Challenge: A Favorite Restaurant Dish

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As Jess mentioned last week, we are giving our typical Q&A series a culinary twist with our Spring 2013 food-themed season. To kick us off, I first challenged Jess to make a new dish that features her favorite vegetable. She answered back with a dish that I can’t wait to try: Lemony Leeks with Chickpeas and Feta.

This week, Jess threw me a challenge: to make a dish I’ve only ever had at a restaurant.

At first, I thought coming up with dishes to meet this criterion would be easy. It turns out, however, I get most of my home-cooking ideas from meals I’ve had at restaurants. There really aren’t too many restaurant meals that I love that I haven’t tried to make on my own. Then I remembered French onion soup. I love French onion soup, but it has always seemed too time-consuming to make on my own. And finicky. And more fun to just order than make. Really, I think I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to recreate the cheesy melty goodness on the top of the soup, which is 50% of the allure.

With these concerns in mind, I turned to a classic for guidance: my grandmother’s copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck. The recipe in this book gives many options for recipe variations and resulted in a deeply flavored, scrumptious soup. While it did take about an hour and a half to make, it didn’t require constant attention, and was well worth the effort.

Soupe à l’Oignon
Adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, & Simone Beck
Six servings


  • 3 T butter
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 5 cups of thinly sliced sweet onions
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • 3 T flour
  • 2 quarts beef broth
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 T sherry
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 toasted slices of French bread
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 6-10 slices of swiss cheese


  1.  In a large, heavy pot (such as a cast iron pot) melt butter and oil. Add onions, cover, and cook on medium-low for 15 minutes.
  2. Add salt and sugar. Raise to medium heat and cook 30-40 minutes, stirring frequently, or until onions are an even golden color.
  3. Add flour and stir over heat for 3 minutes
  4. Stir in broth, wine, and sherry. Bring to simmer for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Divide soup among six oven-safe bowls. Rub the garlic clove on each piece of toast. Float toasted bread on top of each bowl. Cover each toast with sliced swiss cheese (bonus points for placing cheese slightly over the edge of the bowl so it can melt down the side.) Place bowls on a sturdy baking sheet or in a flat baking dish, and heat under the oven broiler until just starting to turn golden.
  6. Note: If you don’t have oven-safe bowls, you can melt the cheese directly onto the toast on a baking sheet in the oven, then place the cheesy toasts on top of the soup bowls before serving.
  7. Serve and enjoy!


P.S. Happy Easter!

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