french fridays with dorie: cheese-topped onion soup

It’s the last recipe in February for French Fridays with Dorie, and, in my opinion, the month ends on a high note. This week’s assignment was cheese-topped onion soup, in other words, classic French onion soup. We loved this soup at my house. It definitely ranks in my (constantly changing) top 10 FFwD recipes so far.

I think it’s safe to say that the last time I made French onion soup was at least twenty years ago. Previously, I’d always made a version from Julia Child. While I always enjoyed it, the deterrent was its beef broth base. Homemade beef stock was never in the cards, and the canned version was never very appealing. I usually resorted to beef stock from boullion cubes, but that was always very salty.

The revelation with Dorie’s version of this soup was its chicken stock base. It never occurred to me on my own to use it, and now that I’ve done it, I can’t imagine why I’d ever make it any other way. I even had time to make my own stock which I’m sure gilded the lily.

Fortunately, I didn’t work on Monday, the President’s Day holiday. My onions took the better part of the day to caramelize, and, even then, they were closer to golden than caramel. I thought the color was good enough, and the taste was very sweet. My onions were also extremely wet as they cooked. They exuded onion juice. I poured about half a cup or more of liquid off at one point because the onions were steaming with no chance of browning.


I don’t know why onions take so long to caramelize for me. I remember having the same experience when we made the pissaladiere. I wonder I’m taking the directions about using low heat too literally.


You know how you are always torn when you have some special-purpose kitchen item, a dish, tool, or gadget that you seldom use, but can’t bear to part with? Well, I guess that’s why I still had the ovenproof soup bowls that I last used a couple of decades ago. They were sitting in the cabinet just waiting for this week.


The bowls were filled with oniony broth, a spoonful of brandy and topped with toasted hearty bread (I used pumpernickel) and a hefty dose of grated Gruyere cheese. After a couple of minutes under the broiler, voila! A burning hot soup, which Dorie tells us is called brûlante in French.


We had cheese-topped onion soup as a starter before dinner two nights this week. It’s not very easy to assemble the full treatment at work with just a microwave, but this soup on its own (naked?), without the cheesy topping, also made a satisfying lunch.

All in all, this was a sure-fire winner. I typically make soup at least once a week, and Dorie’s version of onion soup will become part of my soup repertoire.

We don’t share the recipes in this cooking club, but you can find it in Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table. You can read what the other FFwD bloggers thought about this week’s recipe here.


Posted on 24 February 2012, in French Fridays with Dorie and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. My onions took forever to caramelize too. I don’t think it’s you. I bet this soup was wonderful with homemade broth!

  2. Love your soup bowls! Looks delicious!
    My onions took ages as well so I cranked it up to over the half way mark and stood for over an hour stirring! I wouldn’t do that again but everyone was hungry and I new I needed to get things moving! It worked and tasted great!

  3. Love your soup and your bowls!

  4. It seems everyone had a problem cooking those onions. Your soup looks delicious and so pretty in that bowl. Tricia’s family enjoyed this as much
    as my hubby did. Definitely a recipe to make again.

  5. I think you and I are one of the few Doristas who loved the chicken stock base. We don’t often eat red meat at my house, some of us, not at all, so this was a nice alternative for the soup. We loved it. Glad you did also. And, congratulations on getting in under the deadline – work, 20 for dinner, 15 minutes to post. Amazing.

  6. Quite a few people struggled with the onion cooking time, it seems.
    I definitely have a few items that I have hung on to longer than I should have. It always seems that I find something to use them for right about the same time I get fed up with them clogging up cupboard space and they are spared for another go ’round.
    P.S. I just went ahead and made the salmon & the biscuits for dinner last night since it looked like they definitely made the cut for March (the lentils & salmon was surprisingly wonderful and the biscuits were a treat as well)

  7. Very cute soup bowls, they show off your dish perfectly. I think that everyone had caramelizing problems with this recipe. I usually caramelize my onions on one of my lower medium settings and it works perfectly. It still takes time, but closer to 1 hour than the multiple hours that everyone was experiencing with this recipe.

  8. Your soup looks delicious!!! I used beef stock in mine, but cheated and used Penzey’s soup base (which is what I would have done for chicken too!). What a nice way to spend your day off, occasionally checking in on your simmering goodness!

  9. Nice soup bowls and I bet they appreciated getting out of the cabinet! I think my onions steamed instead of caramelizing. Good call to pour off the liquid.

  10. our onions got to about the same color!! :) how crazy they put off that much liquid! :) looks like you did a great job anyways!!

  11. Your soup in the cute bowl/cup looks sweet and delicious! We loved this recipe too. I cut the recipe down to make 2 dinner size servings so my onions cooked pretty fast, I also cheated and used a higher heat but they came out with a good flavor so all is well that ends well;-)

  12. Looks like a huge success. The bowls are really great too. We always have a struggle in our kitchen about keeping things – I want to keep everything and sous chef wants to get rid of everything, but you never know when you might need something. Great way to spend the Presidents Day – I love cooking when I have a day off.

  13. It looks so delicious! I used beef stock in mine which we loved, but next time I will try it with the chicken stock. You soup bowl is so very cute.

  14. Betsy, Your soup looks incredibly delicious and I love your bowls! How nice you got to pull them out for this recipe! I used to own onion soup bowls and got rid of them many years ago. I just ordered some new ones so, that when I get home, I can make this soup! I love onion soup with or without the cheese topping! Nice post!

  15. Yes, I bet your homemade stock made this even better! It looks wonderful. And you’ve reminded me to check what’s up for this Friday!

  16. It’s not often that I’d make beef stock, but I’ve usually got homemade chicken stock in the freezer, so this is going to be revisited (with slightly higher heat for the onions). I think those soup bowls are worth hanging onto, by the way – so cute!

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