1 c. warm milk

• 1 c. grated Gruyère cheese

 

For the sandwiches:

• 1/2 c. grated Gruyère cheese

• 1/2 c. grated fontal cheese

• 8 slices country bread, about 7 in. across and 1/2 -in. thick

• 4 tbsp. ( 1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

• 4 tsp. Dijon-style mustard

• 1/2 c. caramelized onions

• 6 oz. Camembert cheese, cut into 1/4 -in.-thick slices

• 8 oz. very thinly sliced Virginia or Black Forest ham (see headnote)

Directions

For the onions: Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat for several minutes. Spread the onions evenly in the pan, along with the bay leaf, and let them sit untouched for a couple of minutes. Drizzle the oil evenly over them and dot with butter. Do not stir them for several minutes. (The goal is to let some of the onion’s moisture evaporate and to get some good color on the onions at the start. Once you stir, water will be released, and the caramelizing will end until that water evaporates.)

Stir the onions, using a flat-edged wooden spoon to scrape up all the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let the onions cook, stirring often, for 20 to 25 minutes, until they are golden brown and nicely caramelized. The yield is about 1/2 cup.

For the mornay sauce: Heat the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until it bubbles. Whisk in the flour, salt, pepper and nutmeg, and cook for 2 or 3 minutes, to create a nutty-brown roux. Slowly whisk in the milk, beating constantly to prevent lumps from forming. Cook the sauce for 2 or 3 minutes, until well thickened and bubbling. Remove from the heat and add the cheese, stirring until it is melted. The yield is about 1 1/4 cups.

For the sandwiches: Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the broiler to high. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Combine the Gruyère and fontal cheeses in a small bowl.

Completely cover each slice of bread with butter on one side and with mustard on the other side. Place 4 of the slices in a large nonstick skillet, buttered side down. Top each slice with 2 tablespoons of caramelized onions, Camembert slices, ham slices and 1/4 cup of the grated cheese mixture. Top each with a slice of bread, buttered side up.

Cook the sandwiches over medium heat until golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes, lightly pressing down on them with a spatula to ensure even toasting.

Carefully turn the sandwiches over and toast them on the second side until golden brown, 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer the sandwiches to the baking sheet and spread about 1/4 cup of mornay sauce over each one. Broil for 3 or 4 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling and nicely browned. Serve right away.

Nutrition information per serving:

Calories 860 Fat 60 g Sodium 1,800 mg

Carbohydrates 36 g Saturated fat 32 g Calcium 760 mg

Protein 45 g Cholesterol 175 mg Dietary fiber 5 g

Diabetic exchanges per serving: 1 vegetable, 2 bread/starch, 5 high-fat meat, 4 fat.

 

Croque a l’Oignon Tart

Serves 6.

Note: This terrific tart is what happens when a croque-monsieur — a grilled ham-and-cheese sandwich topped with broiled cheese sauce — collides with onion soup. With a green salad on the side, it makes a perfect lunch offering. On its own, it is an excellent first course for a dinner party. Make ahead: The onions can be prepared a few days in advance. The tart shell can be baked 1 day in advance. The mornay sauce can be made 1 day in advance. From David Hagedorn.

For the onions

• 1 1/2 lb. (3 medium) yellow onions, peeled, halved and sliced into 1/4-in. half-moons

• 2 bay leaves

• 2 tbsp. canola oil

• 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

• Salt

• Freshly ground black pepper

• 1/2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme

For the mornay sauce:

• 2 tbsp. unsalted butter

• 2 tbsp. flour

• 1/2 tsp. salt

• 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

• Pinch grated fresh nutmeg

• 1 c. warm milk

• 1 c. grated Gruyère cheese

For the tart

• 1 (9-in.), pre-baked tart shell, in its pan

• 3 oz. very thinly sliced Virginia or Black Forest ham

Directions

For the onions: Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat for several minutes. Spread the onions evenly in the pan, along with the bay leaves, and let them sit untouched for a couple of minutes. Drizzle the oil evenly over them and dot with butter. Do not stir them for several minutes. (The goal is to let some of the onion’s moisture evaporate and to get some good color on the onions at the start. Once you stir, water will be released, and the caramelizing will end until that water evaporates.)

