I spent three days of my holiday break on a quest to make the perfect French onion soup, beginning from scratch with the beef stock. And while it was incredible, it is not very often that I have the time or energy to really put that much effort into dinner. I decided there must be an easier way, and as it turns out, there is! Basically, I seem to prefer my soup in sandwich-form.
My ultimate "bowl" of onion soup is one part soup, one part toasted bread, and one part melty cheese. Not exactly the ratio the French stand behind, but it works for me. Why not make a "quickie" French onion soup grilled cheese?
I started out by caramelizing the onions over the stovetop, as opposed to my usual low-and-slow oven method. And while I normally use yellow onions, for this recipe I subbed in sweet onions to give the recipe a boost of sugar you would normally only get after a long cooking time. Once the onions were nice and soft, I added a splash of sherry, fresh thyme, and a hit of rich beef stock to recreate the flavors of a traditional French onion soup.
The result was a savory, gooey sandwich that hit all of my French onion soup requirements. Even better, it all came together in less than 45 minutes, a substantial time-saver when compared to the classic recipe's 72 hours. And while my fiancé was miffed at the whole "is it soup or a sandwich" concept at first, after one bite he was sold. (As was I.) Either way, this hearty grilled cheese will definitely be a winter favorite in our house for years to come!
French Onion Soup Grilled Cheese
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
4 cups sliced sweet onions (about 2 pounds)
2 tablespoons dry sherry
1/2 cup unsalted beef stock, preferably homemade
1 sprig fresh thyme, leaves stripped from the stem
1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
4 thick slices French or Italian bread
Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and a pinch of salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions start to turn light golden, about 10-15 minutes. Continue to cook without stirring, until a brown crust starts to form. Add a splash of water and stir, scraping the fond from the bottom, and until the water evaporates. Repeat this two or three times, until the onions are golden brown and very tender.
Pour the sherry into the pan with the onions and continue cooking until it has completely evaporated. Add the beef stock and thyme to the skillet. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook until the stock has reduced by half, about 3-5 minutes. Season generously with salt and pepper.
Heat a griddle or nonstick skillet on medium heat. Spread the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter on one side of each bread slice. Place two pieces of bread, butter side down, on the skillet. Add a handful of gruyere, followed by a generous heap of onion mixture (it can be a little messy, in a good way). Top with the remaining bread slices, butter side up, and cook, flipping once, until cheese is melted and each side is golden brown.
This sandwich also really good served open-faced, which meets my 'ideal' 1:1:1 ratio.
Related: How To Make French Onion Soup
(Images: Nealey Dozier)