In praise of onions

Local onions, ready to slice for French onion soup.

Once or twice a winter season, my local FreshCo offers a deal on 10-pound bag of onions. I always take advantage of the sale (last week, $2.99). The onions are perfect: smallish, firm, clean, dry and grown close by, often in Bradford-West Gwillimbury, but this time in Newmarket.
Ten pounds might seem like a lot of onions for a two-person household to consume at their peak. But we love their sweet mellow flavour in any number of winter favourites from soup to risotto. In a few short days, I managed to put a significant dent in their numbers with a pasta sauce, jambalaya and this French onion soup.

French onion soup
This recipe is inspired by one from PEI chef Michael Smith. I wanted to try his method of wet cooking the onions in a closed pot first. I did get good results — thanks as much to my nose as the recipe. I could smell the onions starting to brown before the prescribed 10 minutes and quickly removed the lid, stirred and reduced the heat.
I’ve made a few ingredient changes as well.
This made two generous bowls, with leftovers.

Ingredients
10 to 11 small onions, thinly sliced
30 mL  (2 tbsp) butter
22 mL (1-1/2 tbsp) vegetable oil
salt and pepper to taste
80 mL (1/3 cup) sweet vermouth
5 mL (1 tsp) dried thyme
1,250 mL (5 cups) homemade chicken stock
2 slices of dark farmer’s rye bread, cut into large croutons and toasted
Gruyere, grated

Method
Cook onions, seasoned with salt and pepper, in butter and oil in large, uncovered pot over low heat until golden brown and very soft, stirring often, about 1 hour. (Alternately, add onions, butter, oil and splash of water to large pot over medium high heat. Cover with tight-fitting lid, cook until onions are softened and water evaporated, 5 to 10 minutes. Then continue cooking onions as above.)
Add vermouth, thyme and chicken stock. Simmer for 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
Ladle soup into oven-proof bowls. Top with croutons and Gruyere.
Place bowls onto baking sheet. Broil until cheese is golden and bubbly.

French onion soup.

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