French onion soup gets not one, but two special twists in this recipe with the addition of roasted butternut squash and beer instead of red wine (and of course lots of stringy, Swiss Gruyere cheese broiled on top).

I love the way the rich, sweet flavor of the caramelized onions and the roasty brown ale pair with the mildly sweet butternut squash and the way their sweet and savory notes play off each other. The best part is poking your spoon through the molten layer of Swiss cheese to the thick soup below and breaking off the crackly pieces of cheese that melt down the sides of the bowl.

For this recipe, you will need:

4 tablespoons butter
3 large yellow onions, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried
pinch of brown sugar
3 cups cooked, mashed butternut squash (I use an immersion blender to make the squash extra smooth)
1 cup New Holland Cabin Fever Brown Ale
2-3 cups beef broth
coarse salt and fresh black pepper
2 – 3 cups shredded Gruyère or Emmental cheese

In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, bay leaf, thyme, and a pinch or two of brown sugar.

Cook the onions 25-35 minutes, stirring every few minutes until the onions are soft and caramelized. The onions should turn a deep brown color. If they begin to get burnt spots on them turn the heat down a little.

Remove the bay leaf and thyme sprigs (if using fresh). Stir in the squash, beer, and broth (start with 2 cups of broth, and add more depending on how thick or thin you want your soup). Cook on medium-low an additional 15 – 20 minutes, stirring often and seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat the broiler and place 4 oven-proof bowls or crocks onto a baking sheet. Ladle soup into each bowl, top each with 1-2 slices of bread, and then top with 1/2 – 3/4 cup of cheese.

Place the bowls under the broiler until the bread is toasted and the cheese is completely melted with bubbly, brown spots.