Meaty oven-braised beef short ribs perch next to pile of savory onions and cheese-topped toast in this nod to the French onion sandwich. Although it may be tempting to skip the browning of the ribs, do take the trouble. The searing process adds complex caramelized flavor to the finished dish.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Sprinkle short ribs with garlic and 1-1/2 teaspoons black pepper. In 6- to 8-quart Dutch oven, brown short ribs, half at a time if necessary, in hot oil over medium heat, turning frequently to avoid burning garlic. Remove Dutch oven from heat; remove short ribs. Carefully add brandy to Dutch oven and return to heat. Cook and stir, scraping up any brown bits. Add 2 cups of the beef broth, the bay leaf and 1 tablespoon fresh thyme. Return short ribs to Dutch oven. Bring to boiling. Cover and bake in the preheated oven for 2 to 2-1/2 hours or until tender.
Meanwhile, slice onions crosswise. In a 12-inch skillet, cook sliced onions in hot butter over medium heat for 5 minutes. Reduce heat, cook onions over medium-low heat for 25 to 35 minutes or until light brown and tender, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt.
Remove short ribs from Dutch oven. Strain the cooking liquid and discard solids. Skim fat from cooking liquid. In the same Dutch oven, combine cooking liquid and cooked onion mixture over low heat until heated through. If desired, add additional beef broth until it reaches desired consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, on a baking sheet place bread slices. Broil 4 to 5 inches from heat for 1 to 2 minutes or until toasted. Turn bread slices and divide cheese evenly among bread slices. Broil 1 to 2 minutes more or until cheese is melted and bread is toasted on the other side.
To serve, place bread slices in the bottom of four shallow bowls. Divide short ribs among bows. Spoon broth mixture over beef. Add parsley and thyme. Makes 6 servings.