Let me be clear: this is not a recipe to make on a weeknight (unless you're on vacation like us!), because it does take a while. For example, just to caramelize the onions, the recipe actually says, "cook, stirring frequently, until deep golden brown, about 2 hours 30 minutes." Have you ever seen that in a recipe before?! Stir frequently for two and a half hours!? Luckily I didn't mind; I dragged a chair over to the stove and stirred every now and then while I read my book :) And miracle of miracle, I caramelized them perfectly without burning them or panicking and taking them off too early, like I usually do. I guess the secret is to spend 90 minutes frequently stirring, and it probably didn't hurt that you saute them in a stick of butter! But still: I continue to suck at caramelizing onions so it was nice to have them come out so absolutely perfect.
The ribs themselves were easier; brown them, then toss them in the Dutch oven with lots of other goodies like onions, leeks, sprigs of thyme, halved heads of garlic, and wine (see picture below!), and into the oven they go for just under three hours. Mark took care of shredding the meat, which would have grossed me out. Both hounds were very grateful for the rib bones.
As for the flavors.... wow. Let's just say that literally every bite of it went immediately (I had been pumped to bring leftovers to work the next day but all ramekins were emptied!). We all agreed that it was very rich and filling, so just a small ramekin could be your full meal. The soup itself was hearty and complex; the broth was absolutely amazing. The onions tasted like... well, like they were sauteed in butter for 2 and a half hours, which, by the way, is a very good thing! And the braised short ribs were lovely as always (although - you know me - I think the soup would have been better without meat!). In short, this was a huge hit in my house. In fact, Nick and Mark even made it again two nights ago! Thank you Geoffrey Zakarian - you Armenians know your food :)
French onion soup with braised short ribs
from the January-February issue of Food Network Magazine
2 pounds bone-in beef short ribs
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 carrot, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 leek, chopped
4 sprigs thyme, plus 1 tablespoon thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
1 head garlic, halved crosswise
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup dry red wine
6 cups low-sodium beef stock
1 stick unsalted butter
6 Spanish onions, thinly sliced
3/4 cup dry sherry
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar (totally forgot to add this, but it was fine without!)
12 slices sourdough bread, toasted
12 slices high-quality gruyere cheese (about 6 ounces)
Chopped fresh chives, for topping
1) Braise the short ribs: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Toss the short ribs with the flour and season liberally with salt and pepper. Heat the canola oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until it begins to shimmer. Add the short ribs and cook until browned on all sides, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
2) Add the carrot, chopped onion and leek to the pot and cook, stirring, until lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Return the short ribs to the pot and stir in the thyme sprigs, bay leaf, garlic and tomato paste. Add the wine and bring to a simmer, then cook until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add the stock and return to a simmer. Cover, transfer to the oven and braise until the short ribs are falling off the bone, 2 hours, 30 minutes to 3 hours.
3) Meanwhile, caramelize the onions: Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the sliced onions, reduce the heat to low and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until deep golden brown, about 2 hours, 30 minutes. (Add a splash of water and scrape up any browned bits from the pot, if necessary - I didn't have to.)
4) When the short ribs are done, remove from the broth with a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate and let cool slightly. Strain the broth, discarding the solids. Shred the meat, discarding the bones, and toss with 1 cup of the broth. Reserve the remaining broth.
5) Add the thyme leaves and sherry to the caramelized onions. Cook until the liquid is reduced by half, about 3 minutes; add the reserved broth and cook 30 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Skim the fat from the top of the soup. Stir in the vinegar.
6) Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Divide the soup among 6 ovenproof bowls; spoon about 1/3 cup shredded meat into the center of each, then top each with 2 slices toast, trimming the bread if necessary. Top each with 2 slices cheese, letting the cheese hang over the side of the bowl. Transfer to the oven and bake until golden and bubbly, about 10 minutes. Top with chives (we forgot to... there was no need for more flavor!).