In our opinion, French onion soup is one of the highest forms of hearty, cold-weather fare: impossibly rich and luscious, capped with a melted cheesy toast that is pretty much the epitome of “cozy.” Caramelized onions are the definition of umami, earthy and complex with a beguiling mix of sweet and savory. This easy-to-follow recipe plays on that dynamic with the addition of tart Pennsylvania apples (we like Granny Smith) and apple cider, which not only roots the soup more firmly in the season, but lets you squeeze even more local produce into the bowl!
Onions of all varieties grow quite well in our climate (did you know there’s even a locally developed cultivar called Pennsylvania Simply Sweets?), and finding some yellow or Spanish onions at the market should be no problem. Slice the onions super thin, then give them a nice long time in the pan over low heat — with plenty of butter, of course — to coax out the most profound flavor. The apples and cider, plus some fresh herbs bring a touch of freshness, and then ample beef broth and a splash of Madeira wine ramp up the savory character. If you don’t have Madeira on hand, dry port, Marsala, sherry or dry vermouth make a fine substitution. Cube up a fresh loaf of sourdough from your local bakery — this crucial extra step makes the soup much easier to eat: Instead of tearing through a solid piece of bread, the spoons slides easily through, with no risk of splashing hot soup on yourself. A delicious blanket of shredded Gruyère is the final step in this indulgent French onion and apple soup. Serve it piping-hot as an impressive starter course or for a satisfying supper.