Warm & Robust .


French onion soup is a favorite appetizer that my husband and I share whenever we dine out. Gooey gruyère over savory broth and soft, sweet onions. I wanted to translate the warm, robust flavor of the soup into a rainy-day cassoulet substantial enough to call a meal.  


There are a few keys to this flavorful dish. The first is to brown the chicken before braising. The golden bits enhance the broth and give texture to the skin. The second key is to hold the onions until toward the end, preserving their integrity. Adding the onions to the soup mixture too early causes them to turn to mush. The third is to generously coat the chicken in gruyère (or emmental) to protect the chicken from drying out in the last finishing stage and letting the cheese melt to a bubbly brown.


This recipe makes four chicken thighs but could easily be doubled for eight.


French Onion Chicken



Yields 4 Chicken Thighs // Prep Time: : 45 // Total Cook Time: 4:30



INGREDIENTS 


+ 4 chicken thighs

+ 4 oz. (1 stick) salted butter, halved

+ 2 cups beef stock

+ 3 medium vidalia onions, sliced

+ 4 cloves garlic, minced

+ 2 tbsp. sugar

+ 2 tbsp. salt

+ poultry season (or salt and pepper) to taste

+ fresh poultry herbs (sage, thyme, rosemary), 2 sprigs each

+ 8 oz. block gruyère or emmental cheese, grated thick

+ 4 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed about 1"

+ baguette or crusty bread, cubed or on the side

   


EQUIPMENT 


+ slow cooker or stock pot

+ large sautée pan

+ oven-safe gratin or cassoulet pan

   


DIRECTIONS 


  1. Pat chicken dry, season with poultry season (or salt and pepper), and set aside for about 30 minutes.
  2. Slice onions in half, then about ¼" thick, then in half again.
  3. Melt 2 oz. butter in pan on high.
  4. Brown chicken thighs, about 3-4 minutes each side. Set pan aside, reserving drippings in pan for onions.
  5. In slow cooker or stock pot in oven at 300°, add 2 cups broth, garlic, potatoes, 1 sprig of each herb, and chicken. Cook for 3 hours.
  6. Add remaining 2 oz. butter to pan. Turn to high. 
  7. Sautée onions, turning frequently, until softened and still translucent white, about 10-15 minutes.
  8. Add 2 tbsp. salt and 2 tbsp. sugar to cooking onions. (The burning of the sugar is what caramelizes the onions.) Toss until onions are cooked down and browned thoroughly, about 10-15 more minutes.
  9. Set onions aside in bowl covered with foil.
  10. With about a half hour left, add onions to chicken and broth (any earlier and the onions turn to mush).
  11. Turn oven to 450°.
  12. Once chicken falls off bone, remove and lay flat in gratin pan. Add a few potatoes if desired. Top with grated cheese and remaining herbs.
  13. Cook chicken until cheese browns and bubbles, about 15 minutes.
  14. Remove from oven and add onions, remaining potatoes, and broth.
  15. Add crusty cubed bread to broth or aside bowl to dip (my preference), if desired.
  16. Serve in bowl with broth or as a soup if desired.