- 6 tablespoons olive oil
- Pinch red pepper flakes
- 1 1/2 cups sliced onions
- 1/3 cup peeled garlic cloves (about 12 to 14)
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 7 turns freshly ground black pepper
- 2 quarts chicken stock or beef broth
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon freshly chopped basil leaves
- 1 teaspoon freshly chopped thyme leaves
- 3 cups diced day-old French or Italian bread
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/3 cup coarsely grated fresh Parmesan
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a soup pot over high heat. Add the red pepper flakes, onions, garlic cloves, bay leaves, salt, and pepper. Stir well and saute until the onions are caramelized, for about 7 minutes. (Don't let the onions get too dark; they should be sweet-tasting and a rich golden-brown color.)
Stir in the stock, minced garlic, basil, and thyme, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 40 minutes.
While the soup is simmering, make the croutons. Heat the remaining 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a small skillet or saute pan and add 1 cup of the bread. Cook, stirring, until golden brown and crispy around the edges. Drain on paper towels and toss with Essence, to taste. Reserve.
After the soup has cooked for about 40 minutes, increase the heat to high and whisk in the remaining 2 cups of the bread and the cream, and continue whisking until the bread has disintegrated into the soup, about 10 minutes. Whisk in the Parmesan and remove from the heat. Puree the soup with an immersion blender.
Serve the soup hot, allowing 1 1/4 cups per portion. Top with the croutons.