Classic Cheese-Topped French Onion Soup

Cheese-Topped French Onion Soup So, Eric and I are those people who keep the names of our babies a secret until they’re born. We do this mostly to avoid the feedback…”Oh I knew an Andrew in fifth grade, and he stuck gum in my hair!” or “Wow, Claire?! I dated a Claire once and it did not end well!”

But nobody’s going to look you and your newborn baby in the face and give you that kind of commentary. So, we keep our names to ourselves. In other words, “we know, but we’re not telling!” 

For this baby, however, I told my mom this past fall that if she guessed the name, I’d tell her if she guessed right. I had no idea she would take me so seriously. For the past three months, she’s been randomly sending me texts:
“Alice? Dorothy? Maggie? Bertha?”
To which I’d reply: “No. No. No. Seriously, mom…Bertha Berget?…Do you want her to have any friends in middle school?”

Cheese-Topped French Onion Soup

To my surprise, a week or two ago, she actually guessed it. She was even more surprised when I called her to tell her she’d finally got it. She was so, so pleased with herself – to the point that she told my dad that she guessed it but wouldn’t tell him what it was…..a scenario that’s really funny to me.

The other night, during the crazy -50* Polar Vortex we were having, Eric and I were having one of our super-important hypothetical conversations about how funny it would be if we named our baby like some cultures do: to mark an important event or occurrence like a war or a flood.

Cheese-Topped French Onion Soup

To mark the Polar Vortex, here were some of the options we came up with:

1. First up, there’s Nomaqabaka from the Xhosa people of South Africa…(Maybe “Baka” or “Quabbie” for short). It means “a girl born during a cold spell.” But we figured that it rarely gets much colder than, say, 40* where the Xhosa people live, and that really wasn’t Polar Vortex material.
2. So we decided to look north to our ancestral roots…namely Sweden. Were we to go the Swedish route, her name, quite literally would be  “born during great cold” or Fodd (born) Under Tiden (during) Stor (great) Kall (cold)….which, of course, we’d tweak to the much more feminine Foddundertiden Storkall. 
3. And then of course, there’s always the less creative but very indicative Polaris Vortexia. A little robotic for our tastes.

The moral of all this absurdity? You’ll probably like the name we have picked more than you do Foddundertiden Storkall. So there’s that.

But back to the Polar Vortex. That was awful, amIright? We hibernated and ate this French onion soup from Around My French Table – a cookbook I got for Christmas. I’ve been on a serious French food kick since  last year when I read this book last year and had asked for this cookbook so I could pretend we lived in Paris once in a while.

Cheese-Topped French Onion Soup

It is extensive, and there are about 127 recipes I want to try from it, but I started with this soup because clearly the only answer to a Polar Vortex is to make a hot steamy soup, top it with a toasted piece of bread, and then broil melted cheese over the top.

This soup is simple and perfect. Pretty much just garlic and onions carmelized until they are irresistible, plus some chicken broth and white wine. Topped with the toasted bread and melty, Gruyère, it’s your cure for the rest of the winter’s cold.

Cheese-Topped French Onion Soup

Cheese-Topped French Onion Soup

(recipe from Around My French Table )

(yields 6 servings)

This simple recipe for classic French onion soup is so easy and delicious. Perfect for a winter day!


4-5 large Spanish (or yellow) onions (app. 4 lbs.)

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 tbsp. unsalted butter

3 garlic cloves, split, germ removed, and minced


1 tbsp. all purpose flour

1 c. dry white wine

8 c. chicken broth

white pepper

6 bowl-sized pieces of sturdy bread (I used peasant bread)

(optional) 2 tbsp. brandy or dark beer*

app. 6 oz. Gruyére cheese, grated


*I tried this soup without any brandy or beer and with a tiny splash of dark beer, so I can't vouch for the taste of the brandy. I liked it both ways - with and without the beer.


Prepare Onions:

Peel onions. Cut one onion in half from top to bottom (the bottom is the root side). Lay it cut-side-down on a cutting board and cut in half lengthwise again, keeping the root end intact. Then thinly slice crosswise (discard the root). Repeat with remaining onions.

Cook Soup:

Place the olive oil and butter in a large soup pot over low heat. (You'll have better results with a more shallow pot as the moisture from the onions can evaporate better). When the butter is melted, add onions and garlic; season with salt. With heat at the lowest setting possible, cook onions, stirring every 10 minutes or so, until they are a deep caramel color. This may take 1-2 hours. Don't be tempted to turn up the heat; it may give your soup a bitter taste. But you really want to get those onions brown - have patience!

Once onions are caramelized, sprinkle the flour in and stir for a minute or so. Pour in a 1/3 c. of the wine and stir, picking up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Let the wine cook away for a minute or two.

Add the chicken broth and remaining 2/3 c. wine, season with salt, and bring to a boil. Then, reduce the heat to simmering, partially cover the pot, and cook for another 30 minutes. Check for seasoning and add white pepper and more salt if needed. (At this point, you can set the soup aside for 2 hours until serving time or refrigerate for 3 days, reheating when ready to serve).

Top the Soup:

Preheat the broiler to high. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. Cut bread pieces to fit the top of your bowl, then place bread pieces on the baking sheet. Broil for just a minute or two, flipping so both sides are toasty brown.

If using brandy or beer, pour just a teaspoon or so (to taste) into the bottom of each ovenproof bowl. Spoon soup into the bowls. Top the soup with the toasted bread and melted cheese. Run the bowls under the broiler for just a minute or two until cheese is melted and bubbly.

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19 thoughts on “Classic Cheese-Topped French Onion Soup

  1. I dunno, Foddundertiden Storkall sounds like a pretty sweet name. ;)

    And I really wish I’d known about this soup last week during the Polar Vortex. But who am I kidding? Winter isn’t going anywhere any time soon, so I’ve got plenty of time to warm up with a bowl.

  2. Ohhhh … I need this recipe in my life! My whole family loves French Onion Soup, but I’ve never made it myself. We always just order it when we go out to eat! I’ve tried to canned stuff – blech. It’s not the same thing! And honestly – I actually love recipes that keep me in the kitchen for a few hours! I can so much done between stirrings! :)

    PS – Polaris Vortexia??? LOL!!

  3. 1. You are so funny.
    2. I can’t pronounce any of those names so please strike them from your list.
    3. Your photos are stunning.
    4. Please invite me over and feed me.
    5. Your photos are stunning.
    6. I miss you.
    7. And finally, your photos are stunning.

  4. We also kept Lochlan’s name a secret, though I usually just said, “we don’t know for sure yet” so people didn’t push me…but my mom knew we had a front runner and tried endlessly to guess it–to no avail, BUT she guessed some VERY weird names, so I knew Lochlan wouldnt phase her a bit! I know we will love your little girl’s name!!! Can’t wait to see her sweet face.

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