The best thing about using a crock pot to cook in is that it gives you back time in your day and you don't have to stand in front of a hot stove to cook! I use my crock pots a lot to cook ahead and this is an effortless way to caramelize onions. I slept soundly as they cooked perfectly and my home was full of savory smells. This soup turns out so creamy, hearty and special. My husband, mother-in-law and father-in-law joined in the eating pleasure of this crock of soup; taking some home and the extra is in my refrigerator for another meal. Such a simple but elegant bowl of soup/bisque!
Notes from the Test Kitchen:
This is a really tasty and hearty soup and perfect for a cool night. This soup reminds me of a french onion soup... a GOOD french onion soup. I can't wait to serve this one at my next dinner party.
I use a food processor to slice my onions, but of course you can do it manually if you don't cry over onions. Anyway, thinly slice the onions and place them in a large crock pot, add water and drizzle onions with 4 tablespoons of the olive oil. Put a lid on the crock pot, turn to high and cook for 8 hours to caramelize the onions slices. They should be stirred occasionally.
Place butter in a medium sized sauce pan over medium-high heat and add in celery and potatoes and saute until tender stirring occasionally for 12 minutes. Add in the garlic and allow to cook for 2 minutes longer. Sprinkle the vegetables with the flour as you stir around to coat well. Add 2 cups of the beef stock and stir until smooth gravy appears. Remove from stove top and pour vegetable-gravy into the crock pot along with the remaining beef stock and beer. Stir well.
Season mixture by adding in bay leaves, cayenne pepper, sugar, salt and pepper. Adjust seasonings to your taste likings.
Put the lid back on crock pot and allow to heat through and marry the flavors for 1 hour on high setting, stirring at 30 minutes.
Add in heavy cream and grated cheeses gradually as you stir and they melt into the soup. Put the lid back on the crock pot and allow to simmer for 1 hour, but do not allow it to boil. If the crock pot is too hot, lower the heat and extend the cook time for 30 more minutes at low.
Preheat Oven to BROIL.
Place slices of French bread on a baking sheet. Brush each side of each slice with the remainder of the olive oil. Place about 4 inches below the broiler element allowing them to broil until golden brown. Turn the slices over and allow the other side to broil to a nice golden brown. Remove for oven and set aside.
When ready to serve, stir in Calvados brandy and ladle a serving into a ovenproof bowl. Place filled bowls on a baking sheet and place in the oven under the broiler and broil until soup is bubbly. Remove from oven and place 2 slices of the toasted French bread on top of each filled bowl of soup and cover entire bread slice and most of the soup mixture with thin ribbons of the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Place bowls back in the oven and broil until cheese is melted and bubbly and begins to turn golden brown. This takes about 3 minutes but it depends on your oven as to how fast it will broil. I set mine to a high level on my stove control settings.
Remove from the oven and sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve hot along with extra slices of toasted French bread.