I have always loved French onion soup, but it has always been missing something no matter how good it was or where I had it. So I decided to start the year off by taking French onion soup and making it a Fat Boy original by completely changing it while still leaving enough of the traditional elements there for its roots to be recognizable. How is that possible you ask? Well, lets break down traditional French Onion Soup first and see what it had to have to be recognized.
French Onion Soup at its core is a rich beef broth with long pieces of caramelized onion stewed for an extended period of time, served with a large crouton on top and sealed with a layer of cheese, traditionally swiss. Pretty basic, but easy to distinguish yourself with quality beef broth, well flavored cheese, and high quality bread in the crouton right? What else could I elevate to really make it a Fat Boy creation and still make it recognizable as French Onion?
First I had to start layering my flavors by starting the pot with hardwood smoked bacon. Bacon is how I start most of my soups and stews, and it hasn't let me down yet. We are going to have a strong base of beef here anyway, and beef and bacon always go together well. Add in the saltiness of bacon and the nice smoke and we aren't going to do anything but add to the flavor profile. Our next slight detour is going to be to add a bit of flour to start a roux with the butter and bacon fat after the onions have caramelized. This is going to add some body and a silky texture to what is normally a very thin broth. The next left turn is going to come when we add the beef stock. Some restaurants add red wine to their soups here. At Fat Boy Heaven I have always maintained that anywhere a chef can add wine he can add beer just as easily, and often with more impact to the flavor profile. I didn't want to get too far afield with the flavoring but wanted something with a rich body, so I added a bottle of Dos Equis Amber Ale. If I had it on hand I would have used Lexington Brewing's Bourbon Barrel Ale here, but I didn't have any on hand. Our final departure from tradition comes at the end. Instead of the traditional baked on seal of swiss cheese, I baked blue cheese crumbles onto the croutons before floating them onto the bowls at service.
So how did it turn out? The two previous times I've made French Onion Soup my son hasn't cared for it, and I've used traditional recipes and methods both times. This time he made a point of coming to me after dinner and telling me how much he liked it and wanted me to make it again. That is success at it's most basic level my friends, and a clear indication that we are walking in Fat Boy Heaven with this recipe. Give this one a try for your family, your next potluck, or that date you really want to impress with your culinary ability. It takes about an hour, and you won't regret it for a second.
Fatboy "who you callin' French" Blue Beer and Onion Soup
YIELD: 8-10 servings
ACTIVE TIME: 10-15 Minutes
TOTAL TIME: 60-90 Minutes
- 1 tablespoon canola oil or olive oil
- 10 slices smoky, lean bacon, chopped
- 4 large onions, quartered lengthwise then very thinly sliced across
- 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 4 Tbsp. butter
- 4 Tbsp. flour
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme
- Black pepper
- 1 bottle Amber or Pale ale, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
- 1 quart veal stock or beef stock
- 2 cups water
- Salt, to taste
- 4 slices good-quality white or sourdough bread, corners trimmed (if necessary) to fit tops into your soup bowls
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- 1/2 pound smoked blue cheese or English blue cheese, crumbled
- 2 tablespoons chives, minced
- 2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
- Heat a Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat with the oil.
- Add the bacon and stir until crispy but not overcooked, 5 minutes or so.
- Add the onions and garlic, then stir in the thyme and pepper.
- Add the butter, once melted sprinkle flour over pan and stir.
- Cook for 30-35 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are very sweet and caramel in color. Turn the heat up to medium-high, then add the beer and reduce by half. Add the Worcestershire, stock and water to the pot and simmer for the flavors to combine. Season with salt, to taste.
- Heat the oven to 350°F.
- Brush the bread slices with a little melted butter and bake for 12-15 minutes, until golden and toasted. Top the toast with the blue cheese and return to the oven for 3 minutes to melt the cheese. Remove from the oven and top with the herbs.
- Fill the soup bowls and top with blue cheese croutons.