With the weather today at a balmy 22 degrees, I wanted to make something to, not only warm the house up, but myself. When I traveled all over the world, I'd try various versions throughout. One of my favorites was surprisingly from a restaurant in Hong Kong. It seems I can never leave well enough alone and this recipe has evolved into a soup that, not only incorporates various onions, but has a distant, herbed background. Change up the cheeses used, as well as the bread or croutons. The photo below used torn shards of a homemade rye baguette croutons with Brie and Cheddar cheeses and garnished with thyme leaves that will add a fresh, herb-y scent mixed with the steaming soup . Make your own version and tell me about it! Just be fearless in the kitchen and have fun most of all.
Brandied French Onion Soup
2 Tbl. Butter, unsalted
5 Yellow Onions, large; peeled, cut in half and ¼” sliced
2 Large Red Onions, peeled, cut in half and ¼” sliced
4 Leeks, including tender green portions, ¼” sliced
2 Garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
3-4” Thyme sprigs, fresh; leaves removed
2 tsp. Rosemary, fresh; finely minced
½ Cup dry White Wine*
8 Cups Beef stock
Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper, to taste
1 healthy shot of Brandy for finishing
12 baguette slices, each sliced ½” thick
¼ Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil, for brushing
1½ Cup Gruyère, Jarlsberg or Swiss cheese (or combination)**, shredded
Thyme leaves for garnish, fresh
In a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot or Dutch oven over medium low heat, melt the butter until it foams. Add the onions and leeks, a pinch of salt and sauté, stirring occasionally, until wilted, about 30 minutes total. Add the garlic, bay leaf, thyme and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until richly colored and caramelized, 1 hour covered, checking and stirring occasionally to make sure all of the onions are browning. (You may need to increase the heat to medium to add some color at the end.) If the onions begin to “stick” to the bottom, simply deglaze with ¼ cup of water and scrape the bottom clean with a wooden spoon.
Once you’ve reached a rich, caramel color discard the thyme sprigs and add the wine and reduce about half way. Add stock. Cover partially and simmer until the flavors are well blended, about 30 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper to taste and stir in the shot of brandy. Remove and discard the bay leaf.
Preheat oven to 400°F. Place the baguette slices on a cookie sheet, brush lightly with olive oil and toast in the oven for 5-7 minutes or until golden and lightly toasted. Remove and set aside.
To serve, preheat the broiler. Ladle the soup into individual oven-proof soup bowls. Place 2 or 3 slices of bread on top of each bowl and mound with cheese. Slide under the broiler about 6” from the element. Broil until the cheese is bubbly and lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Garnish with fresh thyme leaves sprinkled on top. Serve immediately. Serves 4 to 6.
*May use Sherry or Madeira to change things up a bit.
**For a change I like to mix in Brie, Stilton, Gorgonzola or a French Bleu, whatever is in the refrigerator.