In Get Cooking, Mollie Katzen calls this a "sweeter, simpler take on traditional French onion soup," which pretty much sums it all up. Instead of white onions, red onions are cooked down until nicely caramelized. The sweetness is then amplified by a quarter cup of balsamic vinegar. Though I feared it would veer into syrupy sweet category, soy sauce and mustard add some much needed depth and balance.
Each bowl is topped with "cheese-topped croutons," which is literally just toasted bread with cheese on top. But they play an important role, bulking out each bite while adding some much needed fat.
I've had more richly developed and satisfying versions of French onion soup before, but this was an interesting variation, and definitely one of the easiest versions I've ever made.
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 6 large red onions, thinly sliced
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons prepared mustard
- 6 cups water
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 6 slices French bread
- 3/4 cup grated Swiss cheese
Heat a large pot over medium heat for one minute. Add the oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan, and then add the butter. Once it melts, add the sliced onions and salt, and then reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions turn golden brown, about 30 minutes.
Add the balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, and mustard, stir well, and cook for five minutes.
Pour in the six cups of water, and turn the heat to high. When it comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low, partially cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the slices of bread on a baking sheet covered with aluminum foil. Transfer the baking sheet to the oven and cook for five minutes. Carefully remove the sheet, and turn on the broiler. Divide the cheese between the slices of bread. Set the sheet under the broiler for however long it takes to melt the cheese, about 30 seconds. Remove the sheet, turn off the heat, and set aside.
Season the soup with black pepper and, if needed, more salt. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with a crouton. Serve immediately.