Editor's note: Each Saturday afternoon we bring you a Sunday Supper recipe. Why on Saturday? So you have time to shop and prepare for tomorrow.
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I began my food career reviewing restaurants for Chicago magazine. It wasn't a bad gig, to say the least. However, I came to the conclusion—while critiquing near-endless French bistros—that a job is a job.
Needless to say, French onion soup flowed like wine. And while even a bad French onion soup is fine-enough, a good one has the potential to be transcendent. What's not to like, really, from the rich broth and sweet, slowly caramelized onions to the blanket of nutty cheese on top?
There are a few tricks to building this deeply flavorful broth. In this version, a nod to a Geoffrey Zakarian recipe, you first braise bone-in short ribs in broth and wine. Onions caramelize in a separate pan over very low heat. This is a time consuming process you have to accept. First, sweat the onions with the lid on; then, add a touch of sugar, raise the heat, and remove the cover to achieve a deep, golden hue and melty texture. By deglazing the pan with sherry and sherry vinegar, you loosen any browned bits. When the onions near the finish line, finely chopped apples add welcome texture and interest to the final product.
Once joined, the components simmer and meld in flavor. Finally, a nugget of garlic bread is added, and a blanket of cheese—turned brown and bubbly under the broiler—finishes the dish.
If you don't have individual, oven safe bowls, you can place cheese-topped bread under the broiler for 6 minutes. Then, place the cheese toasts atop bowls of warmed soup. Go ahead and make the soup a day ahead—it'll benefit. However, it's best to store the short ribs separately. When making the soup in advance, don't place the crouton in the broth or top with cheese until you're ready to eat. Warm the broth first, as the broiler won't warm the broth through if it's pulled straight from the refrigerator.