Tag Archives: onions

French Onion Grilled Cheese

French Onion Grilled Cheese

When I was in college, I thought French Onion Soup was pure luxury. That may have been because I lived in a very small town at the time, or perhaps because caramelized onions, gruyere cheese, and well-browned croutons are delicious and feel inherently fancy. Gruyere, at least, has the price tag to prove it. This classic and an extra saucy order of Strawberries Romanoff were my meal of choice at a local chain every time I went to Dallas for solo dinner & a movie during those years. It always hit the spot and felt like a treat.

(For those of you wondering what kind of college student drives an hour each way to get chain restaurant soup and see movies by herself, know that I was 85 years old at birth. Thirty six years later, I am still 85 years old.)

While things have changed since college—you won’t find me eating at many chain restaurants and I live in the largest city in my country of origin—I still dig French Onion Soup. I’ve made Julia Child’s recipe several times and it’s pretty perfect, and there are many good versions around NYC too. It’s simple food, made of caramelized onions, herbs, beef stock and cognac, and finished off with a crouton and some blistered gruyere cheese. It’s so good!

All that said, may I suggest that you leave the soup for another day and make French Onion Grilled Cheese instead? Think about it: herby caramelized onions and gruyere stacked on buttered sourdough and then seared to golden brown, crunchy, cheesy perfection. I mean, what’s not to love?!

French Onion Grilled Cheese

The most time consuming step of this whole recipe is caramelizing the onions. Some cooks will tell you that you can do this in 15 minutes over medium-high heat, but they are wrong. What they’re doing is sautéing, which is a great technique, but that’s not what we’re after in our French Onion Grilled Cheeses. Nope! We’re going the low and slow route, watching the onions collapse and then take on color as their natural sugars are drawn out little by little. This will take anywhere from 45-75 minutes, but I assure you it will be worth the investment.

Yes, caramelizing onions takes time, but it’s easy as can be. I frequently put a pan on the back burner while I’m working on another dish, occasionally reaching over and giving them a stir until they are browned to my preference. While caramelized onions need no help to be delicious, I like to add some French Onion flavor here so I finish them off with thyme, dijon mustard, beef (or vegetable) stock, salt & pepper. I don’t drink, so I leave the cognac out of the equation, but feel free to add a splash to the mix.

Once finished, you can use your onions right away or cover and refrigerate for later. I like to think of this as having French Onion Grilled Cheese on demand.

As for the sandwiching, it’s Grilled Cheese 101. Low heat, lots of butter, and time (about 8 minutes) are all that stand between you and crispy, cheesy, savory French Onion perfection. Pure luxury, indeed.

French Onion Grilled Cheese
French Onion Grilled Cheese
makes 4 sandwiches

For the Onions:
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 medium Spanish or white onions, 1/2-inch thick half moons
Kosher or sea salt, to taste
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1/2 teaspoon dijon or grainy mustard
1/4 cup beef or vegetable stock
freshly-cracked black pepper, to taste

For the Sandwiches:
8 slices sourdough
dijon or grainy mustard
8 ounces gruyere cheese, shredded
4 tablespoons butter, softened to room temperature
few pinches of Kosher or sea salt, as needed

Make the onions. Heat olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pan over medium-low heat. Add onions and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until soft and deeply caramelized; this will take 45-75 minutes. Do not rush this step.

When onions are caramelized, stir in thyme, mustard, and stock, stirring until incorporated, but not soupy. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat. At this point, you may either use the onions immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 4 days.

Lay all slices of bread on a surface. Spread four of the slices with mustard. Top mustard slices with ~2 tablespoons caramelized onions each, spreading to cover. Sprinkle each one with 1/4 of the gruyere. Top cheese with plain slices of bread, “closing” the sandwiches. Use a knife to spread 1/2 tablespoon softened butter on both sides of each sandwich (1 tablespoon butter per sandwich). Sprinkle butter with salt if using unsalted butter.

Heat a medium-large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-low heat. Add sandwiches buttered-bread-side-down. Let sandwiches cook, without moving or squishing, until they are golden on the bottom, about 3-4 minutes. Flip sandwiches and let cook, without moving or squishing, until they are golden on the other side, about 3 more minutes.

Remove to plates and serve immediately.

