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Dinner Tonight: French Onion Soup with Star Anise

You could argue that messing with classic recipes like French Onion Soup shouldn't be done. Nevertheless, in a search to transform the recipe from the very authentic (hours of caramelization and real homemade beef broth) to the everyday, some things are going to change. This recipe from a recent issue of Gourmet sounded interesting: Instead of the usual Gruyère cheese, salty Spanish Manchego is brought in, and the stock used for the soup is steeped with star anise, a Chinese spice also used in some Indian and Vietnamese cooking with a delicate licorice-y flavor. The star anise adds a subtle, sweet undercurrent to the rich, savory broth, bringing a roundness to the flavors. To amplify this sweetness, the recipe calls only for red onions.

All in all, it's an interesting twist. One thing I liked was the way the onions were cooked covered for the first few minutes, which caused them to retain much of their moisture. This allowed me to use much higher heat without worrying as much about burning them to speed up the browning process. I added a little flour before the deglazing process to thicken it, and I cooked the onions for twice as long as called for, but otherwise I didn't stray far from the original recipe.

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