Guyssss. This week features another holiday that I’m choosing to basically ignore. Sorry Easter. I swear I’ll make homemade Cadbury eggs next year! But with all of this academia business going on (eeeep I defend in a few days!!!), I’m just craving flavorful, wholesome, and simple food.
This week, I’ve got French onion soup with unique, new offerings—hard apple cider and sourdough are making appearances in this classic. Oh Yeahhhhhh. (I’m sorry, that’s the last time I’ll have a mini stroke and type 32 letters in a row at the end or beginning of a word)
Anyway, back to this soup! You’ll definitely want to plan on giving a little love to this soup. It isn’t a lot of hands-on work. But it is pretty time consuming. It takes a couple hours for the onions to get that soft golden brown with low and slow heat. But it is oh-so worth it! You should probably plan on having a Molly Ringwald movie marathon and keep an eye on the onions in the background. Let Duckie serenade you and your caramelized onions. (PS there is something wrong with your teen existence if you don’t know what I’m talking about)
Speaking of caramelized onions, let’s get into their science, shall we? Now we say ‘caramelized’ onions, but really, these onions get all of their flavor and color from Maillard Browning! Definitely a reaction that every cook should have in his or her back pocket. That’s the one that creates those magical flavors in cooked meats, toasty bread, and even roasted coffee.
Basically, you start by sweating the onions. You want to evaporate much of the water from the onions because Maillard Browning happens more quickly at lower moisture. Additionally, the heat (which is important for Maillard) in the pan does not increase past the boiling point of water until a lot of the water disappears. Once the water steams off, the temperature increases a bit, and Maillard can commence a bit more optimized! The sugars and proteins in the onions react with each other and create powerful nutty flavors and brown pigments. Plus, the evaporated water means that everything in the onions becomes more concentrated. Hello sweet, yummy onions!
If you don’t remember, caramelization requires pretty high heat and a lot of sugar. You can cause this reaction by increasing your burner temp, but be sure to add more oil or fat to prevent burning! If you want the real, browned onions typical for French onion soup, use lower heat and coax out more complex flavors from Maillard reactions!
And that’s pretty much it! Celebrate the coming month of April and warmer weather by saying goodbye to winter with one last, epic soup fix. The sourdough crouton and hard apple cider lend this soup unique flavors you won’t want to miss. Tangy, sweet, and tart emanate throughout—a perfect complement to this beefy classic. Have yourself a little picnic with a glass of the hard cider, extra sourdough bread, and, of course, some Audrey photos and literature. Can you tell she calms me down? She has made an appearance in the past two posts…On that note, wish me luck on this scary endeavor! Master’s degree, here I come!
Anyway…what are you waiting for?! Dig into this soup!
Hard Cider French Onion Soup
Serves 4 (or 2 “dinner” soup sizes)
Adapted from Food Network
¼ cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter
2 medium/large yellow onions, sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 large bay leaf
2 fresh thyme sprigs
Kosher salt, black pepper
1, 12 fluid oz bottle (1 ½ cups) of hard apple cider (or high quality alcohol-free cider)
2 leveled tablespoons flour
1 quart (4 cups) beef broth
Sourdough loaf or baguette, sliced (about 8 small slices)
¼ pound Gruyere cheese, grated
- In a large, tall-sided skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Once melted and hot, add the onions, garlic, bay leaf, and thyme. Add a few cracks of black pepper and a generous few pinches of salt.
- Cook the onions, stirring every so often, until softened and golden brown. This should take about 45 minutes. Do not let the onions dry out and actually brown due to high heat—if you see this, turn the heat down and stir.
- If you turned the heat down, turn it back up to medium. Add the hard cider to the pan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the cider has evaporated. Discard the bay leaf and thyme sprigs.
- Add the flour to the onions and stir to coat. Reduce heat to medium/low. Cook for 10-12 minutes, stirring, to cook the flour. Add the beef stock and bring to a simmer. Cook for another 10 minutes and taste. Add salt if needed, but keep in mind that the Gruyere will add some salt, and a few cracks of black pepper.
- When ready to prep the soup, preheat a broiler. Pour the soup into 4 small (or 2 rather large) soup crocks. Top with 2 slices of sourdough baguette, and divide the cheese among the crocks.
- Broil the soups, uncovered, until the bread is toasted and the cheese is melty. Watch closely, it will burn easily! Carefully remove the soup crocks and let cool for a couple minutes. Serve while hot. (with glasses of hard cider, of course)
- Alternatively, if you do not have oven-safe soup crocks, cut the sourdough into croutons and sprinkle with the Gruyere. Broil until toasted and melty and divide among the soups.