What’s more Comforting than Onion Soup? Nothing.

Old fashioned, homemade soups and macaroni and cheese go a long way toward warming up those long winter days.

The recent “freak” snow storm triggered all my cravings for comfort food.   Everyone has his or her own definition of comfort food based on individual and/or ethnic appeal.

Studies suggest that consumption of comfort food is triggered in men by positive emotions (happiness), and by negative ones in women (stress). It has also been shown that men preferred warm, hearty, meal-related comfort foods such as steak, casseroles, and soup, while women prefer snack-related comfort food like chocolate and ice cream.

If you were to ask your friends for their ultimate comfort food, you would probably get answers ranging from chicken soup “like mom made when I was sick,” to macaroni and cheese, stew, chocolate chip cookies and pasta.

For me, the ultimate comfort food is soup — any kind of soup — as long as it’s warm and filling. “Casserole” onion soup — served with a salad of Belgian endive, sliced apples and candied pecans — will keep your family toasty warm and smiling.

Baked-in-a-Casserole Onion Soup

1 Tbsp, butter
1 Tbsp, olive oil
2 large (baseball sized) sweet (Vidalia, if possible) onions, thinly sliced
2 large cloves garlic, grated on a microplane or very finely minced
1 bay leaf
1 Tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
½ tsp sugar
1¼ cups low sodium beef broth  
1 cups low-sodium chicken broth
½ cup dry red wine
1 ½ cups grated Gruyere cheese
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
Country bread, sliced (sour dough, French baguette, ciabatta) – enough to make 2 layers in your casserole.

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2.  Melt the butter with the oil in a deep Dutch oven. Add onion, garlic, thyme, bay leaf and sugar and cover for 5-7 minutes until onions begin to lose volume. Remove lid and sauté over medium heat for 30-40 minutes, stirring until very soft and golden brown. If onions begin to crisp or burn, lower heat; they should remain soft.

3. Oil an eight-by-eight-inch ovenproof dish – Pyrex works well.

4. Add the stocks and wine to the onions and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove bay leaf and discard.

5. Lay the bread slices on a cookie sheet and toast in the oven for three minutes, flip and toast two minutes more until golden brown. Place half the slices on the bottom of the prepared dish, covering it as well as possible. Cut the slices to fit (a little overlapping is okay). Sprinkle with half the gruyere cheese. Spoon half the soup and onions over the bread. Repeat layers with remaining bread and cheese. Sprinkle the grated Parmesan on top. Bake in preheated oven for 15 -20 minutes or until the cheese is melted.

6. If the top is not browned, preheat broiler to high. Brown soup quickly. Allow to cool for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Cut into four portions and serve in soup bowls. You will need a spatula and large spoon for serving.

Serves four.

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