French onion soup is the culinary equivalent of being curled up with a plush blanket in front of a crackling fire. Ooey, gooey, salty, and savory, there is really nothing quite like it this time of year. But it might surprise you to discover that one of the most creative and irresistible takes on the recipe comes from a cruise line that’s known to frequent tropical points of call that don’t see a flake of snow or the mercury dip in winter.
At the Crown Grill and Sterling Steakhouses, two of the specialty restaurants onboard Princess Cruises’ ships, premium steaks, chops, and seafood are on the menu along with classic sides and appetizers like Wedge Salad and Shrimp Cocktail. But it’s their version of French Onion Soup that’s really the standout.
Why? “[It’s] enlivened with the unexpected flavors of whiskey and Roquefort cheese,” explains Michael Stendebach, vice president of food & beverage experience for the cruise line.
That’s right. The tangy, funky, crumbly-yet-soft sheep’s milk cheese hailing from the South of France that’s considered one of the world’s best blues subs in for the standard gruyere, where it plays unbelievably well off the sweet flavor of caramelized onions and the rich depth of beef broth. And since Roquefort doesn’t have a rind like other blues do (the exterior is edible with a grainy saltiness), it’s easy to prep the crust topper and pop the soup under the broiler.
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French onion soup is thought to date back to ancient Roman times, but the modern version came into favor in eighteenth century Paris. In the U.S. the dish grew in popularity during the 1960s because of a renewed interest in French cuisine thanks to chefs including Julia Child.
Princess Cruises’ riff—an ode to what les français have deemed “the king of cheeses”—is quite an unexpected twist. But think about it: If the combination of flavors works in a caramelized onion tart, why shouldn’t it in the ubiquitous steakhouse crock? A splash of whiskey (Princess Cruise chefs are partial to Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey) stands in for more traditional sherry, and the end result is not your father’s steakhouse starter.
You don’t need to book a stateroom and renew your passport to experience it either (especially good news right now), as the culinary team has shared the recipe. But if ever you do find yourself on the Royal Princess sailing down the Pacific Ocean to Puerto Vallarta or on the Regal Princess gallivanting around the Caribbean, be sure to book a table at Crown Grill or Sterling Steakhouse start with this sine qua non soup.
Blue Cheese French Onion Soup
Recipe courtesy of Princess Cruises
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 cup sliced white onions
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
- 2 tablespoons whiskey (such as Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey)
- 1 quart clear brown chicken stock (high quality commercial or handmade)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- ½ loaf white bread or French bread
- 1 garlic bulb, cut across the grain
- Olive oil, to drizzle
- 1 cup Roquefort cheese, crumbled
- Sauté the onions in olive oil over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until browned, being careful not to burn them. Add the thyme and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
- Add the whiskey. If the mixture doesn’t ignite from the stove, light it carefully with a match and let the alcohol burn off.
- Add the stock and simmer for one hour over moderate heat, allowing the onions to stew and release their natural sugars and flavor. About 15 minutes before soup is finished preheat oven to 350 degrees. Season the soup to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle into ovenproof bowls or crocks.
- Cut the bread into rings sized to fit the ovenproof bowls or crocks and rub the cut garlic bulb across the bread. Place the rings into baking sheets, drizzle with olive oil and bake in the oven until crisp and golden brown.
- Preheat the broiler. Top each soup portion with a round of roasted bread and a thick layer of Roquefort cheese. Place in the broiler until the cheese is melted and lightly browned and serve immediately.
Header image courtesy of Princess Cruise Line