You know what the secret to amazing French onion soup is? Brandy.
Next time you make French onion soup, skip the white wine and add brandy instead. You won’t taste a strong liquor flavor, but you will notice a complexity and depth of flavor that lingers delicately on your lips.
Brandied French Onion and Fennel Soup
Makes 8 servings
Note: The licorice flavored fennel complements the sweet onions and brandy in this soup. If you’re not a fennel fan, then add 2 more onions. For a variation, you can also use smoked Gouda or rye bread.
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 medium fennel bulbs, finely chopped, about 1 1/2 pounds
5 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced, about 2 pounds
1 cup brandy of your choice
7 cups beef broth
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 to 3 teaspoons minced fresh thyme, depending on your likeness
3/4 pound shredded Gruyere cheese
8 thin slices of French bread, toasted
1. In a large, heavy bottomed saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-low heat, melt butter. Add fennel and onions turning to coat. Cook for 35 to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. This allows the onions to “sweat” and become meltingly tender, browned, and sweet. Add brandy and cook for 5 minutes until slightly reduced. Add beef broth, salt, black pepper, and thyme and stir. Reduce heat to low and cook for 15 to 20 minutes.
2. Pour soup into individual bowls. Top each with a piece of bread, toasted side down, and top with 1/8 of the shredded cheese. Broil for 2 to 3 minutes, or until browned and bubbly. Serve immediately.