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.
In French, it’s known as tarte flambée; in Alsatian it’s flammekueche; in German: flammkuchen. Whatever you call it, it’s mouthwateringly good.
It’s like a pizza, but made with lardons (strips of pork fat or bacon), onion, cream, and fromage blanc. In this twist on the classic version, I throw beer into the mix. Because beer makes everything better. Fromage blanc is usually pretty difficult to find in America, but ricotta cheese works as a great alternative.
So, if you’re tired of always preparing the same side dishes and you’re ready to mix up your traditional Thanksgiving meal a little bit this year, I would highly recommend adding this dish to your repertoire. It also works as a great brunch or main dish for lunch!
For this recipe, you will need:
1 pizza dough (you can use your favorite recipe — I cheated and used about 1.5 16-ounce balls of frozen pizza dough)
1/2 pound slab bacon, cut into strips
1 large spanish onion, sliced thinly
3 russet potatoes, peeled
3/4 cup creme fraîche
2/3 cup shredded Emmentaler (or just Swiss Cheese)
2/3 cup ricotta
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 ounces Bell’s Best Brown Ale
1/4 cup chives, chopped
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bring a pot of water to a boil and season generously with salt. Cook the potatoes until they can be pierced easily with a knife. Remove from the water and let cool.
Place the bacon in a large cast iron skillet. Add a tablespoon of olive oil so the bacon doesn’t stick. Cook over medium-low heat until crisp and brown. Remove the bacon from the pan and reserve on paper towels.
Leave a small amount of bacon grease in the pan (enough to cook the onion), add the onions to the pan, and season with salt. Add the minced garlic. Turn the heat up and pour in the beer. Cook off the liquid and let the onions take on color. Once the onions are caramelized, add the bacon to the onions.
Slice the potatoes in 1/8-inch slices. Combine the creme fraîche, emmantaler, and ricotta. Add about 20 turns of cracked black pepper and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
Roll the dough out onto a greased medium-sized baking sheet (mine is 15.25″x10.25″). Dock the dough (poke it a few times with a fork so it doesn’t bubble up) and parbake the crust for about 5 minutes. The crust needs to be slightly cooked on the bottom because the tarte is only going to be baked for a few more minutes at the end to caramelize the toppings and finish crisping up the crust.
Remove the dough from the oven. Smear the dough with the cheese mixture, and shingle the potatoes in a pinwheel pattern. Then, place an even layer of the caramelized onions and bacon on the potatoes. Top with a bit more grated Emmantaler.
Return the dough to the oven until the dough is crisp on the bottom and the toppings are bubbly, 6 to 8 minutes. Sprinkle with chives and serve.
The smoky bacon adds just enough savoriness and saltiness to counter the rich crème fraîche and sweet sautéed onion.
Let’s face it, there’s a lot of breweries in Michigan. We’ve been visiting them for years and, at best, have made it to a little over half of them. At this point, too, the beer culture in Michigan has become such a phenomenon that I would classify it as a tourist-worthy destination; not just for beer geeks but for people interested in local Michigan destinations.
The problem becomes, then, one of logistics and quantity. You can’t visit all of them, and many of us may not have the fortitude required to plan a proper multi-stop brewery trip. Remember that visiting more than one brewery includes planning places generally close to each geographically, keeping one’s wits even (remember, we’re talking about driving from place to place here, so some temperance is mandatory), and keeping an eye to possibly available tours at each facility. Laura and I do this probably twice a month, and even with our experience it can be quite the investment of time.
Enter Motor City Brew Tours. The Tour company, which operates primarily out of Detroit (but with visions of expansion) takes care of all of that planning for you. It also alleviates the “who’s driving?” issue. Motor City brew Tours offers bus, walking, and bike excursions through the city and surrounding areas of Detroit, giving people an opportunity to learn about Michigan brewing culture and history from experts while enjoying some of the products created here.
Additionally, MCBT organizes day trips; the Michigan Beer Blog was fortunate enough to attend a North Ohio tour, allowing us to visit the Maumee Brewing Company, the Market Garden Brewery and Distillery, and Ohio’s gem – Great Lakes Brewing Company. The ticket price pays for the bus, personalized tours with the brewers, and water and snacks to and from each location.
The trip was a great way to visit areas we would not have historically visited! For those of you in the Detroit area interested in a safe and well planned adventure that incorporates history and culture with Michigan beer, I would recommend checking out Motor City Brew Tours.
More pictures of our tour can be found on our Facebook Page!
Greetings, fellow Bavarian Air Force fans!
My name is Laura, and I, along with my husband Seth, have been invited to share with you my own perspective on all things beer here in The Great Beer State.
Seth and I currently operate the Michigan Beer Blog; a site devoted to the Michigan beer industry, which focuses on descriptions of local breweries, brewpubs, and events; recipes featuring local beers; and interviews with Michigan brewers. In other words, on the (very regular) occasion that something awesome happens in the beer world, we like to be there to report on it.
We also have a huge passion for home-brewing that, for me, stemmed from my love for food, cooking, and great beerDespite our experiences, I will always consider myself a beer beginner on an unending journey to learn more about craft beer, and I look forward to sharing that journey here with you…