When a friend asked me if I could create a hearty fall soup that begins on the grill, at first I was stumped.
I love making grilled gazpacho; it’s a regular in my summer rotation. But a cold tomato soup hardly is fit for fall. So I started thinking about my favorite soups, wondering which one would benefit from some time on the grill. All of the sudden, it came to me — French onion soup! French onion soup is my favorite meal in a bowl. It is the first thing I eat when I find myself in Paris, and I order it whenever I see it on a restaurant menu.
But up until now, I never have been happy with the versions I made at home. With this new grilled recipe, all that has changed. I no longer need to cross the pond to have a great soup.
The soup is all about the broth, but I rarely have homemade beef stock on hand, so I needed to create a version that would compensate for using a boxed broth. I started by making one of my signature side dishes, “forgotten onions.” Forgotten onions are onions that are grilled (and forgotten) over indirect heat in their papery skins until they are deeply caramelized and almost collapse in on themselves.
This slow grill-roasting intensifies all the sweetness in the onions and eliminates the sharpness, making them something you will want to eat like a baked potato. To this, I decided to add roasted garlic to increase the broth’s depth of flavor.
Once the onions and the garlic are grilled, the soup comes together quickly. The peeled onions are sauté ed in a little butter and “melt” into small pieces. The sweet roasted garlic mixes with the caramelized onions to create a rich base for the soup. Add the beef broth and full-bodied red wine and that’s almost all there is to it. But be forewarned, as simple as this soup is, the smell of it simmering on the stove will bring everyone running to the kitchen. It smells that good.
The key to this soup is to make it a day ahead to give the flavors time to truly meld. This soup also can be frozen and reheated, adding the bread and the cheese topping just before serving.