Roast Chicken with Schmaltzy Onions

Updated 09/20/2020 to add new photos, adjust the roasting temperatures, and give instructions for optional trussing.Roast Chicken with Schmaltzy OnionsIt has come to my attention that a shocking amount of my friends and acquaintances have never attempted to roast a chicken. In fact, some have admitted to being terrified of the process. Not intimidated. Terrified.

Y’all, that’s sort of ridiculous. If you fall into this category, let me be the one to tell you that roast chicken is one of the easiest things in the world to make. It’s chicken, not rocket science.Roast Chicken with Schmaltzy OnionsHere’s everything you’ll need to make a quality roast chicken: salt and pepper, olive oil, garlic, thyme (or rosemary), a lemon, a lot of onions, and a whole chicken.Roast Chicken with Schmaltzy OnionsFirst things first—slice up the onions and toss them together in the pan. You want your pan to be almost full of onions.

Dry off your chicken with paper towels and lay it on that bed of onions. You want it breast-side up, meaning that the neck and tail will be down. Grease the inside and outside of your bird with olive oil and give it a good massage with salt and pepper.

Tuck the wingtips under the breast. This helps the chicken to cook more as a cohesive unit and keeps the wings from drying out. They may move as they cook—that’s okay.Roast Chicken with Schmaltzy OnionsStuff the lemon, garlic, and thyme in the cavity, and truss the legs (tie them together) if that’s your bag. Whether you choose to truss or not, the next step is to slide the chicken into a 450F oven. Yes, 450F. This initial burst of high heat helps the skin turn golden. As the cooking time moves on, the heat will be turned down to 400F. This keeps the chicken from burning or drying out throughout the long roasting time.Roast Chicken with Schmaltzy OnionsWhen you finally remove the chicken from the oven, it’ll be golden and beautiful. When I roast chickens, I nearly always get comments on how aesthetically pleasing they look.Roast Chicken with Schmaltzy OnionsBut who cares about looks—it’s all about flavor! And this chicken has plenty of it. The skin is crispy, the meat is moist, and everything is well seasoned.Roast Chicken with Schmaltzy OnionsAnd that’s to say nothing of the soft roasted onions that are coated in rendered chicken fat (aka schmaltz). Seriously, if you’ve never tasted a sweet onion that’s been cooked in chicken fat, you’ve been deprived.

Better make up for lost time.Roast Chicken with Schmaltzy Onions
Roast Chicken with Schmaltzy Onions
makes one 5 pound chicken

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2-3 pounds sweet onions, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch slices
1 1/2-2 teaspoons Kosher or sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1 4.5-5.5 pound raw whole chicken, giblets removed
1 lemon, sliced in half equatorially
1 small-medium head of garlic, sliced in half equatorially
2 sprigs fresh rosemary or 10 sprigs fresh thyme

Special Equipment:
trussing string (optional)

***Make sure your oven is fairly clean before starting. The high heat in this recipe can cause smoke if there is any significant grime on the walls or floor of your oven.***

Place an oven rack in the center position. Preheat oven to 450F.

Grease the bottom of a 9×13-inch casserole dish (or other large high-sided pan) with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Top with layers of onion slices. Set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together salt and pepper.

Use paper towels to blot chicken to remove excess moisture—make sure to do this inside the cavity, too. Place chicken, breast-side up, on the bed of onions.

Coat chicken inside-and-out with remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Massage salt and pepper onto chicken, including the cavity. Stuff the cavity with the lemon, garlic, and rosemary or thyme.

If trussing, cross the ends of the legs and tie them together with trussing string. Trussing is not required for this recipe.

Put pan in the oven. Roast for 90 minutes, reducing the heat to 400F at the 60 minute mark.

Chicken is done when a thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh (not touching bone) reads at least 165F. Juices should run clear.

Remove dish from oven. Remove chicken to a plate and tent loosely with foil. Let rest for 20 minutes.

Stir onions and return to oven for 15-20 minutes. Set aside to cool while you carve the chicken.

Uncover plate. Lift chicken and pour any excess liquid from the cavity into the onions. Place chicken on a cutting board and remove lemon halves, garlic, and thyme/rosemary. Carve chicken (here’s a tutorial).

Use tongs or a wooden spoon to stir onions together with rendered chicken fat (aka schmaltz). Serve chicken and onions together, spooning schmaltz over the top as desired.

Leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for up to five days.Roast Chicken with Schmaltzy OnionsRoast Chicken with Schmaltzy OnionsRoast Chicken with Schmaltzy Onions