It's soup weather. This week, we'll offer you some winning concoctions to warm your belly and make your home smell spectacular. Today's comes from


2 lbs. medium onions, halved lengthwise, then thinly sliced lengthwise

3 sprigs fresh thyme

2 Turkish bay leaves or 1 California

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter

2 teaspoons all-purpose flour

3/4 cup dry white wine

4 cups reduced-sodium beef broth (32 oz.)

1 1/2 cups water

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

6 ( 1/2-inch-thick) diagonal slices of baguette

1 (1/2 lb.) piece Gruyere, Comte, or Emmental

2 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Special equipment: 6 (8- to 10-oz.) flameproof soup crocks or ramekins; a cheese plane


Cook onions, thyme, bay leaves, and salt in butter in a 4- to 5-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, uncovered, stirring frequently, until onions are very soft and deep golden brown, about 45 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in wine and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Stir in broth, water, and pepper and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes.

While soup simmers, put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Arrange bread in 1 layer on a large baking sheet and toast, turning over once, until completely dry, about 15 minutes.

Remove bread from oven and preheat broiler. Put crocks in a shallow baking pan.

Discard bay leaves and thyme from soup and divide soup among crocks, then float a slice of bread in each. Slice enough Gruyere (about 6 ounces total) with cheese plane to cover tops of crocks, allowing ends of cheese to hang over rims of crocks, then sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Broil 4 to 5 inches from heat until cheese is melted and bubbly, 1 to 2 minutes.

Makes 6 appetizer servings.