French onion soup & potato gratin

French Onion Soup

Mysaucepan has a weakness for French food – she will not be fazed when cooking with lots of butter and cream or have a pot of duck leg confit gently simmering in its own fat.

French baguettes, croissants and champagne are some of the loves of her life, apart from me of course. And she would hold 3-star Michelin chefs such as Joel Robuchon or Paul Bocuse in the highest regard as I would the great pianists of the world.

“Can a beef bourguignon with all those expensive ingredients that take hours to cook honestly taste as good as a simple 5-minute char kway teow?” I ask.

“What kind of silly comparison is that?” she retorts.

“My point is that simple and cheaper ingredients cooked properly can also taste just as good as the more expensive stuff that you buy from gourmet grocers” I clarify.

“Okay, as long as you’re not trying to compare the elegance of French cuisine with the rough and tumble style of Malaysian street food” she says.

“No I’m not, but do you think Joel Robuchon or Paul Bocuse can cook a tastier Malaysian yong tow foo than me?” I ask gleefully.

“I’m not going to answer, this conversation is silly and it’s going nowhere” she says, clearly a little irritated.

So that is the end of our conversation about French and Malaysian food. But having just returned from a two-week trip to Paris, it seems Mysaucepan is still not quite over French food yet.

Hence, the conversation is only a prelude to a simple French onion soup and potato gratin dinner to flush out any remaining love for the country of the cockerel, for now anyway.

French baguette and a 2009 Mountadam chardonnay

French baguette and a 2009 Mountadam chardonnay

Freshly baked bread to the French is as important as freshly sliced sashimi to the Japanese. So I try to hunt down a baton of fresh baguette from our local bakery.

“Make sure you don’t buy the baguette from Coles or Woolies okay, I want the freshly baked ones from the bakery!” Mysaucepan warns, knowing that I have the propensity to seek out value.

Oven-baked cheese croutons

Oven-baked cheese croutons

Freshly baked bread, as it seems, has a soft and fluffy texture and is tasty on its own. For tonight, I cut the baguette into slices and top each slice with a good mature cheddar.

In just ten minutes in a 180 degree Celcius oven, these slices are turning golden brown and the sight of melting cheese is enough to make me salivate with anticipation.

I know I can just have a few slices of these cheese  croutons on its own. They are crispy outside with that deep and pungent aroma of the aged cheddar while so soft and fluffy inside.

Potato gratin

Potato gratin

Mysaucepan‘s potato gratin spent about an hour in the oven and it looks and smells awesome. The potato slices on the top are golden brown around the edges with a slightly crispy bite while they are soft and creamy in the centre.

Of course a complete vegetarian meal to me is a bit like politicians – they make no sense and are utterly boring too.

French food is one thing but there is no way I am having French vegetarian. So I fire up the BBQ and chuck a few pieces of scotch fillets onto the hot grill.

Medium rare scotch fillet resting with a dollop of Dijon mustard

Medium rare scotch fillet resting with a dollop of Dijon mustard

Tonight, I use Marco Pierre White’s recommedation of seasoning steak with a cube of beef stock and extra virgin olive oil.

This must truly be one of the most under-rated but spectacular methods of marinating a piece of steak.  The stock cube brings out the beefy flavour in the meat without over-powering it although I might refrain from this method of seasoning for the best meats like wagyu.

All that is really needed for this steak is a pinch of freshly cracked black pepper.

“See, I like French food too!” I tell Mysaucepan as I  squeeze a big dollop of French Dijon mustard onto my plate.

Tucking in on a simple French style dinner at home

Tucking in on a simple French style dinner at home

Mysaucepan‘s potato gratin turns out to be a great complement to my rib-eye steaks with some wilted spinach to the delight of our dinner guests.

2008 Kaesler Cabernet Sauvignon

2008 Kaesler Cabernet Sauvignon

A 2008 Kaesler Cabernet Sauvignon is bold and full of dark berries flavours on the nose. It is soft and elegant on the palate and a wonderful complement for the rib-eye steaks.

I think this dinner will keep Mysaucepan satified until the next craving for French food hits her palate.

The recipes

French onion soup 

Slicing brown onions

Slicing brown onions

You will need to slice at least 8 –  10 large brown onions. I can slice onions pretty quickly to avoid tearing up but if you want to avoid that onion sting in the eyes, my suggestion is to use a mandolin and/or a pair of swimming eye goggles.

Sautee brown onions with butter & EVOO

Sautee brown onions with butter & EVOO

Thinner slices of brown onions, will impart more flavour to the soup.


