French Fridays with Dorie – Cheese-Topped Onion Soup aka French Onion Soup

If you’ve followed my blog at all, you must be thinking “Jesus! Doesn’t she have any other placemats? Ugh I am so sick of these damn stripey placemats!” Well the answer is yes, I do have one other set, but they are beige and I can’t think of a more depressing color than beige so this is what we’re going with for now. I mean, they do look pretty good with my dishes, but I’ll be the first to admit, it’s time to change things up. Annnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnyways, let’s get on with the cooking, shall we?

So I am in a really cool group called Tuesdays with Dorie, but I also recently joined another group called French Fridays with Dorie which cooks/bakes out of Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan. I am a little late to the party on this second group but I think my general enthusiasm makes up for it, no? This group is a little more hardcore than my baking one because it makes a recipe every single week. We’ll see how I do. This week’s recipe was Cheese-Topped Onion Soup which seemed like an easy place for me to start. I mean, last week’s recipe was mussels with chorizo and while I do love them, I live in WI and those are a little out of my price range generally. A bag of onions, I can handle. I have caramelized onions before, so I know it takes time, but yet again I underestimated how much time this would take. A lot of cookbooks and recipes have a thing right under the title that tells you how long it will take to make. Dorie don’t roll that way. She is very hands-off if that makes sense. There is a part in the beginning of her book where she says basically that it would be ridiculous for you to follow everything she says to the letter because she has no idea what is going on in your kitchen at any given time and I frickin’ love that about her. I fully respect that there are definite techniques and right ways to do things, but cooking is a very organic and individual experience and I love that she says that upfront instead of saying that it’s her way or the highway. That being said, I could have used a little sentence that said, “This will take upwards of 2 1/2 hours – do not begin this at 6:00PM Maggie.”

The recipe called for 4 -5 large Spanish onions, but the ones I found were on the small side, so I used 6. See my awesome knife? It was a Valentine’s present from my husband about 4 years ago. There is nothing better in the kitchen than a really good quality, very sharp knife. Nothing!

Remember that part in Shrek where he talks about how he is like an onion because onions have layers and he has layers blah, blah, blah and then Donkey says something about parfaits? Well Shrek is totally right about the layers thing. Obviously, everyone knows that onions have horizontal layers that are slippery and weird and can make you cut yourself if you’re not careful and you don’t have a sharp knife (see above). But there are also very faint vertical lines on the onion and if you try your hardest to slice the onion along those lines, it will really help them break down and caramelize more easily. I learned this from my friend Susan over at The Little French Bakery. It must seem like I’m obsessed with her because I tag her in like every post, but I assure you, I’m not. She is just really smart and I learn something cool from her pretty much every time we talk and I feel like I should give her credit because it’s not like I’m just coming up with this stuff on my own people.

So, that there is a lot of onions. I’m not gonna lie, I cried a little. I know there are tricks galore to not crying while chopping onions but I never seem to think of googling them before I start the chopping.

I used my 5.5qt Round French Oven and I’d say it was about half to three-quarters full of onions when I started. It’s amazing how they shrink down though. This is what I ended up with after about an hour and 45 minutes of cooking:

It’s like magic! They’re like shrinky-dinks or something! If I’m being 100% honest (which I am pretty much all the time – other than on my baked goods, there’s not much sugar-coating happening around here) I should have let these go for longer. But it was already 7:45 and I had to cook it for at least another 40 minutes after this so I just went for it. They were a nice light brown and there was some serious brown goodness on the bottom of the pan so I thought I would be okay. The next part is where it gets fun.

When we bought our house, I was very, very excited that it came with a gas range. We had always only had electric in our rentals and I was sick of it. The very first weekend we lived here, I made a fritatta for my mom and one of my best friends who was helping me get things organized and put away and I discovered the sad truth that the broiler element for my awesome gas range is on the bottom of the oven. The bottom!!!! To broil anything I have to lay on my belly and slide it in and then stay down there and watch it to see when it’s done. It’s totally humiliating. I mean it does prompt me to keep my kitchen floor pretty clean, but it’s no life people. It is my dream to have my dad’s gas range from Kitchenaid. It’s really boss. It’s also really expensive so it will be on the wishlist for awhile. Back to the recipe though – I cranked up the broiler and shoved the bread in there to brown. I could have done some floor exercises while I was down there, but let’s get serious, exercise is not really my forte.

After the bread came out I put a splash of brandy in the bowls, topped it with onion-y deliciousness, then the crispy bread, then some buttery, grated Gruyere. I very carefully slid the baking sheet with the bowls under the broiler and hunkered down to watch the cheese get all melty. It’s actually kind of fun to watch the process from beginning to end but I’m only admitting that because I’ve had a few little glasses of wine. I want to broil standing up goddamnit! If you don’t own this book already, please buy it. The cover photo alone is worth the list price. Plus it is just so full of interesting things! Every single recipe has ideas about how you could modify it a bit or things you could serve with it. It really is the best kind of cookbook. The soup was really yummy and satisfying and worth waiting a few hours for. I’m really looking forward to working my way through this book!

