Eight ingredients. That's all it takes to make an entire meal from scratch. Add in a good bottle of wine for less than $20, and you've got a weeknight feast for family or friends. That's the philosophy behind our "8 & $20" feature. We hope it adds pleasure to your table.
The bistro classic of French onion soup is an ideal dish for weeknight winter entertaining. It requires few ingredients, relatively little prep time and not a lot of hovering over the stove. Plus, it’s theatrically impressive when you pull bowls covered in bubbling cheese from the oven. You can get fancy if you like—rubbing garlic on the toasts for flair or adding bacon to the broth for depth—but the recipe below is a super-classic take on the dish.
A quick note about choosing ingredients: Most modern recipes for French onion soup call for beef stock; Larousse Gastronomique, the bible of French cooking, lists a “white stock” made from veal for soupe a l’oignon. Use whichever you like as long as it has a lot of flavor and depth (dark chicken or mushroom stock will work, too). With only onions and Gruyère on stage, there isn’t much for a weak stock to hide behind.
Let’s talk pairing successes. First, if you’re up for something offbeat, dry Amontillado Sherry is a natural pick: The nuttiness in the cheese and the salty-sweet combo of onions in savory broth are echoed by the caramel and roasted nut flavors in the fortified wine. (Dry Sherry is also a traditional pairing with beef consommé, very similiar to the base of this soup.)
Among dry table wines, the winning pick of the batch was a Merlot-based Bordeaux from the Côtes de Bourg. Bright and acidic, this red wine got more complex alongside the soup, developing appealing savory herbal notes.
Total Time: 45 minutes
Approximate Food Cost: $23
1. In a heavy-bottom stock pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until nicely browned, around 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2. Add 1 cup of Sherry, raise the heat to high and stir, scraping the browned bits off the bottom of the pan. When half the Sherry has evaporated, add the stock plus 1 quart of water, bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and continue to cook uncovered for another 20 minutes.
3. Preheat the oven to broil. Toast the baguette slices. Adjust the seasoning of the soup with salt, then ladle it into four oven-safe bowls. Cover the top of the soup with the toasted bread slices, then add a generous amount of shredded cheese to cover. Place the bowls on a tray in the oven and cook until the cheese has browned. Serves 4.