Onion soup first originated in Lyon, France, the onion soup capital of the world. In Lyon, there are small eateries known as bouchons where the workmen gather to have simple meals with equally simple wine. A bowl of good onion soup along with bone marrow on a crusty French bread and a glass or two of Beaujolais would be the winning bouchon indulgence. I’ve crafted many variations of onion soup, even crusting my soup with black truffles. I can attest that this cream onion and apple soup recipe is so inherently satisfying that you can do nothing or everything to it, and it will always taste wonderful. This is not the typical caramel-colored soup but a blend of various onions and Granny Smith apples to set off the sweetness of the onions, Gruyere cheese and a splash of Calvados (apple brandy).
Yield: 8 starters or 4 main course servings
• 1 pound seasonal onions, peeled and coarsely diced
• 1 pound Spanish onions, peeled and coarsely diced
• 1 pound Vidalia onions, peeled and coarsely diced (If Vidalia onions are not available, use a total of two pounds of Spanish onions instead.)
• 1 white onion, peeled and coarsely diced
• 2 leeks
• 6 Tbsp. butter
• 2 garlic cloves, chopped
• 1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and chopped
• 1 medium Red Delicious apple, peeled, cored and chopped
• 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
• 24 ounces chicken stock
• 1/2 cup heavy cream
• 3 bay leaves
• Salt to taste
• Grated Gruyere cheese, 3 ounces per person
• Splash of Calvados per person
Melt butter in a Dutch oven or large casserole over medium heat. Add onions and garlic. Begin to sweat mixture until onions turn slightly golden. Add apples to mixture and cook for 10 minutes.
Add flour to make a roux. Cook the roux incorporating the onion and apple mixture for six minutes. Always stir the pot with a wooden spoon.
In a separate pot, bring chicken stock to a boil. Add stock to onion soup and bring to a boil. Add bay leaves and simmer for at least 1 to 1-1/2 hours. If soup is too thick, add more chicken stock and season to taste.
Remove bay leaves. In a blender, puree the soup and pass it though a chinois strainer. Finish by adding warm cream.
There are two ways to bake this soup, in ramekins or large Spanish onions. When using onions: leave peels on; cut off tops; remove insides, leaving a wall of each onion intact; add soup; top with Calvados; and finish with grated Gruyere cheese. When using ramekins: splash Calvados on the bottom; ladle in soup; and top with grated Gruyere cheese.
The final and most important step for both presentations is to bake the soup for 35 to 40 minutes in a water bath covering only the bottom of the tray at 325 degrees so that the cheese will melt.
Howard Karp is the Executive Chef at The Culinary Institute of Montana at Flathead Valley Community College. For more information about the program, visit www.culinaryinstituteofmt.com.