Potato gratin

Gently simmer butter, milk, cream & thyme in saucepan

Gently simmer butter, milk, cream & thyme in saucepan

I like potato gratin because this dish is always wholesome and hearty. It can be a beautiful complement to grilled meats, roasts and seafood.

The trick to a good potato gratin is in the richness of the sauce that is poured over the potato before it goes into the oven. Many recipes use nutmeg but Mysaucepan prefers to omit and substitute this ingredient with thyme in gently simmering the butter, milk and cream in a saucepan.

Potato gratin can also be a hearty meal in itself in winter.

Arrange sliced potato in baking tray and add the butter and cream

Arrange sliced potato in baking tray and add the butter and cream

Potato gratin

Potato gratin

Crispy croutons with melting aged cheddar

Crispy croutons with melting aged cheddar

I prefer to serve the cheese croutons separate as opposed to placing it on top of the soup like the French.

By serving the croutons separately, my dinner guests can eat them on its own and the croutons do not become soggy from being in the soup.

French onion soup

French onion soup

So dear readers, are you a fan of French cuisine and if so, what is your favourite French food?

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18 Responses to French onion soup & potato gratin

  1. Raymund says:

    I love a simple classic like that French Onion Soup, In fact I made some of those recently. Love it

  2. LOL I’m going to use that line about an all vegetarian meal on my in laws next time they turn rogue :P

  3. I’m a complete sucker for french food- that soup looks stunning. But for me, it’s pretty hard to go past a great roast chicken with Dijon mustard…

  4. I love French food but the freshness of a good Malaysian dish is hard to beat. Who cares if it’s street food, there’s still layers of flavour to be totally mouth satisfying. But French onion soup is still fab. GG

  5. Hotly Spiced says:

    What a great meal. I would have loved to have been served that onion soup with the gorgeous looking croutons and the steak with some wilted spinach and that delicious looking gratin. What was for dessert? Crepes Suzette? What yummy dinner party food. I met a concert pianist on Saturday who’s Australian but she lives in NY – such a talented person xx

  6. I’ve never heard of the idea of seasoning a steak with a beef stock cube, but it makes perfect sense. Great tip. Also, is that a bottle of Clonakilla that I spot in the background of the wine picture? One of my favourite vineyards!

  7. Row says:

    The potato gratin looks divine and it will be perfect once the snow begins to fall in a couple of months (brrrr!). Thanks for the stock cube trick… I will have to try it the next time I grill some steaks. :)

  8. Ohhhh my husband loves French Onion Soup (I love it too!) and I love potato gratin. I was hoping that you’d share potato gratin recipe too and glad you did! I’m going to buy potatoes and make this maybe tomorrow. I have heavy cream that I have to use and this is one of my favorite potato recipe!!!! Definitely try Mysaucepan’s recipe! French onion next time (sorry hubby) haha.

  9. Kelly Siew says:

    I definitely have a weakness with French food. And you can’t compare that with a plate of CKT although they both have their own merits. It’s hard to cook a perfect plate of CKT at home. Although the methodology of french food can be labourious, you can actually perfect the basic dishes if you follow the recipe (providing it’s good one) properly. Hmmm… I’m rambling… because I’m hungry after seeing that gorgeous pommes dauphinoise! The perfectly char steak too, is calling my name!

  10. Mmm potato gratin is one of my favourite sides and my knees go weak at the thought of duck confit!

    I like that link to Marco Pierre White’s steak seasoning tip- I think I may have to give that a go!

  11. I am not a fan of French Cuisine because I find the sauces and creams too rich most of the time. But I love their baked goods.

    The only French restaurant that I really enjoyed was Per Se. If only I had that kind of money to throw around, I would return in a heartbeat.

  12. Kimby says:

    Your culinary conversations are a joy to follow! I’m with Mysaucepan on the necessity of a freshly baked baguette, but your ribeye steak with Dijon mustard is a delightful “French” meal, too. :)

  13. Winston says:

    I LOVE French food. But not really the overpriced high class dining but the homecooked French meals inspired by the French bistros of Paris. I want to recreate more French dishes at home in an easy and cheap manner. Both to satisfy my love for the cuisine and also show ppl that it can be inexpensive to enjoy French food. Which is why I LOVE this post, Chopin. Everything is fantastic. Hearty and delicious meal am sure you guys had a great time. Food, friends and Wine. So fun! Now that’s a dinner party I’d love to attend!

  14. What a lovely supper!! Complete with red wine …YUM!

  15. French onion soup would be one of my all time favourite soups. Even thought I am happy to partake in a vegetarian meal, my partner would agree with you on the not making sense side.

  16. What a gorgeous looking pair of dishes! I absolutely adore French food and my fave has to be creme brulee.. And I can’t go past a good chocolate croissant either ;)

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