I've wanted to make french onion soup for a while but to make a giant pot of it would be a little overkill. Plus, buying oven safe crocks would be an unnecessary expense. So one day when I had a little extra Grana Padana Parmagiano lying around I came up with this recipe.
You can use any hard cheese such as Parmagianno Reggiano, Grana Padana, Pecorino Romano or even an aged cheddar of your choice, though you may want to use a domestic equivalent instead of your fine authentic expensive imported stuff.
Caramelizing the onions and melting the cheese properly may take a trial run but isn't too complicated. The bread for the crouton should be sliced 1/4" to 1/2" thick. A nice rustic Italian bread or sour dough with a little tang or flavor would be preferred.
1 Pinch to taste
1 Ounce or other tasty bread
Cheese, Parmesan, Grated
click for a larger image
Cut the top and root off of the onion, then cut in half from top to bottom. Lay the flat side on the board and slice thinly along the latitude of the onion (perpendicular from the rings) creating thin half moons that come apart. This is called frenching the onion.
Break up the slices and toss with olive oil and salt, then sautee uncovered in a pan over medium heat 15-20 minutes.
For the cheese cup, shred the cheese into little piles 2-3 inches wide and a 1/2 inch tall with a fine grater over a non-stick baking sheet.
I like to use a microplane and shred the cheese directly onto a silicone cookie sheet or parchment paper on a half-sheet baking tray.
For the crouton, take the bread slices and use the shot glass to punch out rounds.
Place them between the piles of cheese on the baking sheet.
Continue to sautee, stirring occasionally.
The onions will become translucent and will start to brown and stick to the bottom of the pan. If you feel that they are sticking to much and starting to burn instead of brown, add the wine or beer and deglaze the pan.
Allow all the liquids to evaporate (10-15 minutes) and lower the heat to medium-low and continue to sautee until the onions reach a nice golden brown.
Bake the cheese and croutons at 350 for 3-6 minutes. After three minutes, you will need to keep a close eye on them as hard cheeses start to take on a burnt flavor if you let it get too brown. You want the cheese rounds to be just golden on the edges.
Meanwhile get your shot glasses and lay them out up-side down.
Remove the croutons and cheese from the oven and let cool for 1-2 minutes.
This is the tricky part. Using a small spatula you need to test the edges of the cheese disks. If they are too hot, they will break apart when you try to pick them up. If they are too cold you will not be able to form them.
When they feel like you could lift them up in one piece, pick each one up with the spatula and drape over a shot glass, pushing down on the edges to form an upside down cup.
Repeat for all of the cheeese disks and let cool for 2-3 minutes. Note that oil from the cheese may drip down the shot glass so be prepared to clean that up.
To assemble the final product, carefully twist the cup off the shot glass, then place right-side-up on a plate. Drop a crouton in the bottom and then fill the cup with a little caramelized onion.