Garlic Soup

2 T.olive oil
2 T. butter
2 lbs. onions, about 4, chopped
2 cups garlic cloves, about 4 large heads, chopped
2 quarts chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 loaf day-old French bread (about 1/4 lb.),cut into chunks
1 bouquet garni: 6 parsley stems, 9 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 1/2 tsp. dried, and 1 bay leaf
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups half and half
1/4 tsp. fresh-ground black pepper
Croutons, optional

In a large pot, heat the oil and butter over low heat. Add the onions and garlic. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until very soft and beginning to turn brown, about 30 minutes. Raise the heat to moderate and continue cooking the onions and garlic, uncovered, stirring frequently, until deep golden, about 10 minutes longer.

Add the stock, bread, bouquet garni, and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer about 15 minutes.
Remove the Bouquet garni and puree the soup in a blender or food processor. Strain the soup back into the pot. Add half and half and pepper and bring back to a boil. Serve topped with croutons, if you like.

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