Stir the onions, using a flat-edged wooden spoon to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let the onions cook, stirring often, for 20 to 25 minutes, until they are golden brown and nicely caramelized. Stir in the chopped thyme. Keep the onions warm on low heat if you are making the tart immediately; or cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

For the mornay sauce: Heat the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until the butter bubbles. Whisk in the flour, salt, pepper and nutmeg, and cook for 2 or 3 minutes, to create a nutty-brown roux. Slowly whisk in the milk, beating constantly to prevent lumps. Cook the sauce for 2 or 3 minutes, until well thickened and bubbling. Remove from the heat and add the cheese, stirring until it is melted.

For the tart: Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the broiler to high. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Place the pre-baked tart shell on the baking sheet. Spread the warm onions evenly in the bottom of the tart shell, cover with the ham slices and top evenly with the mornay sauce. Broil for 4 or 5 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling and nicely browned. Serve immediately.

Nutrition information per serving:

Calories 486 Fat 33 g Sodium 614 mg

Carbohydrates 34 g Saturated fat 17 g Calcium 270 mg

Protein 14 g Cholesterol 111 mg Dietary fiber 2 g

Diabetic exchanges per serving: 1 vegetable, 2 bread/starch, 1 high-fat meat, 5 fat.

 

Sausage-and-Chard-Stuffed Onions

Serves 6.

Note: Baked stuffed onions make a nice winter entree, especially when served with roasted root vegetables. To make this dish vegetarian, substitute additional mushrooms or cooked farro for the sausage. Make ahead: The onions can be assembled up to two days in advance. From David Hagedorn.

6 large white onions, peeled

Salt

1 ½ lb. Swiss chard, center veins removed and cleaned well (12 c. packed)

¾ lb. Italian sausage, mild or hot

2 tbsp. canola oil

3 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

Freshly ground black pepper

12 oz. cremini mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed and diced

1 ½ c. heavy cream

3 medium garlic cloves, chopped

¾ c. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

3 c. panko bread crumbs

2 tsp. chopped fresh oregano

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a baking dish with nonstick cooking oil spray.

Cut a half-inch from the top of each onion and trim the bottom just enough so the onion stands upright and even. Use a melon baller to scoop out the onions’ insides, leaving the 2 outer layers intact and reserving the scooped-out flesh.

Place the hollowed-out onions in the prepared baking dish and roast them for 40 to 45 minutes, until they are fork tender on the inside. Remove them from the oven and reduce the heat to 350 degrees.

Chop the reserved onions.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, add the chard and cook for 5 minutes. Pour into a colander to drain, and rinse with cool water to stop the cooking process. Squeeze the water from the chard, then chop the chard.

Cook the sausage in a small pan over medium heat until cooked through, using a flat-edged wooden spatula to break it into little pieces. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the sausage to a large bowl.

Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat. When it is very hot, spread the chopped onions evenly in the saute pan and let them sit untouched for a couple of minutes. Drizzle the oil evenly over them and dot them with butter. Do not stir them for several minutes. (The idea is to let some of the onion’s moisture evaporate and to get some good color on the onions at the start. Once you stir, water will be released, and the caramelizing will end until that water evaporates.)

Season the onions well with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the onions are golden brown, about 4 minutes.

Add the mushrooms and cook for another couple of minutes, stirring often. Add the reserved chard. Stir in the cream and cook for 1 minute. Transfer the mixture to the bowl with the sausage and add the garlic, cheese, panko and oregano. Stir to combine well.

Holding an onion in the palm of one hand, spoon some of the sausage mixture into it and press it in to give the onion a full, round shape. Mound more of the mixture on top of the onion to make a generous portion. Repeat to stuff all of the onions.

Return the onions to the baking dish and bake for 45 minutes, until well browned.

 

Nutrition information per serving:

Calories 630 Fat 41 g Sodium 790 mg

Carbohydrates 46 g Saturated fat 22 g Protein 22 g Cholesterol 125 mg Dietary fiber 5 g

 

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