After looking through my recipe files on the computer, I didn't find anything that sounded exciting, so I picked up a folder of loose recipes on my desk - those that I tear from magazines, the newspaper, etc., and throw in a folder and usually never see again.(I'm hoping to get those scanned and saved over the winter.) There, near the top of the pile - was the perfect recipe, a page torn from a House Beautiful magazine with a Barefoot Contessa recipe for Onion & Fennel soup Gratin. Luckily, I had a fennel bulb in the frig that I had bought for something else last weekend and never used. I had onions, a carton of beef stock in the pantry, Swiss cheese and French bread in the freezer so I was ready!
What a wonderful recipe! I have to say it was the best onion soup I have ever made! The fennel was mild and barely noticeable but gave a wonderful flavor to the soup. The sherry, brandy and wine gave it a richness of taste that was gourmet restaurant quality. Nothing like a little candle glow and a glass of wine to warm the soul too as darkness settled in :)
If you need some soup to warm your heart and soul, please give this one a try. I think you'll like it! We have two more cold, rainy days in the forecast...now I wish I would have had enough supplies to make a bigger batch.
I was only able to make a half recipe due to the limited amount of fennel and onions I had so my recipe reflects one-half of the original recipe. It was just right for the hubby and myself.
ONION and FENNEL SOUP GRATIN
Adapted from Ask the Barefoot Contessa (House Beautiful)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/8 cup good olive oil
1-1/2 pounds large sweet onions, halved and sliced 1/4 inch thick (5 cups)
1 pound fresh fennel, fronds removed and cored, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/4 cup dry sherry
1/4 cup brandy
3/4 cup dry white wine – I used Chardonnay
4 cups beef stock or broth
2 small bay leaves
1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 slices of French bread, cut to fit soup bowls
2-4 ounces of grated Swiss or Gruyere cheese
Heat the butter and olive oil in a large stockpot on medium/high heat. Add the sliced onions and fennel and sauté for 30-35 minutes, stirring occasionally until the onions are golden brown. Add the sherry and brandy and stir and then simmer uncovered for 5 minutes. Add the white wine and simmer uncovered for an additional 15 minutes.
Add the beef stock or broth, bay leaves, salt and pepper and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, toast the French bread slices in a 350 oven for 10-15 minutes until they are nicely toasted.
Remove the bay leaves from the soup and adjust seasoning.
Preheat the broiler to high. Place the bowls on a baking sheet and ladle the soup into the bowls. Place the toasted bread over the top of the soup and sprinkle generously with the grated cheese and broil for about 3-5 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbling and serve.
I tried making Maple leaf cut-outs from my French Bread but since the cheese is melted over the top anyway, it's better to add the cute one for presentation ;)