29 thoughts on “French Fridays with Dorie – Cheese-Topped Onion Soup aka French Onion Soup

  1. Welcome to FFwD – we hope you enjoy; it’s a really great group of people.
    Don’t be afraid to change things up to your taste – we’re all rule breakers in our own rights 🙂
    Your soup looks great & I like the placemat.
    Have a great weekend.

  2. Welcome to FFWD, it is a fun group that Tricia and I have been with since 2010. The
    recipes are interesting, some successes and some failures, but fun all the same.
    Your onion soup looks good, and you are right, the onions are very time consuming.
    Tricia and I both had success this week and our families enjoyed it a lot.

  3. Welcome to French Fridays! As you can see we’re much small than Tuesdays with Dorie so new voices are appreciated! This wasn’t a success at my house but I will try again, hopefully this weekend.

  4. Welcome to FFwD!!! So happy to have you! I grew impatient with the onions, too…next time, I’ll turn up the heat and the patience 🙂 Still tasty!

  5. Hi! Welcome to the group! I’m totally with you on lusting after a gas stove. I’ve always been in rentals, and those rentals have always had stupid electric stoves. I hate them. Gas is a prerequisite of my imagined future home. I’ll even take a broiler I have to lay on the floor for.

    This soup really is time-consuming, but it looks like yours turned out great, even if you cut the onions a little short. I did too. I just lost patience after an hour and a half.

  6. Welcome to FFWD and NO, for goodness sakes, we are not hardcore. Many of us actually just went on board “Tuesdays with Dorie”. Your Post was so informative. I love your enthusiasm. You will like the Doristas on board the FFWD train.

  7. So happy you enjoyed your first recipe with French Fridays! Welcome to the group!!!
    You made me laugh with your comment about the placemat – I feel like that all the time – I’m usually behind, and don’t take the time to find something different! Oh well. I thought this was delicious! Glad that you did too – it certainly looks great!

    • Thank you so much! I was an English major in college and I love, love, love reading but I’ve never been big on letting people see things I write so blogging is kind of a big step for me. I really appreciate you reading it and commenting!

  8. Welcome to the group! Very fun post, and looking forward to more of them! What is it about blogging that makes us think we need more than one or two sets of placemats and napkins? I now have found myself with a full aresenal off one-offs just to change out my photo backgrounds.

    • I saw an area in JoAnn Fabrics where you can just buy a big bundle of cool fabrics for really cheap (must be the ends of rolls) so I’m thinking of doing that and then having my husband hem the edges. I suck at sewing – good thing he was a technical theater major and had to learn! 🙂

  9. Welcome to the group. It may seem more intense because there’s a recipe every week, but it’s actually really low key. As for me, I wasn’t overly impressed with this one, but I could only give the onions an hour, so I know it wasn’t completely right!!

  10. Welcome to the group! It’s a great group of people and the weekly posts aren’t so bad, especially if you set aside a day or two once the recipes are posted to doing them all at once.

  11. Loved reading this! Thank you for telling me about it at the store yesterday! Can’t wait to try this one on the kiddos!

    p.s. I requested both books we also discussed.

  12. Welcome to the group! I don’t cook the recipe every week but I jump in when I can and just love participating! Really wanted to make this one and probably still will, but I just couldn’t fit it in this past week.

    I love your placemat and you friendly fun writing style. Soup looks fantastic!

  13. It seems as if you are enjoying our group thus far! 🙂 a lot of us have wound up spending more than we like for some of the recipes, just to participate – I think you will get sucked in as time goes on! 🙂 hehehe! Great job with the soup, we all underestimated how long it was going to take us to caramelize onions… most of us spent at least an hour and a half or longer!!

  14. Whoa- I love the placemats- they are keepers, for sure! I like to haunt the back sale tables in nice culinary emporiums when I feel the need for new table linens. So glad you are cooking with the Doristas- it’s a marvelous & very encouraging group. Your soup looks superb- bravo!

  15. Welcome to the group! I enjoyed reading your post so much and could picture you hunkered down on the floor watching the cheese melt on the soup with a glass of wine in one hand. 🙂 The end result of your soup looks like it was worth it! I probably should have called it quits when I made my onions, but I waited and waited for them to turn brown.

  16. I just read this (more carefully!). Great, great post! Thanks for the mention, though Thomas Keller is where I learned about cutting onions pre-caramelizing. Your soup looks great! Cheers!

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