My original idea was to activate a slow cooker version of this soup that I pinned ages ages ago, where the onions caramelize right there in the crock pot with no intervention from the chef. But when I went to start it that morning, I realized I needed to have begun the process the night before. I had to pivot so I did what anyone would do: I googled. I figured one of the top recipes that popped up in my search had to be good. Why Did I choose this recipe in particular? Because it called for vermouth, which I had on hand, rather than sherry/brandy, which I did not.
Turns out this soup is actually super easy to make. Sure, the crock pot version is completely hands off, but the regular way doesn’t take tons of effort. The biggest thing is checking on the onions while you’re caramelizing them so they don’t burn. Another benefit of the crock pot is that it’s only one pot…well, so was this. If you’re trying to eat French onion soup on a weekday, the slow cooker would definitely make things easier, but if this is a weekend thing, and you’ve got 40 minutes of active time (up to 2 hours total) handy, this is the way to go.
I loosely followed the recipe, but the gist is this: caramelize 2-3 large onions and 2 shallots in some olive oil. This takes about 25-30 minutes total. About halfway through, add some sugar to get the juices flowing. Once they’re nice and brown (jammy, even), deglaze the pot with a glug of vermouth. Then add some salt and 2 cloves of minced garlic. Finally, add 3 cans of beef stock, a bay leaf, and some thyme (I used dry thyme). Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then reduce the heat a bit, cover the pot, and let it simmer for 30 minutes. After it’s simmered on the stove, ladle the soup into crocks – this is where I tell you that soup crocks are vital! – top each with a slice or two of baguette, and then top that with a ton of shredded gruyere. Stick the crocks under the broiler until the cheese gets browned and bubbly.
I bought these crocks years ago, solely so I could make French onion soup, and this is the first time using them. You can find them for super cheap and if you ever want to make this soup, it’s worth it. It is simply not the same if you can’t melt the cheese in the oven like this. A warning: the crocks get VERY hot in the oven so you’ll need to handle them with pot holders when they come out and be careful not to sit them on top of plates that could crack under the heat. (I put these directly onto our placemats.) This was restaurant quality and if I realized how easy it was to make, I’d have made it long ago. And there’s something pretty special about serving this at a dinner party, where every guest gets their own little crock of soup. When this quarantine nonsense is over, that’s definitely something you should plan to do.