Home Food DigiBites: A Cheesy French Classic For Those Stormy Nights To Come!

DigiBites: A Cheesy French Classic For Those Stormy Nights To Come!

Epicurean Exchange Kitchen, Orinda, 2019

Bonjour, news24/680 followers!

As a classically-trained, French chef, when I started my tour company, Epicurean Exchange Culinary Travel’s, first tours were to Paris, Provence and Burgundy.  We have been fortunate to learn from some very talented chefs to prepare classic dishes from these regions.  Recently, we were in Lyon, “the culinary heart of France” (returning in 2019) and had occasion to prepare the classic French Onion Soup, which originates from the Lyon area. I often return from our travels to teach authentic recipes we have learned on the road, but also enjoy experimenting and creating my our variations of the classics using our locally sourced products. I present to you, one of my variations: Sweet Onion and Cider Soup with Gruyere and Blue Cheeses.

“Chef Charlie”

The classic French onion is made with rich beef broth, floated with croutons and topped with Gruyere cheese. The result is a rich, salty beef flavor which is complimented by the cheese and texture of the bread. My variation is a little lighter (made with chicken stock) and the broth is slightly sweet (sweet onions, apple cider and honey) and is balanced with the salty gruyere and the sour blue cheese. I suggest using the Point Reyes Original Blue found at most better markets. It’s local, milder than other blues and delicious! I also top the soup with fresh croutons (method is described) rather than the sliced toasted bread; it is frankly easier to eat!

Bistrot Richelieu, Paris, 2015

Give this variation a try and let me know what you think. I thoroughly enjoy a great French Onion soup, but this is just a little something different to expand your repertoire!
– Chef Charlie

Sweet Onion and Cider Soup with Gruyere and Blue Cheeses

2 pounds sweet onions (Sweet Maui or Vidalia), peeled and thinly sliced

4 tablespoons butter

1 1/2 cups unfiltered apple cider

3 cups chicken broth

2 tablespoons brandy

2 tablespoons honey

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 loaf French-style baguette

Extra-virgin olive oil

4 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated

2 ounces Point Reyes Original Blue Cheese, crumbled

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Minced parsley for garnish

Equipment:  4 – 8 to 10 ounce oven-proof soup bowls or ramekins
•     In a heavy-bottomed stockpot, heat the butter over medium-high heat. When the butter is melted and frothy, add the sliced onions, and stir to coat with the butter. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of kosher salt (this helps draw out moisture to best cook the onions). Continue to stir frequently until onions are translucent and soft.  Reduce heat to medium-low, and stir occasionally, for 45-minutes, to an hour, until the onions are caramelized and golden brown.  (Be sure to monitor the heat so the onions don’t burn).  This process takes time; so don’t try to rush by increasing the heat.

 •     While the onions are cooking, make the croutons. Cut the baguette into 3/4-inch slices and then into 3/4-inch pieces. Place on a sheet pan, and lightly coat and toss with olive oil. Place in a 400˚F oven and bake until well-toasted, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside. 

•     Once the onions are well-caramelized, add the apple cider, chicken broth, brandy and honey, and simmer the soup on low heat, uncovered for 10 minutes.  Season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste. Adjust flavorings: the flavor should be balanced between the sweetness of the onions and honey and the saltiness of the broth.

• To serve, ladle soup into ramekins (equal amounts of onions and broth); float a half dozen or so of the croutons on the top of each bowl, and top with the grated gruyere cheese and a little bit of the blue cheese.  Place the bowls on a sheet pan, and place under the broiler to melt the cheeses.

•     Remove from the oven, garnish with minced parsley. Serve immediately.

Serves 4                                                                                                                                                         

© 2018, Epicurean Exchange


  1. Hello. Wife reads this column all the time and tried this soup tonight. I am not sure which type of onion she eventually went for but she agonized over the decision. She’s like that. I benefit from her passion for cooking! Thanks for the recipe!!

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