Today’s recipe is my own twist on French Onion Soup, which is a big favorite at our house. We start with a very good beef broth for these types of soups but even more important is the slow gentle caramelization of the onions to build maximum flavor. This is not a step to be rushed and for large batches of an onion based soup, I have often spent an hour or more reducing a pan full of onions, shallots and garlic down to less than a quarter of the original volume.
This photo shows a very large non-stick saute pan full of onions, garlic and shallots before the reduction and caramelization process begins.
… and here this photo demonstrates just how far the volume of the onions can be reduced when the proper method and time are employed to do it correctly. This method heightens the natural sweetness of the onions and removes all but a hint of their natural sharpness, in a flavor concentration that is not to be matched. This particular pan started out as 3 pounds of onions, 1/2 pound shallots and a whole head of garlic.
Instead of a red wine added to the stock like in my French Onion Soup Recipe I have instead added a little of the wonderful St. John’s Stout beer, like in my recipe for St. John’s Stout Stew produced at one of my favorite spots in downtown St. John’s, Yellowbelly Brewery and Public House. Like in the stew recipe, I think this great stout beer is an excellent compliment to beef and pairs well with the sharp cheddar that gets melted over the top.
Finally, to make this truly a meal in a bowl, I have added very thinly sliced strips of grilled strip-loin steak. Even if you prefer your steak well done, be careful not to grill your steak past rare because it will still partly cook in the hot broth. Cooking it past rare at the start will almost certainly result in tough steak in your soup.
Serves 6 -8
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp butter
3 quarts/liters low sodium beef stock
1 1/2 cups St. John’s Stout Beer
1 1/2 pounds copped Spanish onion
2 large shallots
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp ground thyme (or 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme)
1 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
Salt and pepper to season
6-8 slices crusty French bread, cut to the size of the soup bowl and well toasted
2 to 3 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 strip-loin steaks, grilled rare and thinly sliced
Heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat in a sauté pan and add the garlic and onions. Cook until the onions soften, caramelize and turn golden brown, tossing constantly every 2 or 3 minutes. I reduce the heat several times during this process.
Meanwhile boil the beef stock until the volume has reduced by about ¼ , then add the beer, caramelized onions, shallots and garlic, thyme, nutmeg and salt and pepper to season. Simmer for another 5 to 10 minutes.
Divide the strips of steak between 6 to 8 medium sized, oven-safe bowls, top with the toasted bread and then the grated cheese. Place under the broiler for just a couple of minutes until the cheese melts and is slightly browned. Serve.