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I’ve mentioned that I’ve been to Paris before, right?

I must have mentioned it a bunch over the span of this blog. But, in case you didn’t know, I’ve been to Paris. It was only for a week, but it was the best week of my life, so far. The people were lovely, so incredibly friendly, and their food? Simply to die for. One night, we were at a small corner bistro for dinner and we had a proper three course meal (as we did every night we were there). The appetizer consisted of French onion soup, the entrée wine braised beef tips with frites, and some sort of dessert. The whole meal was delicious, although you could definitely taste the wine in the beef. But for me, it was the soup that stood out. It was so flavourful and comforting, as if I had been invited to the chef’s house for dinner. Nothing I’ve had has even remotely come close to the soup I’ve had that night, not even mine.

A week ago, I stumbled across a recipe for French Onion Soup grilled cheese sandwiches. I looked it over once, admired the pictures in the post, skimmed through the recipe at the bottom, and was sold. I would love to try making this, and so I did.

As always, I grabbed the things I would need.

Back: Garlic infused oil, 2 onions, white wine vinegar, gruyere cheese
Front: fresh bread

Next, I set about chopping up the onions. 

I would like to take a moment to point out that knife. That knife is sharper than any razor and cut through the onion with ease. Normally, I’m afraid I’m going to hack my fingers off when I’m chopping up onions because the blade is dull and I have to work at it. Not with this knife, it went through the onion easier than a butter knife through hot butter. Needless to say, I will be getting myself one when it comes time for me to move out. In case you’re curious, it’s a Pampered Chef knife, you should get one if you don’t already have a decent knife in your kitchen.

Digression aside, after the onions were chopped up, I put them in the pan with the butter and oil over medium heat. 

After putting a lid on the onions, I took out the loaf of bread and cut four (4) one inch (1″) thick pieces off the loaf.

Don’t worry, I didn’t do any cutting on Mum’s good plates.

When I set the bread aside, I checked the onions. It had only been five minutes (half the time that the recipe said it would take to fully cook and caramelise them) and nothing really had happened. I began to wonder if I had done something wrong, but I didn’t let it bother me too much and I went to go read.

At ten (10) minutes, I set the book down and again, checked the onions. Still, there was nothing close to caramelisation going on, yet they looked like they were beginning to cook and the house aroma that wafted through the kitchen was delicious. Giving the onions a quick stir and adding the pinch of sugar that the recipe called for, as well as a touch of salt (because we didn’t have sea salt), I again went and sat back with my book.

When twenty (20) minutes had passed, I again checked the onions. As seen in the picture above, they were gold, but not the rich brown colour that I knew French onion soup to be. So, I took to Twitter and expressed my concern. According to the recipe, they should have been done by now and I should have been on my merry way eating a brilliant grilled cheese.

It didn’t take long for my Aunt to reply to me. She didn’t say anything, but left an article in my mentions. I read the article and it did quell my inner fear that I had somehow messed this up. Yet, it bothers me. Why do recipe writers lie about how long it takes to caramelise onions? If I had known that you cannot get fully caramelised, delicious onions in ten minutes (and quite frankly, I should have been skeptical when I read that. I mean this is the base for the French Soupe a l’Ongion we’re talking about) I would have started earlier than I had. It would not have bothered me that in reality it takes forty-five (45) minutes to achieve such the rich brown colour that they needed to be, I would have stuck with it regardless of the time.

For the record, stick with it, I did. I kept the pan over medium heat and stuck with it. I multitasked, too. I read some more of the book that I just started, I checked email, I came back, gave the pan a good stir. At forty (40) minutes, the onions were    beginning to darken and when I gave them a good stir, some browned bits came up. I added the white wine vinegar, watched it get sucked up, and then recovered the pan.

Fifty (50) Minutes. At fifty minutes, the onions looked how they should have. 

I removed the pan from the heat and replaced it with a small fry pan. Earlier, while I had multi-tasked, I grated the Gruyere and it now sat in a bowl, waiting to get used. I started out by buttering a piece of the bread and placing it in the pan, butter side down. After a moment, I spooned some of the onions onto the bread, and then topped it with cheese. 

I then added the top piece of bread and waited. When I thought that the sandwich wouldn’t dissemble itself, I tried flipping it.

