The secret to La Palette’s peerless French onion soup is chef Brook Kavanagh’s slow-roasted beef bone broth
“French onion soup is a classic for good reason. The ingredients are straightforward and cheap, but if the broth is done right, the result is deeply flavoured and totally comforting. I like to make my stock from organic shank bones for an intense and meaty taste. I started testing out recipes as a 14-year-old working in a butcher shop—I would take bones home with me—and 15 years later, I’m still tinkering as I make four or five batches of the stuff every day.”
5 pounds of beef bones (ask your butcher to get you shank bones with a little bit of meat still on them)
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 onion, coarsely chopped
2 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
1 carrot, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic
1 bunch fresh thyme
1 bunch fresh rosemary
3 bay leaves
1 cup red wine
2 tbsp reserved fat from stock
3 large yellow onions, thinly sliced (about 3 lbs)
¼ cup sherry
¼ cup brandy
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
Sherry vinegar to taste
6 ½-inch slices of dried crusty baguette
2 cups grated gruyère cheese
1. Smear bones with tomato paste and place in a roasting pan. Scatter vegetables and garlic over top and roast at 425° F, turning occasionally, until well browned (about 1 hour).
2. Transfer contents of roasting pan to large stockpot. Deglaze roasting pan with wine, stirring to scrape up any browned bits. Pour wine into stockpot, add herbs and 16 cups water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat so stock gently simmers for at least 4 hours or preferably all day, topping up with water as necessary.
3. Strain stock through a fine sieve; discard solids. Refrigerate stock overnight. The next day, remove fat from the surface and reserve (it’s mostly marrow fat, and it’s great to cook with).
4. Pour stock into a large saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil uncovered, until stock has reduced to about 8 cups (around 30 minutes).
5. For the onion soup, melt reserved marrow fat in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and caramelize, stirring occasionally, until golden brown (about 45 minutes).
6. Deglaze with brandy and sherry and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to scrape up browned bits. Add stock and thyme and bring back to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer gently for 30 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and a dash of sherry vinegar to taste.
7. Divide soup among 6 ovenproof bowls. Float a slice of baguette in each bowl. Top with cheese (as much as you like). Broil until cheese bubbles and starts to brown.
Makes 6 servings.
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