Shoulder season weather calls for comfort food, and few dishes hit the mark like French onion soup. A favorite menu item at Sonoma Cider‘s recently opened taproom and restaurant in Healdsburg, California, Executive Chef Jordan Adorni uses the house’s apple brandy as the flavor base to the sumptuous soup.
“Apple brandy creates a depth of flavor that can’t be obtained by simply using beef stock and herbs,” Adorni explains. “It makes the soup have a lingering, full body to help sustain the richness associated with bread and melted cheese normally topping the soup.”
Made in the new home of the four-year-old cidery, the former warehouse is now a 7,300-square-foot production facility, event space and taproom, found one block south of the bustling Healdsburg Square in heralded wine country. Two dozen taps pour nearly 20 different ciders from Sonoma Cider, many of which never leave the taproom and are extremely limited in production, like a single-varietal Gravenstein or the West Cider, a blend of Pink Pearmain, Winter Banana, Mac Mystery, Crispin and Baldwin Striped Gentleman apples from Russian River Valley’s Porque Ranch orchard.
For Adorni, he keeps his pairing simple for his hearty soup. It needs “something clean and crisp to not confuse the richness,” the chef instructs. Try “the Sonoma Cider Hatchet and the micro-release Dry Golden Delicious cider.”
When it comes to cooking with brandy, the chef suggest — obviously — only cooking with Sonoma Cider brandy. Other than that, he says to allow time to cook off the alcohol when deglazing in this dish, which discourages any bitter notes and encourages plenty of the fruit instead.
French Onion Soup
By Executive Chef Jordan Adorni
Yield 1/2 gallon, about 8 servings
1 1/2 pounds (about 4 medium-sized) yellow onions, sliced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1/2 bunch fresh thyme, picked
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups Sonoma Cider appple brandy
4 cups water
1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
4 cups (1 32-ounce container) beef stock
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper, to taste
French baguette, sliced
1/2 cup Gruyere
1/2 cup cheddar
1/2 cup Swiss cheese
Melt butter in a stock pot over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and add the sliced onions, cooking down to caramelize for about 15 minutes. Add the garlic and the bay leaf, cook until aromatic, about 2 minutes.
Deglaze the pot with the apple brandy, scraping up the black bits off the bottom of the pot. Add the herbs and cook until aromatic, about 2 to 3 minutes.
Add Worcestershire sauce, beef stock and water, bringing to a boil. Reduce to a simmer over medium-low heat for 30 to 45 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
In a small bowl, mix together the cheeses. When ready to serve, top each serving with a slice of bread and the cheese mixture.