French onion soup is one of my all-time favorite soups, and that’s saying something coming from a soup lover such as myself. Once spring weather starts to appear though, I’m not really in the mood for soups any more. I’d rather be outside breathing in the fresh air than inside breathing in the smells from a simmering pot of soup, no matter how enticing they might be. If there is one food I do love all year round, it’s grilled cheese. I decided to combine the best of both worlds in this French onion grilled cheese. It has all the flavors of French onion soup in the form of a fabulous gooey, cheesy sandwich.
The method here is fairly simple. I caramelized some onions with a pinch of sugar, salt and pepper, and a little bit of fresh thyme. I love to let them cook until they get to that magical point where they are perfectly tender, browned, and slightly sweet. Near the end of cooking I added a splash of wine to enhance the flavor of the onions. Then I piled these lovely onions onto baguette slices sandwiched with thinly sliced Gouda and Gruyere cheeses, and cooked them until they were oh so melty good. Just before serving I rubbed the bread with the cut side of a clove of garlic for a nice finishing touch.
I have a vivid childhood memory of going to one of my mom’s favorite restaurants and ordering my old standby, a grilled cheese sandwich. It arrived with a slice of onion on top and I refused to touch my meal. Oh, how times have changed. All in all, this is a sophisticated spin on one of my childhood favorites, and at least in this instance, I’m glad to be a grown-up.
French Onion Grilled Cheese
Makes 2 sandwiches
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 large yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
Pinch of sugar
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
3/4 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
Splash of dry white wine*
4 baguette slices, cut on an extreme diagonal for maximum surface area
2 thin slices Gouda cheese (about 2 ounces)
2 thin slices Gruyere cheese (about 2 ounces)
1 clove garlic, peeled
*Feel free to substitute red wine or beef broth if desired
To make the caramelized onions, melt 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the sliced onions to the pan with the sugar, salt and pepper. Stir well. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and fully caramelized, about 15-20 minutes. Stir in the thyme and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Increase the heat to medium-high. Pour in the splash of wine and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until most of the liquid has cooked off. Remove from the heat and set aside.
To assemble the sandwiches, layer two baguette slices with a good portion of the caramelized onions. Top with one slice each of the Gouda and Gruyere cheeses, and top with the remaining baguette slices. Heat another skillet over medium-high heat and melt the remaining 1/2 tablespoon butter. Add the sandwiches to the pan and grill, turning once, until the bread is lightly browned and the cheese is melted. (Lower the heat if the sandwiches are browning too quickly.) Before serving, slice the clove of garlic in half and rub the cut side of the clove over the surface of the baguette slices. Serve immediately.
french onion, Gouda, grilled cheese, Gruyere
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