1 tbsp virgin olive oil
1 Spanish onion, large, thinly sliced
16 shallots, thinly sliced
1/8 cup sliced garlic (about 5 cloves)
1 cup Madeira wine
1 1/2 quarts homemade beef stock
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme
1 small bay leaf
1 6.5 oz container D'Artagnan demi-glace (optional, if omitted supplement 1 cup beef stock)
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 tsp coarsely ground black peppercorn
3/4 lb fontina cheese (sliced)
1 loaf pane rustica or other crusty Italian bread (even tastier with roasted garlic)
flat leaf Italian parsley for garnish
In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium-low heat. Add onion, shallots and garlic and saute until onions are translucent and slightly caramelized. Add the Madeira, beef stock, thyme, and bay leaf. Raise the heat to medium and bring to simmer. Add demi-glace and bring to a boil. Add salt and pepper--adjust salt to your taste. Lower heat, simmer covered for 20 minutes. Preheat broiler.
Toast 3/4 inch thick slices of pane rustica or other crusty Italian bread until lightly browned. Ladle soup into crocks and rest a slice of toast on top of each (some crocks have room for two small slices of toast). Lay 2 slices of fontina neatly over each toast slice. Broil for ten minutes on a baking sheet until cheese is melted or browned to your liking. Remove carefully with oven mitts. Caution, crocks will be hot. Garnish with flat leaf parsley before serving.