A brief pause in the story to mention that I’m terrible at making grilled cheese. I should probably perfect making it before trying to do more gourmet styles, like this. It’s the flipping that gets me.

The grilled cheese fell apart. Onions went into the pan, cheese slid down the front of the sandwich, but I stuck with it. If anything, it would have some character. 

Once I got the first one out of the pan, I tried repeating the process with the second one.

Only this time, when I flipped it, well… stuff got on the burner.

I’m going to take this moment and thank the fact that Mum doesn’t read this. If she knew I’d scorched something to her burner again (this implies that try as I might, something will go wrong occasionally and every so often, something gets burned to the burner. I’m not perfect) she wouldn’t be too pleased. Luckily, I acted fast enough that I got most of it off. After waiting until the burner cooled, I washed off the stove top, washed the pan, and tried again with the grilled cheese.

The end result? Two less than perfect French Onion grilled cheese sandwiches. 

After all of that work, I thought for sure it would be worth it to bite into one and enjoy my handiwork… how wrong I was.

The onions were too sweet. It was almost sickening. The bread seemed to have soaked up the juices from the onions and I found the inner bites to be gooey. I stuck to eating the outside edge of the first one, where it didn’t taste so bad. But I couldn’t force myself to eat the second one. My stomach was literally churning.

It’s here that I ask, what did I do wrong (aside from put another scorch mark on mum’s stove, not know how to flip the sandwich without stuff oozing from the bottom, and fretting over the onions not cooking properly. Though, that last one isn’t my fault. Recipe writers lie)? I hardly put any sugar into the onions. I put maybe a teaspoon in, tops. Yet, they were so sweet that I found them to be inedible. Would it be possible to leave the sugar out next time I make these? These are things I’ll think about before I go to bed tonight. It does not bother me that I had some mishaps along the way. What bothers me, admittedly, is wondering what made the onions so sweet. Surely the white wine vinegar should have balanced this out, and it didn’t.

Regardless, there is always another day to do this. Next time, I’ll probably use beef broth to deglaze the pan (I didn’t have it on hand today) and I’ll most likely leave the sugar out. Until then, I’m going to refine my grilled cheese techniques (that way  when I make these again, stuff won’t be spilling everywhere when I flip them) and revisit this when I have another rainy day to work with it.

~Not My Recipe, Try It If You Dare: French Onion Soup Grilled Cheese~

The recipe can be found here. You’ll notice that I’ve chosen to omit the sugar in the ingredients list in my twist on this recipe. 

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium onions, chopped in half and then cut into semicircles (see my picture above for reference)
  • 1 TBSP Olive oil
  • 3 TBSP butter
  • Pinch of sea salt, or more to taste
  • 3 TBSP beef broth/white wine/beer to deglaze the pan
  • 4 slices of Fresh bread*
  • 1 Cup Gruyere cheese

Method:

  1. In a medium sauce pan, heat onions with oil and butter. Stir until onions are well coated. Let them cook five (5) minutes undisturbed, give them a good stir and leave them be.
  2. After ten (10) minutes has elapsed, stir in sea salt, replace lid.
  3. Walk away and do other things while the onions cook. Slice the bread for the grilled cheese, grate the cheese, but don’t hover over the onions. They won’t cook in ten (10) minutes, nor twenty (20) nor should you expect them to.
  4. At twenty (20) minutes, the onions should be a golden colour, give them a good stir.
  5. At thirty-five (35) minutes, stir in the beef broth, beer, or white wine and be sure to scrape up any browned/burnt bits. When the liquid has been absorbed, replace the lid and lower the heat.
  6. Check the onions at 45 minutes. They should be the deep, delicious brown colour. If not, don’t fret, just let them simmer until they are.
  7. Remove onions from heat, replace with small fry pan for the grilled cheese. Keeping the heat over medium, butter the bread, add the onions and cheese, add top piece of bread.
  8. When the bottom piece is golden brown, flip (carefully) and let cook. The outside should be nice and crunchy looking and the inside will be gooey.
  9. Serve with a side of sorts (I contemplated a leafy salad because anything else might be too heavy) and enjoy.

~Notes~

* I imagine with this, the crunchier the bread, the better. Something like baguette, focaccia, or day old Italian bread will do beautifully. The reason I suggest this, is because it would appear the bread is prone to soaking up the onion juices, which softens it up quite a bunch.

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