I know I post about French onion soup — soupe à l'oignon gratinée — every year. It's another classic French dish. If you can get some big onions, you'll cut down on the amount of work you have to do to make it. Peeling and cutting up a lot of small onions is time-consuming. Peel and then cut the onions into slices like these.
Once the onions — about 1½ lbs. (700 grams) — are peeled and sliced, they need to be slow-cooked in butter or olive oil until they are soft and starting to brown.
I once made onion soup at my mother's house in North Carolina. She had a basket of beautiful, big, round onions sitting on her kitchen counter, and I couldn't resist. She was amazed when she saw how I cooked them. "Oh, if you stew them down that way they're bound to be really good," she said. Right.
Start the sliced onions cooking on medium high heat, but as soon as they start to "melt" turn the heat down. Season them with salt, black pepper, powdered allspice, and bay leaves. Keep stirring them so that they all get coated in butter or oil and begin to wilt. Let them cook on low heat for 45 to 60 minutes.
Toward the end of the cooking time, when the onions start looking this this, add a teaspoon or two of sugar to the pan. Stir it in. The sugar will take away the sharpness of the onions' taste, and will help them caramelize for added flavor. Finally, stir in a tablespoon of flour, which will thicken the soup just slightly when you stir the cooked onions into a couple of quarts of hot, well-seasoned beef or other broth (chicken, turkey, vegetable...).
Let the onions cook in the broth for 20 minutes or so. You can eat the soup just like that, but what really makes it special is melted cheese. Take a few pieces of stale or toasted French bread and float them on the surface of the soup. Grate a good amount of cheese — American "Swiss" cheese resembles the French cheese I use, Comté, which is made in eastern France not far from the Swiss border.
Make sure the serving dishes you're using are oven-proof. Sprinkle the grated cheese onto the floating bread and pop the dishes in a hot oven for 10 or 15 minutes, until the cheese is melting and browning, and the soup is boiling hot. Be careful not to burn your tongue or the roof of your mouth when you eat it. Serve a green salad with a mustardy vinaigrette and garlicky croutons afterwards.