(Joan's version of recipe from the Oregonian November 6, 2007)

The crouton is an important part of Onion Soup

Float a slice of rustic bread on the soup,
top it with shreds of flavorful cheese,
then broil the whole thing into a crispy-gooey-chewy crust was sheer genius.

Some people put the bread at the bottom of the bowl,
but some prefer it at the top,
where it can soak up some of the broth but still remain a separate entity.

To keep the bread from getting too soggy,
brushed it on both sides with olive oil, baked it rather than broiled, it until crisp,
then lightly rubbed both sides with a cut clove of garlic.

Toasting the bread at a lower temperature allows the slices to dry out a little,
which helps it linger longer in the soup,
soaking up the savory liquid without disintegrating,
and giving you something to sink your teeth into.

As for the cheese, shredded cave-aged gruyere adds a sharp,
rich, nutty flavor that gave the soup a delicious layer of complexity.
It's a hard cheese, like parmesan, and expensive - about $17 to $19 per pound -
but it's worth every penny.

A milder cheese, such as regular gruyere or swiss,
just isn't strong enough to stand up to the onions and broth.
The difference is like sprinkling your pasta with Monterey jack instead of parmesan.