Onions, beef stock, bread, beer and cheese. Steak and onions; cheddar and beer; bread and anything else: everything in this soup goes so well together.
There’s not much more you can say about five ingredients. Since there are so few, it pays to focus on quality here.
I recommend as many onion varieties as possible. You may even want to include the whole allium family: leeks, shallots, garlic. The choice is yours. That’s a great thing about cooking: there are no right answers, especially when you break with traditions.
All soups are defined by their base, the stock (or broth). I made my own beef stock (there are tons of recipes on the internets for that I reckon), which is very little effort considering the flavour you get from it. Since beef bones are a rarity in even a geek’s kitchen (as opposed to chicken bones, a weekly presence), you do have to go out of your way to make it. Go big, make a large quantity, freeze in batches no bigger than 3 cups and no smaller than ice cubes (those a great for finishing pan sauces).
The beer is where you can add extra flavour. For the pictured version here, I made it with a light Mill Street Brewery Stock Ale. I made one on New Year’s Day with Mill Street Brewery Tankhouse, a beer so bitter I can only drink two bottles before switching. Two very different soups. Tweak and test as desired.
A typical French Onion soup has Gruyere. No problem there, you like it, use it. Here I used cheddar. I prefer the taste, especially if you splurge and get a good aged one. I also find it melts better under the broiler.
- 2 lbs onions, chopped, as many varieties as possible
- 1 bottle beer
- 750 mL beef stock, homemade is best
- 1/2 baguette, slightly stale, sliced, homemade if you wish
- 1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
In a 4 qt sauté pan over medium heat, add some olive oil and the onions. Toss to coat in the oil. Cover for 30 minutes. You’ll see them steam and you’ll worry about them burning, but they won’t, trust me. They’ll turn deliciously soft and golden. Well, OK, keep on eye on them after about 20 minutes.
Add the beer. Stir, bring to a boil for about a minute.
Add the beef stock. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat to low while preparing the rest.
Start your broiler. On a baking sheet, place your bread slices. Toast them in the broiler, approximately 1 minute per side. Watch these carefully! You could wreck the whole meal if you’re not vigilant. Once your toast is ready, ladle the soup in the bowls. Place the bread to cover the soup entirely. Cover with the cheese.
Place under the broiler until the cheese melts.