French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup
(Serves 6)

Start to finish: 2 hours
Hands on time: 30 minutes
This version of the French classic is laced with caramelized onions and spiked with Madeira.

1/4 cup unsalted butter
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 large white onions, thinly sliced
4 leeks, green parts trimmed and thinly sliced
Pinch of salt
2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup Madeira
6 cups brown chicken stock
1 bay leaf
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
8 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated
6 sliced crusty white bread

1. Warm a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the butter and vegetable oil. When the fat is hot add the onions, leeks and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions begin to brown. Lower the heat and continue browning the onions, using a spoon to loosen them as they start sticking to the bottom of the pot, about 30 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes or until fragrant.

2. Return the heat to medium. Add Madeira to the pot, stirring to scrape up all the browned caramelized bits and cook until the Madeira has reduced to a few tablespoons. Add the stock and bay leaf, stir and cook soup for about 30 more minutes.

3. While the soup is cooking, toast the bread on both sides under a broiler until browned.

4. Add salt and pepper to taste before serving. Arrange heat-proof bowls on a sheet pan and ladle the soup into them. Sprinkle half the cheese into the bowls, top with toasted bread, and then add the remaining cheese. Place bowls under the broiler t until the cheese is melted and lightly browned. Serve immediately.

Carla Snyder is the co-author of "The Mixer Bible," "The Big Book of Appetizers" and "The Take-Out Menu Cookbook: How to cook IN the food you love to order OUT" (October 07) and co-owner of Kitchen Counter Points, a cooking school and corporate teambuilding company.

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