For days after you’ve had this dish, your memory of it will not fade. In vivid detail, you will recall it all: the sweetness of the onions; the rich beef stock; the notes of rosemary and thyme in the pot; the chunks of tender beef short rib that add hearty flavor: the velvet cloak of melted gruyère. This Short Rib Onion Soup is about as perfect a recipe as you might ever taste.
Here at Acadiana Table, I like to spin personal stories around the culturally significant dishes that I love so much. But sometimes–and this is one of those times–there’s just not much of a story to tell. It’s just soup, but what a spectacular soup it is.
In fact, to call this a bowl of soup doesn’t do it justice. It is more in the league of a hearty braised beef and onion stew if not for the soupy broth that defines the dish. French onion soup is what comes to mind first, and some might scoff at this seemingly Parisian classic showing up on a Southern cooking blog. But once you peel back the layers, it’s just about as down-home, Deep South as a recipe can get. The beauty of this little recipe is that it takes a laid-back casual approach to an otherwise stuffy, laced up classic.
In my experience, every good recipe starts with one key ingredient that becomes a catalyst for exploring flavor, but in this recipe, there are two—short ribs and onions. So here’s the deal: These short ribs slow-cook on the bone for eight hours—enough time to break down the collagen and render them fall-off-the-bone tender. And the onions, well they’re the sweetest of all, direct from Vidalia, Georgia.
This dish walks the line between bashful and brawny. With each bite of my Short Rib Onion Soup, you search for the right word to describe it–beefy, sweet, rich, or velvety—none fully defines the essence of this amazing dish, but who cares, it is simply the best soup on the planet.
As your spoon slides through the melted gruyère and you scoop your first bite of tender beef and onions swimming in the dark broth, you just know this is gonna be good. But after tasting your first spoonful of this Short Rib Onion Soup, you never dreamed it just might redefine soup for you. It’s just that good.
- 8 (2 to 3 pounds) bone-in, English-cut short ribs, trimmed of excess fat and sinew
- 2 quarts beef stock
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- ¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme
- ½ cup unsalted butter
- 8 Vidalia onions, peeled and sliced
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 packet powdered unflavored gelatin
- 4 thickly sliced French bread rounds
- 2 cups shredded gruyère cheese
- The day before: Add the short ribs, beef stock, and soy sauce along with the rosemary, parsley, and bay leaves to the ceramic vessel of a slow cooker set to low. Cook for 8 hours or overnight until the meat is fall-off-the-bone tender. Discard the bones, bay leaves, and rosemary stems. Inspect the meat and remove any excess fat. Break the meat into bite-size pieces. Strain the stock. Refrigerate the meat and stock. Once chilled, remove any fat cap from the top of the stock. Keep refrigerated until ready to use.
- In a large pot over medium-high heat, add the butter. Once melted, add the onions and sauté until wilted, but not browned. Add the thyme and season with salt and pepper.
- Add the meat and beef stock to the pot and let come to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer.
- To hydrate the gelatin, add the powder to a small bowl filled with 1 cup of cold water and let it bloom. Then add to the hot liquid in the pot and continue to simmer on the stovetop until the onions are fully cooked, 20 to 30 minutes.
- Preheat your oven to 450ºF.
- In 4 individual, oven-proof ramekins, fill with soup. Place a French bread round on top of each and layer with shredded cheese. Place on a baking tray and bake until the soup is bubbling and the cheese is melted, about 5 minutes. Serve immediately.
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