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French Onion Soup

Serves 4 as a main dish, 6 as a first course

I love French onion soup. Traditionally, it is served as an appetizer, but I prefer it as a main dish so I can eat more. Although I often use store-bought, low-sodium broth in other preparations, I strongly recommend you make homemade beef broth or stock for this recipe. It takes some time, but can be prepared ahead and refrigerated for several days or frozen for up to six months. After that, this easy and delicious soup comes together quickly.

Ingredients

Heat the butter and oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the sugar, salt and pepper. Continue to sauté until the onions are well browned, about 30 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the flour is well-blended, about 3 minutes. Add 1/4 teaspoon of the dried thyme.

Meanwhile, bring the broth to a simmer in a large pot. Add the tawny port to the hot onions and stir until well blended, adding some of the hot broth if it thickens too much. Add the onions, sherry and remaining 1/2 teaspoon thyme to the broth. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.

To serve, place 1 or 2 slices of toast in individual soup bowls, cutting as needed to fit in one layer. Top with a good amount of cheese. Ladle soup over each. The bread and cheese will rise to the top and the cheese will be slightly melted. (Alternately, if you have broiler-proof soup bowls, ladle some soup into each bowl, top with bread, then cheese. Place under broiler until the cheese is melted and a crust forms.) Serve immediately.

Notes: Just like a flavorful broth, this soup begs for a good quality Swiss cheese. The traditional choice is Gruyere. However, Emmentaler or Jarlsberg are equally good.