Jacques Pépin himself designed the recipes for this bistro on Oceania Cruises
' two newest ships, and it's filled with French comfort food dishes from his childhood. One of the best: a gorgeous French onion soup, capped with melted Gruyère cheese. The secret to the complex flavors is that, unlike most recipes, it includes both red and white wines.
- 7 cups beef stock
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter
- 9 cups thinly sliced onion (3 lbs)
- 3 thyme sprigs
- 2 marjoram sprigs
- 12 to 16 slices baguette, each 1/4 inch thick
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup dry white wine such as Chardonnay
- 1/3 cup dry red wine such as Merlot
- 3 tbsp brandy
- 3 1/2 cups chicken stock
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- About 2 cups shredded Gruyère or Emmentaler cheese
1. Pour the beef stock into a large saucepan and bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat. Adjust the heat as needed to maintain a gentle boil and cook until the stock is reduced to 3 1/2 cups, 25 to 30 minutes. Set aside.
2. In a stockpot or soup pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring often, until the onion is translucent and a light golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the onion is a rich brown, lowering the heat as necessary to prevent scorching, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
3. Meanwhile, place the thyme and marjoram sprigs on a small piece of cheesecloth and tie into a sachet. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
4. Select 4 flameproof individual serving bowls. Using the bowls to judge how many slices you will need, lay enough baguette slices to cover the openings of all 4 bowls on a sheet pan. Lightly brush the baguette slices on both sides with olive oil. Place in the oven and heat, turning once, until dry, about 5 minutes on each side. Do not allow the bread to color. Set aside.
5. Add the white wine, red wine, and brandy to the browned onion, bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the alcohol evaporates and the onion is glazed, about 5 minutes. Add the sachet, the reduced beef stock, and the chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Keep at a low simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour. Season with salt and pepper.
6. Preheat the broiler. Place the serving bowls on a small sheet pan. Ladle the soup into the bowls. Top with bread slices, and then top the bread slices with enough cheese to cover the bread completely and extend to the rims of the bowls, about 1/2 cup for each bowl. Place under the broiler until the cheese is bubbling and toasted.
Chef's note: "Don't try to keep the crocks neat and tidy," says Jacques. "You need to drape the grated cheese over the top, so that some of it melts down onto the crock and becomes toasted and crusty. That's the traditional way."