Vidalia Onion Soup with Bacon Flan


From Bon Appétit, Y’all by Virginia Willis

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
8 onions, preferably Vidalia, sliced
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon firmly packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
Bouquet garni (3 sprigs of flat-leaf parsley, 3 sprigs of thyme, 1 bay leaf, preferably fresh, 10 whole black peppercorns, tied together in cheesecloth)
1/2 cup dry sherry
6 cups beef stock or low-fat, reduced-sodium beef broth

6 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into lardoons
3 shallots, chopped
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. To prepare the soup, melt the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the onions, and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with the brown sugar, and cook, stirring just enough to keep the onions from sticking, until they are melting and soft, golden brown, and beginning to caramelize, 30 to 45 minutes.

2. Sprinkle the flour over the onions, stirring to coat. Add the bouquet garni, sherry, and stock. Bring to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to low, and simmer, partially covered, for about 30 minutes. Taste, and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper.

3. To prepare flan, line a plate with paper towels. Lightly butter six 4-ounce ramekins or small glass jars. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

4. In a skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon to the prepared plate to drain. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the grease (reserve the excess fat for another use or dispose). Add the shallots, decrease the heat to medium low, and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. In the jar of a blender, combine the bacon, shallots, milk, and eggs. Puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

5. Divide the custard among the prepared ramekins so that it fills each about 1/2 inch. Cover each ramekin with aluminum foil, and place in a roasting pan. Pour enough hot water around the ramekins in the roasting pan so that the water comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins, creating a bain-marie (water bath). Bake until just set—but still wiggly and slightly soft in the center—about 30 minutes. Using a metal spatula or tongs, remove the ramekins from the bain-marie to a rack to cool. Run the blade of a thin metal spatula around the edge of the flan to loosen. Set aside.

6. When ready to serve, unmold the flans into the centers of warmed, shallow soup bowls, and ladle the soup over. Alternatively, ladle the soup into the glass jars, if using, to see the layers of flan and soup. Serve immediately.

Serves 6.