As I write this, I am staying home sick from work. I hate calling out sick because I always feel like maybe I could have been fine at work. But then, in line at CVS buying soup and orange juice I got dizzy and realized staying home was a good idea. School children visiting the museum don’t need an educator with a drippy nose, hoarse voice, and with a high likelihood of falling asleep during the movie. People don’t go to museums to see that.
But this is a great recipe to talk about on a sick day because it’s the ultimate comfort food. Ryan and I first made it during a cooking class at Sur La Table which focused on Jacques Pepin. I had never been to a cooking class before and I thought everything we made would be too complicated and I’d never be able to make it again at home. Not so! This recipe blew us away in class and we made it many times throughout the winter. It’s rich, thick, and delicious which makes it perfect for sick days, freezing winter evenings, and according Jacques Pepin, it’s good after a night of heavy drinking. This recipe comes from “Essential Pepin” by Jacques Pepin. It takes about an hour to finish, but it’s pretty straightforward. It’s not the prettiest recipe because it look rather lumpy. It also comes out thicker than a regular soup, but it’s hearty and amazing.
Another thing that I’d like to pass on is a way to cut onions. Our instructor taught us this in class and I’ve found it really handy. For this recipe you’ll need long strips on onions. First, cut the onion from end to end, NOT across the equator. Peel off the onion skins. For strips, cut both tips off the ends. Then cut the onion along the lines you see on the onion. This means you are NOT cutting straight up and down, but on a diagonal following the grain of the onion. Hope these pictures help make sense of what I wrote.
If you’re dicing the onion, again cut the onion from end to end. Next cut off the non-hairy end of the onion. Then, like above, cut along the onion along the long lines on the onion. The “hairy end” of the onion will hold the strips all together. Now, cut horizontally up the onion until you get to the “hairy end.” Now you’ll have nice small squares of onion.
On to the recipe.
15-20 slices of baguette, cut about 1/4 inch thick
3 tbsp butter
4 cups of onion cut in thin strips (about 4 medium onions)
6-8 cups chicken broth (you can use more or less broth depending on the size of your casserole dish)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
2 cups grated Gruyere cheese (feel free to use more! I love cheese and sometimes use up to 3 cups)
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup of port
1. Preheat oven to 400°
2. Arrange the slices of bread on a cookie sheet. Toast in the oven for 8-10 minutes, or until they are light golden brown on the edges. Remove from oven and set aside
3. Melt the butter in a sauce pan. Cook the onions in the butter for about 20 minutes, or until the onions start to turn a bit brown in places.
4. Add the stock, salt, and pepper. Bring to boil and cook for 20 minutes.
5. Arrange 1/2 the toast on the bottom of a casserole dish. I use a 2.5 quart dish, but have also used my Dutch Oven with success. The bigger the dish the more stock you can use. Smaller dish means some stock doesn’t make it into the final product.
6. Layer 1/2 onions on top of the toast
7. Layer 1/3 cheese on top of the onions.
8. Repeat the layers so in total you have two layers of bread, onion, and cheese.
9. Pour the stock into the casserole. Leave about an inch on the top because the soup will rise in the oven.
10. Sprinkle the last 1/3 of cheese on top of the soup mixture.
11. Bake for 35 minutes, or until a nice cheesey crust forms on top.
12. While the soup is baking, whisk the egg yolks and port in a bowl.
13. Remove the soup from the oven. Make a hole in the middle of the soup mixture and pour in the egg and port mix. Stir everything so the port mixture is well incorporated. The heat of the soup will cook the egg.
14. Turn off the oven and serve!
Messy Level: High. Prior to documenting this for the blog I would have thought this was a fairly mess-free recipe, and if you’re more meticulous than me you might keep your kitchen clean. But for me, after chopping four onions I had onion skins all over the kitchen. I shredded the cheese in the food processor and some fell out so I had cheese on the floor. But my worst mistake was that in my excitement for this dish, I over filled the casserole. It cooked over a lot which led to burned stock remnants at the bottom of my oven. Needless to say, that’s no fun. So, be more careful than me!