The only change that we’re making to this traditional dish is in its presentation. Oh, and the onions, we changed those. And the cheese at the end, that’s been updated too!
I believe that a big reason more people who love French Onion Soup won’t order it when they dine out is because they’re all dressed up. Come on, you’re wearing your best... whatever and here comes a crock completely sealed over with bubbly, melty gooey cheese. Not only is that stringy cheese going to be difficult to keep off the front of you, the really steaming hot soup underneath is super dark and full of long strands of sweetly caramelized onions that will refuse to remain captive in your spoon.
None of the above is going to compliment whatever you’re wearing tonight. Now, are you ready to gingerly push the soup spoon through the cheese without the hot broth beneath squirting all over you, OR YOUR DATE? Of course you’re not, so you forgo the taste temptation with the excuse “I would order the French Onion Soup, but it’s always so hard to eat!” and you get a safe salad instead and end up with blob of bleu cheese dressing in your lap.
Our version of French Onion Soup is tighter than most, slightly sweeter and enriched, almost bisque-like, with cognac and butter. Instead of using generic “yellow” onions we’ve gone specific by selecting the Spanish variety and toss in the earthy flavor of a Leek. Herb-wise, I include the traditional thyme and eliminate the more contemporary American soup flavor of bay leaf.
Since we don’t seal the soup in its bowl with a layer of the traditional Swiss Gruyère, I’ve added creamier melting Mozzarella to aid in our creation of a draped crouton and some Asiago, just because I love how the tang combines with the richness of the soup.
If you prefer to stick to the more traditional presentation of a crock with cheese melted down and baked on to the sides, I’ve included the steps necessary for those results in the Tips and Trending section following the Preparation Steps. Which either course you choose to take – enjoy, they’re both delicious!
Baked French Onion Soup
Yield: 6 Servings Preparation Time: 20 Minutes Cooking Time: 3 Hours
• 6 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
• 3 Pounds of Spanish Onions, cut into ¼” slices
• 1 Leek, white and very light green parts, julienned
• ½ Cup Water
• 2 Teaspoons Kosher Salt
• 1 Teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
• 1 Teaspoon Dried Thyme Leaves
• 4 Cloves Garlic, chopped
• 2 Tablespoons All-Purpose Flour
• 2½ Quarts Homemade Beef Stock or low-sodium store bought
• ½ Cup Cognac
• ½ Cup Dry Sherry
• 1 French Bread Baguette, cut on the bias in ¾” slices
• 2 Cloves Garlic, cut in half
• 4 Ounces Gruyère Cheese, shredded
• 4 Ounces Mozzarella Cheese, shredded
• 2 Ounces of Asiago Cheese, grated
• 1 Tablespoon of Fresh Parsley, finely chopped
Step 1. Preheat oven to 400ºF. Place rack in lower ⅓ of oven.
Step 2. Spray the inside of a large Dutch oven with Non-stick Spray. Set the Dutch oven over medium heat for 5 minutes then add 3 tablespoons of Butter, Onion slices and the Leek. Toss the Onions to coat with the melting butter, stir in ½ cup of Water then cover and transfer to the oven. Bake for 1 hour until the Onions are tender and translucent. Check after 30 minutes to make sure that the water has not completely evaporated. If necessary add enough water to keep the Onion mixture moist. After 1 hour remove the Dutch oven from oven and stir in 2 teaspoons Kosher Salt, 1 teaspoon Black Pepper, the Thyme, and the chopped Garlic. Return pot to oven with lid slightly ajar for 1 hour.
Step 3. Transfer the Dutch oven back to the stovetop and set over medium-high heat, stirring frequently until all of the water has evaporated and the Onions are browned to your liking. Sprinkle the 2 tablespoons of All-Purpose Flour over the Onions and cook stirring for another 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the Dutch oven from the heat to rest while you heat 2 cups of the Beef Stock just to the boiling point.
Step 4. With the Dutch oven still off the heat, whisk in the hot Beef Stock until completely incorporated. Return the pot to medium heat, add the remaining Beef Stock, Cognac and Sherry and bring to a simmer. Cover and keep over low heat for 30 minutes, then remove the cover and simmer for 30 minutes more.
Step 5. During the last ½ hour of simmering, toast the Baguette slices on a baking sheet in the 400ºF oven until golden brown on both sides. Rub the toasted Baguette slices with the cut sides of the Garlic cloves. Set aside to cool. Mix the cheeses and the chopped Parsley together in a bowl. Place a silicone mat on the baking sheet and arrange the toasted Baguette slices on the mat at least 1” apart. Divide the cheese mixture evenly on top of each slice and return the baking sheet to the oven until the cheeses have melted, run off the bread all around and browned.
Step 6. While the bread and cheese are browning, turn off the heat under the soup and taste to adjust seasonings. Stir in 3 remaining tablespoons of Unsalted Butter until smooth.
Serve the croutons on the side with their skirts of melted cheese attached or float them on individual servings of the soup.
Tips and Trending
~ Adding all-purpose flour will tighten the soup. Aside from our beef stock, we’re not cooking with any other meat proteins to add body to this soup so we tighten it, (as opposed to thickening).
~ When you are adjusting the seasoning you may want to add a little granulated sugar in addition if the caramelized onions haven’t produced enough natural sweetness. You may also wish to add more cognac and or sherry.
~ For a more traditional presentation, fill individual ovenproof soup crocks with soup and float 3 of the toasted baguettes slices on top. Mound the cheese mixture on the bread and bake for 8 to 10 minutes until the cheese has browned.