Thursday, January 31, 2013

Ancient-sounding Onion and Ale Soup
is perfect for winter

The recipe for Onion and Ale Soup with Blue Cheese Croutons (click for the recipe) first attracted me because it had the word “ale” in it.
    This conjured up an image of men clad in animal robes, swords in scabbards on their belts, holding up humongous beer steins and grunting out appreciation for their mug of ale.
    It could have been onion and beer soup, but’s not – it’s onion and ale soup, which seems somehow more ancient and more cool.
    Upon further examination of the recipe, I saw it looked like a nice twist on traditional French onion soup. The onions are plentiful and there is cheese-topped bread on top, but there is none of the extra work of putting the cheese-covered soup bowls back into the oven before serving.
    This soup is delicious and terrific for a cold winter day. My husband was particularly fond of it, especially the blue-cheese covered croutons. The croutons sink into the soup, getting nice and soft and slurp-able.
    I was amazed to find how well leftovers warmed up the next day. I put the soup in a container with some croutons on top and sealed it with the top. The next day at work, I popped the whole thing in the microwave for lunch and was rewarded with a hot and fresh soup that was just as good as it was the night before.
    The recipe calls for pale ale such as Saranac or Sierra Nevada. These are both American brands not available in our local liquor store.
    There was a Canadian brand of pale ale, Original 16, that my husband bought and I used in the soup. It was brewed by the Great Western Brewing Company in Saskatoon, a city right in my home province of Saskatchewan.
    I have a couple bits of advice for this recipe. Abide by the recipe’s instructions to cut the sourdough bread into one-inch cubes. They are quite big, but need to be so that pieces of blue cheese can be put on them with ease, and so the blue cheese in turn has a large surface area on which to melt.
    Make sure, too, to use a soft blue cheese such as Gorgonzola, which the recipe advises. It will melt more easily. The recipe says to “sprinkle” the blue cheese on the croutons, but I took the time to put a piece of blue cheese on each piece of bread.
    Thinly-sliced yellow onions are cooked in a Dutch oven or other heavy-duty pot for up to half an hour.
    Pale ale is added and brought to a boil. This will take just seconds, after which the heat is turned down slightly and the ale and onions cooked until nearly all the ale has evaporated.
    Chicken and beef broths are added (I used storebought) and the mixture is brought to a boil, then simmered for about 10 minutes.
    Meanwhile, bread cubes cut from sourdough bread are tossed with olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet, then baked in the oven for about 10 minutes. Blue cheese is put on top, then the croutons are baked until the cheese has melted.
    The soup is served in bowls with the croutons and a sprinkling of fresh chives on top.

No comments: