French Onion Soup Dumplings

My food is meant for sharing. But how do you share French onion soup politely? In my version, you get everything that's great about the classic--crispy bread, gooey cheese, and luscious soup--in one delicious bite.

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    For the "soup:"
    • 4 ounces unsalted butter (1/2 cup)
    • 1 cup thinly sliced yellow or red onion (or a combination)
    • 1/2 cup thinly sliced shallot (2 medium)
    • 1 cup dry red wine
    • 1 cup lower-salt beef broth
    • 1 cup lower-salt chicken broth
    • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
    • 1 tablespoon aged balsamic vinegar
    • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
    For the croutons:
    • 1/2 pound dense, chewy bread, crust removed, cut into 3/4-inch cubes (about 2 cups)
    • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic (1 medium clove)
    • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
    • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
    For the dumplings:
    • 40 square wonton wrappers
    • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
    • 3 cups vegetable oil
    • 1 3/4 cups grated Gruyere
    • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
    Melt the butter in a 12-inch skillet over medium low heat. Add the onions and shallots and cook, stirring frequently, until they're a deep caramel color, 25 to 35 minutes.
    Raise the heat to medium, add the wine, and cook until it has completely evaporated, 5 to 9 minutes. Add the beef and chicken broths and cook until the liquid is reduced by about half, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the thyme and vinegar, season to taste with salt and pepper, and cook 1 minute more. Remove from the heat and let cool. Line a 4 1/2 x 8 1/2-inch loaf pan with foil and pour the "soup" mixture into the pan. Freeze until solid, at least 4 hours but preferably overnight.
    Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a large bowl, toss the bread with the olive oil, garlic, thyme, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Spread the croutons on a small baking sheet and bake, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Let cool and then skewer 40 of the best-looking croutons with toothpicks (save the leftovers for another use).
    Working with about 10 wonton wrappers at a time, arrange them on a flat surface and brush the edges with the egg. Unmold the "soup" mixture from the loaf pan. Using a chef's knife, cut the frozen soup lengthwise into 4 long, even strips, and then cut each strip crosswise into 10 even pieces, to make 40 pieces total, each about 3/4 inch square. Put one square in the center of each wrapper and fold up the edges, pressing to create a purse-like dumpling. Repeat to make 40 dumplings. Put the dumplings on a small baking sheet or tray and freeze until ready to fry.
    Heat the vegetable oil in a 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat until the temperature on a candy thermometer reads 365 degrees F or until the oil begins to ripple and bubbles immediately when the edge of one dumpling is dipped into it. Have ready a tray or plate lined with paper towels. Add as many dumplings as will fit in the pan without crowding and fry until golden brown, 2 to 4 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the dumplings to the paper towels. Continue frying the remaining dumplings.
    Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 450 degrees F. Divide the dumplings among 8 to 10 small, shallow ovenproof gratin dishes and top with the Gruyere. Bake until the cheese is melted, 5 to 6 minutes. Stick a crouton skewer in each dumpling, sprinkle with a little salt and pepper, and serve.
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