Ring in the New Year with homemade onion soup

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By FRANK CHLUMSKY

For all of you wise, sensible souls planning on staying home on New Year's Eve, I can think of nothing better than having a nice steaming bowl of homemade onion soup. Soupe a l'oignon is, of course, that famous traditional staple of French bistros, served boiling hot in oven proof crocks, laden with crusty French bread and topped with gratineed, gooey Gruyere cheese. It's the very first soup that I learned how to make in culinary school, much to the delight of my family and friends.

As with most of my cooking, this is an easy soup to make?#34;if you allow for time. The secret is to make it from scratch, starting with a rich beef stock that you can prepare up to three days before you make the actual soup. Beef bones are readily available from your butcher right now, and after you've made your own stock you'll know how easy stock-making can be. Canned beef (or even chicken) broth can be used but the end result won't be nearly as tasteful, or rewarding. Here's how to make this delicious soup.

Beef stock
Makes 1 gallon

8 pounds beef marrow (or shin) bones

2 large onions, cut in half

2 carrots, peeled and quartered

2 celery stalks, cut in quarters

1 clove garlic

6 sprigs fresh parsley

1 bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon dry thyme

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

Place bones in a large stockpot.

Add cold water to cover.

Bring to a boil and skim off the scum that rises to the surface.

Add the rest of the ingredients.

Lower the heat and simmer for 5 hours.

Pass the stock through a strainer into another pot and let cool.

Refrigerate until needed.

Note: Brown the bones and vegetables in a roasting pan in a 400 degree oven for a richer stock.

French onion soup
Makes 10 8-ounce servings

5 pounds onions, peeled and thinly sliced

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 1/2 quarts beef stock

1 bay leaf

Salt

Pepper

2 cups grated Gruyere (or Swiss) cheese

30 thin slices of French bread cut from a baguette, toasted

Melt the butter in a heavy 4-quart pot and add the onions.

Stir onions often over medium heat until they begin to brown, about 45 minutes.

When nicely browned, add 1/2 cup of beef stock and turn heat to high.

Stir the onions, scraping the caramelized bits that have clung to the bottom of the pot.

When a brown glaze forms on the bottom of the pot add another 1/2 cup of stock and scrape the bottom of the pot.

Repeat this process until 2 cups of stock have been used.

Add the remaining stock and gently simmer the soup for 1 hour.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Ladle the hot soup into ovenproof bowls.

Place 2 or 3 slices of toast on top of the soup.

Sprinkle with the cheese.

Place the bowls on a sheet pan and bake until the cheese begins to brown, about 10 minutes.

Sometimes I prefer this soup with grated Parmesan cheese instead of Gruyere. It's a bit lighter, and much less gooey.

Have a happy New Year!

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