It is spring here in Wisconsin at last!
The sun is shining, the robins are sitting on the porch railing and singing, the cardinals are flitting around the trees in the back yard and the snow is gone - for now. It is still chilly outside, however, and winter coats (or at least a heavy puffer vest over a thick sweater) are still necessary when going outside. Soup weather, indeed!
Mark loves French onion soup, but since this can be more of a autumn or winter recipe, I decided to spruce it up with a little fruitiness to make it a spring soup. Instead of using white wine, I use red, which gives the soup a hint of pink. Apple cider lends even more fruit, but the thyme balances it out nicely. It’s a warm, hearty, velvety soup without the winter vibe.
It is really important to use a crusty bread for the croutons. I tried this once with regular white bread and ended up with mush beneath the cheese topping... eeew! Toast it so it is nice and crisp, and it will stay afloat to hold up all the gooey, melted cheese. I like using provolone because it is mild and it melts to the perfect consistency, but feel free to use mozzarella, or any other white cheese you want.
This makes a nice lunch, or you can have it for dinner with a glass of that red wine you used in the soup. I don't think you can pair it much better than that!
and Macros Per Serving:
Total Time: 1 Hour 20 Minutes
(Prep: 10 Minutes / Cook: 1 Hour 10 Minutes)
- 4 slices Italian bread, toasted and crusts removed.
- 2 teaspoons chicken base dissolved in 2 cups hot water
- 2 fresh bay leaves
- 6 - 8 springs fresh thyme
- 2 yellow onions, peeled and ends removed
- 6 tablespoons salted butter
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 2 cups good quality dry red wine
- 2 cups apple cider
- 36 ounces canned French onion soup (not condensed) or 4 cans condensed French onion soup
- 4 slices provolone cheese
- parsley and thyme leaves for garnish
- fresh ground black pepper for garnish
- Toast the bread and remove the crusts. Set aside.
- Dissolve the chicken base in the water. Set aside.
- Tie the herbs in a tight bundle with baker’s twine. Set aside.
- Cut the onions in half vertically, then slice them, from root to end, about 1/4 inch thick. They should resemble half moons.
- Melt the butter in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions in a single layer and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes, reducing the heat to medium-low after 10 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent the onions from burning. They should be brown (not black) and deeply caramelized when done. Make sure to take in a good whiff of the goodness!
- Add the red wine to the onions. Turn up the heat to medium-high, stirring constantly. Once the liquid begins to boil, reduce heat to medium and continue to simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes, or until the wine reduces by three quarters. It will be syrupy and will resemble cranberry sauce (and it will smell slightly fruity - think spring!)
- Add the cider, chicken base in water, and canned soup. Drop the herb bundle into the soup and push down to submerge it in the liquids. Bring the whole thing to a boil and simmer for another 20 minutes, uncovered.
- Preheat the broiler.
- After the soup has simmered for 20 minutes, remove the herb bundle and discard it. Use a ladle to fill 4 soup crocks with the soup. Place one bread crouton on top of the soup in each crock, then lay one slice of provolone over each crouton.
- Place the crocks on a sheet pan. Transfer the sheet pan to the top rack of the oven and broil for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown. Remove from the oven and allow the soup to cool slightly before serving the crocks on heat-proof plates (they will be piping hot!). Sprinkle each with thyme leaves, garnish with a sprig of parsley and a grind of black pepper.