In central Connecticut today, we’re expecting up to 20 inches of snow in some areas by tomorrow. I love looking at the snow, and I love photographing snow, but I loathe driving in the snow. So, still reveling in the Christmas afterglow, I went out to the store, grabbed the essentials and headed back home to stay in for the afternoon with the newest addition to my cookbook collection. I can’t say enough about how much I love it, and the first thing I made from it was fantastic.
Because there are few things better than nice hot soup on a snowy day, and because I had some onions I wanted to use up, I made Onion & Fennel Soup Gratin. The combination of sweet onions with the anise flavor of the fennel was amazing, and once you add the toasted bread and cover it with bubbly Gruyère cheese, it’s even better. I’m not sure I’ve ever made a recipe of Ina Garten’s that hasn’t been a winner, and this was no exception. Well worth the hour it takes to make this from start to finish (actual time at the stove and prep work are minimal, the rest of the time is simmering time).
Onion & Fennel Soup Gratin
4 Tbs. unsalted butter
1/4 C. good olive oil
3 lb. Spanish onions, halved and sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 lb. fennel, tops and cores removed, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/2 C. dry sherry
1/2 C. cognac or brandy
1 1/2 C. good dry white wine
8 C. canned beef broth
3 bay leaves
1 Tbs. kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 small sourdough or French bread boule, crusts removed, sliced 1/2 inch thick, toasted
4-6 oz. Gruyère cheese, grated
Heat the butter and oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat.
Add the onions and fennel and cook over medium heat for 30 to 40 minutes, until the onions are golden brown, stirring occasionally.
Add the sherry and Cognac, scraping up the brown bits in the pan, and simmer for 5 minutes, uncovered.
Add the white wine and simmer for 15 minutes, uncovered.
Add the beef broth, bay leaves, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes.
Remove the bay leaves and taste for seasoning.
Preheat the broiler and position a rack 5 inches below the heat source.
Ladle the soup into oven safe serving bowls, top with the toasted bread, sprinkle generously with grated Gruyère, and broil for 3 to 5 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly.
Makes 4-6 servings.
Source: Barefoot Contessa How Easy is That? by Ina Garten