MEET THE SOUS CHEF
JAMES KLUCHARITS, SOUS CHEF, ABV, NEW YORK, NY
James Klucharits has the charming earnestness of someone only a few years out of culinary school. When the sous chef of ABV in New York City talks about his recipe for onion soup, the 2011 French Culinary Institute grad underscores the importance of developing layers of flavor. From the deeply caramelized onions that give the soup body, to the concentrated beef stock that underpins its savory flavor, to the final cap of bronzed cheese, which acts as salty counterpoint to the sweet onions, this soup is a classic example of building flavor from the ground up.
And in contrast to flash-in-the-pan, time-sensitive recipes, this one requires that you take it slow--an ideal winter weekend project.
TRACK THIS CHEF
DAY IN THE LIFE
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When Klucharits emerges from work at 1 or 2 a.m., the 24-hour Mexican restaurant around the corner from his Washington Heights apartment is where he goes to recharge with a giant bowl of posole (pork and hominy stew) and a torta, an overstuffed sandwich filled with refried beans, cheese, avocado and a piece of breaded, fried beef.
TIPS & TECHNIQUES
Deeply caramelized onions are the secret to Klucharits’ soup. He lets the sliced yellow onions slowly cook over very low heat until they are chestnut-brown and sticky. This step takes time, and Klucharits advises against rushing it. If you have time, he also recommends making your own beef stock, though a good-quality store-bought stock is fine too.
A French Soup Goes Irish
Klucharits gives his soup an Irish spin by flavoring the base with both whiskey and stout. Instead of the traditional cap of Gruyère cheese, he tops his soup with a thick layer of melted cheddar.
Unsalted butter, 2 tablespoons
Yellow onions, 2 medium (halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise into ½-inch-thick pieces)
Irish whiskey, 3 tablespoons
Granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon
Kosher salt, 1½ teaspoons plus a pinch
All-purpose flour, 1½ tablespoons
Garlic, 1 clove (finely chopped)
Dark Irish beer (such as Guinness), ½ cup
Beef stock or broth, 6½ cups
Freshly ground black pepper, ½ teaspoon
Day-old baguette, eight ¾-inch-thick slices
Sharp cheddar (preferably Irish cheddar), eight ¼-inch-thick slices
Long match (optional)
4 oven-safe bowls
1. In a large skillet set over medium heat, melt the:
- Unsalted butter
Once the butter has melted and the white foam subsides, add the:
- Sliced onions
Cook, using a wooden spoon to stir occasionally, until the onions are soft and golden, about 20 minutes.
2. Add the:
- Irish whiskey
If you have a gas burner, carefully tilt the pan toward the flame to flambé the onion-and-whiskey mixture. If you have an electric or induction cooktop, use a long match to flambé the whiskey (or you can skip the flambéing altogether). Stir in the:
- Granulated sugar
Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions turn a darker shade of brown, 4 to 6 minutes. Stir in the:
- Pinch of kosher salt
- All-purpose flour
- Finely chopped garlic
Cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 2 minutes. Then, while stirring, pour in the:
- Dark Irish beer
Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the dark beer is reduced by one-third, about 5 minutes.
3. Add the:
- Beef stock
- Remaining 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
Bring the soup to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 20 minutes.
4. Adjust an oven rack to the upper-middle position and heat the broiler to high. Divide the soup among 4 oven-safe bowls and set them on a rimmed baking sheet. To each bowl, add
- 2 bread slices
Cover each slice of bread with 2 pieces of the:
- 2 pieces sliced sharp cheddar
Set the rimmed baking sheet on the upper-middle oven rack and broil until the cheese is melted, golden and bubbling, 3 to 5 minutes (watch the cheese closely, as broiler intensities vary). Remove from the oven and serve immediately.