To Melt. To Thaw. [Portered French Onion Soup with Île-aux-Grues Cheddar]
This recipe comes at just the right time. When our bodies are craving warmth and solace from the bitter cold. The mercury seems to be on a never ending nose dive into the 30 belows and as it makes it’s decent, our bones stiffen, muscles tighten and groan as we reluctantly emerge from our blanket-covered indentations on the couch. We need to melt, to thaw our winter-permeated bones and come back to life.
This soup will do just that. Every blistering spoonful, oozing like lava with sharp, buttery cheddar warms the soul from the inside out. I like to eat it when it’s so hot that it will likely leave your tongue slightly burned - a price I’m happy to pay for a soup that battles this unwavering chill.
French Onion Soup takes very few ingredients to construct and you’ve likely got most of them on hand right now. At it’s core; stock, onions, bread, cheese. But I’ve pumped it up slightly with a deep, dark, bitter porter. You can buy Trafalgar Cognac Aged Porter at some LCBO but if you can’t find it, substitute for another high quality porter that you enjoy drinking (that’s important!). Use a good quality stock, preferably homemade, and a cheese that’s sharp and melts to a rich, gooey consistency.
Portered French Onion Soup with Île-aux-Grues Cheddar
serves 4-6, depending on portion size
You can buy Île-aux-Grues Cheddar at The Red Apron in Ottawa. If you want to give this another dimension of flavour, a smoked porter would be a lovely addition.
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter
5 large onions, sliced thin into half moons
salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups porter
6 cups high quality beef stock
2 sprigs fresh thyme
8 thick-cut slices of baguette
1 1/2 cups grated aged cheddar
Let the butter/olive oil heat up in a large dutch oven over medium heat. When sizzling, add the sliced onion. Cook, stirring every few minutes, until onions are deep brown and sweet. Be patient with this step, it should take about 30 minutes to get them a beautiful, rich brown.
Once the onions have turned to a buttery soft consistency, turn the heat up a notch and add the porter. Cook, scraping the bottom of the pan to get all the little stuck-on bits of onion up, until reduced slightly, 5 minutes. Add the stock and sprigs of thyme, a few pinches of salt and fresh ground pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and let it cook until reduced by about 20%. It should be deep brown, shimmering and taste rich and full.
Turn your oven on to broil. Ladle soup into oven-safe ramekins or bowls and place 1-2 slices of baguette on top of the soup. Sprinkle bread with a generous (GENEROUS!) amount of cheese. Broil until cheese is bubbling brown and baguette has toasted lightly around the edges.
Serve HOT. The steamier, the better. But eat carefully - I can’t promise you won’t burn your tongue.
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