I have many food heroes in my life, but right up there at the top of that list is…
…Frances Boswell. I worked with Frances in the early days of my magazine editing career, and she was the first person to impress upon me the importance of everybody’s now-favorite food mantra: Cook simply, use fresh ingredients. She was also the first person to teach me about the magic of caramelizing onions, so when I came upon this recipe from Kitchen Repertoire, the gorgeous website she produces with photographer Dana Gallagher, I knew it was going to be a home run. It’s my favorite kind of cooking: spinning a few humble ingredients — bread, onions, cheese — into something special.
French Onion Gratin
Serve with a green salad that’s been tossed with a super simple vinaigrette.
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 large onions, peeled and quartered
6 shallots, peeled and halved if large
several sprigs of fresh thyme
Sea salt and ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups white wine, or as much as you have left in an open bottle
6 cups stock (beef, chicken, or vegetable)
6 – 8 slices stale bread, toasted if not yet completely dried out
1 cup grated cheese such as Gruyère, Swiss or cheddar
Melt butter and olive oil together in a large Dutch oven over a medium heat. Add onions and shallots and cook, stirring only occasionally, until vegetables take on a rich brown color, about 15 minutes. Add all but a sprig or two of thyme and season with salt and pepper. Add 1/2 cup white wine and use the back of a wooden spoon to scrape and deglaze, dissolving any of the brown bits that may have cooked onto the pan and creating a rich sweet braising liquid. Reduce heat, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are silky soft about another 45 minutes. Stir in remaining wine and broth. Increase heat and bring liquid to a bubble. Season with more salt and pepper. Simmer until liquid has reduced to such a point that onions and liquid are more or less at the same level.
Heat oven to 425°F. Arrange stale bread over the surface of onions and broth, pressing down gently on bread. Scatter grated cheese over bread. Top with remaining thyme. Bake until cheese is melted and the whole dish is bubbly and hot, about 10 minutes.
For more recipe inspiration from Frances and Dana, follow them on instagram.
(Photo by Dana Gallagher for Kitchen Repertoire.)