4 onions: $1.38
1 quart chicken stock: $3.39 4 ounces Gruyére: $2.00
Pantry items: Olive oil, butter, garlic, bay leaf, salt, pepper, white wine or vermouth, flour, yeast.
Total cost (for 4 portions): $8.16
When I think of French onion soup I think not of Paris but of New York's Balthazar. Now that I live across the country and can't pop in for an impossibly cheesy bowl, it's only natural that I turn to them for a recipe.
I can't fit soup bowls under my broiler, though--it's beneath the oven--and I couldn't afford that much cheese on my eight-dollar budget anyway. So I made cheese toast instead for a slightly healthier, slightly more affordable meal. To stretch my dollar farther, I made my own (no-knead) bread and stock from bones I had in the freezer. If you don't have homemade stock around, buy a quart and replace the second quart with water. And if you don't have any wine, you might try beer or skip the alcohol altogether; those long-cooked onions should still have plenty of flavor.
French Onion Soup
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 4 medium yellow onions, peeled, halved through the stem end, sliced 1/4-inch thick
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 garlic clove, peeled and thinly sliced
- 4 sprigs of thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 3/4 cup dry white wine or dry vermouth
- 2 quarts chicken stock
- 4 slices of country bread
- 4 ounces Gruyére cheese, coarsely grated
In a 5-quart Dutch oven or other large, heavy pot, heat the olive oil over a medium flame. Add the onions and, stirring frequently to prevent burning, sauté until they are golden, about 30 minutes.
Add the butter, garlic, thyme, bay leaf, salt, and pepper and cook for 10 minutes. Raise the heat to high, add the white wine, bring to a boil, and reduce the wine by half, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock and simmer for 45 minutes.
When the soup is done, turn off the burner and preheat the broiler. Remove the thyme sprigs and bay leaf from the soup.
Put the slices of bread on a baking sheet and top evenly with grated cheese. Broil until the cheese is bubbly, just a minute or two, and serve with the hot soup.