1 1/2 lb (700 g) onions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 oz (50 g) butter
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 level teaspoon granulated sugar
2 pints (1.2 liters) good beef stock
10 fl oz (275 ml) dry white wine
2 tablespoons Cognac
salt and freshly milled black pepper
French bread or baguette, cut into 1 inch (2.5 cm) diagonal slices
1 tablespoon olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
6 large or 12 small croutons (from above)
8 oz (225 g) Gruyere, grated
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F or 180 degrees C.
2. Make the croutons by drizzling the olive oil on to a large, solid baking-sheet.
3. Add the crushed garlic and then, using your hands, spread the oil and garlic all over the baking sheet.
4. Place the bread slices on top of the oil, then turn over each one so that both sides have been lightly coated with the oil.
5. Bake them in the oven for 20-25 minutes till crispy and crunchy.
6. Place a large saucepan or 6 pint (3.5 litres) capacity casserole on a high heat and melt the oil and butter together.
7. When this is very hot, add the onions, garlic and sugar, and keep turning them from time to time until the edges of the onions have turned dark – this will take about 6 minutes.
8. Reduce the heat to its lowest setting and leave the onions to carry on cooking very slowly for about 30 minutes, by which time the base of the pan will be covered with a rich, nut brown, caramelised film.
9. Pour in the stock and white wine, season, then stir with a wooden spoon, scraping the base of the pan well.
10. As soon as it simmers, turn down the heat to its lowest setting, then go away and leave it to cook, very gently without a lid, for about an hour.
11. All this can be done in advance but, when you're ready to serve the soup, bring it back up to simmering point, taste to check for seasoning – and if it's extra-cold outside, add a couple of tablespoons of Cognac!
12. Warm the tureen or soup bowls in a low oven and pre-heat the grill (broiler) to its highest setting.
13. Ladle in the hot soup and top with the croutons, allowing them to float on the top of the soup.
14. Sprinkle the grated Gruyère thickly over the croutons and place the whole lot under the grill (broiler) until the cheese is golden brown and bubbling.
15. Serve immediately – and don't forget to warn your guests that everything is very hot!