vidalia onion soup with wild rice

I believe I owe you some soup. When the soup was promised, it was rainy, bleary, and insufficiently May-like to please me, though I doubt Deb Not Being Pleased ranks anywhere on near the top of the concerns list of whatever powers control the weather (or, for that matter, Deb’s toddler when he’s set his mind to emptying mama’s purse on the floor again), seeing as we have another week of it on order. Fortunately, this is a soup for exactly these trying spring times.

imported vidalias
wild rice, i love you

My love of hearty crocks of hearty French onion soup is well-documented (it’s the rare recipe I’ve covered twice in the archives, and you just know I had to riff on it here) because I have to insist that nothing is so loud with flavor as onions, cooked for an hour with a meaty broth and cognac, then broiled with a charred cap of strong cheese. Oof, how long must we wait until it gets cold again?

the quintessential vidalia shape

finely slicing the vidalias
lots and lots of onion

But to me, French onion soup is a deep-winter affair, for cold, bleak days, not these. This, however, should be its spring counterpart. Instead of heavy yellow cooking onions, it uses Vidalias, which are a sweet onion (the sweetness is said to come from the low amount of sulfur in the soil) grown in Georgia* and available starting in mid-April, or, right now so hurry up and get them. Instead of hearty beef, veal, or brown stock, you can use a milder chicken or vegetable. Instead of being topped with a hulking mass of melted Gruyere, it gets bulk from wild rice and a punchy finish from floating rounds of blue cheese smothered croutons.

dividing the rice between bowls
bread for croutons

It’s an onion soup for puddly days like this, when you’re stuck inside after an all-too-brief sunny weekend. It’s mild and faintly nutty from the rice, but it’s no weakling, its hearty enough that you’re not left scrambling for something else to accompany it for dinner or a lazy weekend lunch.

croutons spread with blue cheese
floating croutons

One year ago: Rhubarb Streusel Muffins
Two years ago: Carrot Salad with Harissa, Feta and Mint and Rustic Rhubarb Tarts
Three years ago: Asparagus, Goat Cheese and Lemon Pasta and Raspberry Buttermilk Cake and Slaw Tartare
Four years ago: Mushroom Strudel
Five years ago: Homemade Oreos and Cellophane Noodle Salad with Roast Pork

Vidalia Onion Soup with Wild Rice and Blue Cheese
Adapted, just a little, from Charlie Trotter via The New York Times

* Thankfully, Vidalias don’t require a trip to Georgia to buy (though, were it in my power, I’d be there in a heartbeat) as they’re fairly widely distributed; nevertheless, if you can’t get them at your grocery store (I found them at Whole Foods this time), I find that (Georgia-folk, please cover your ears) Spanish, Texas 1015s, Walla Walla and other sweet varieties of onion are adequate substitutes.

Due to the mild flavor of this soup, if you’ve got good, homemade stock stashed away, this is a great time to defrost it.

Trotter calls for an herb bundle in this soup that’s roughly 3/4 cup of your favorite fresh herbs, chopped. (He calls for 3 tablespoons chopped chives, basil, flat-leaf parsley and 4 tablespoons chopped tarragon, though I don’t think you need to be overly rigid in adhering to a formula.)

Serves 4

1/2 cup wild rice, uncooked
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 1/2 pounds (about 4) Vidalia onions, or other sweet onions, quartered and very thinly sliced
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
Herb bundle (see Note above)
Salt and pepper
8 slices baguette
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 ounces Maytag or other young, not too sharp, blue cheese, at room temperature

Cook the wild rice in a small saucepan according to package directions. Usually, 2 cups of water is the amount needed for 1/2 cup wild rice. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a very low simmer and cover the pot. Let it cook, undisturbed, until the rice is tender and the water is absorbed, about 50 to 55 minutes. Set aside.

Melt the butter in the bottom of a 4- to 5-quart saucepan or Dutch oven over moderately low heat. Add the onions, toss to coat them in oil and cover the pot. Reduce the heat to real low and let them slowly steep for 15 minutes. They don’t need your attention; you can even check your email, eh, who are we kidding, Facebook.

After 15 minutes, uncover the pot, raise the heat slightly and season the onions with a bit of salt and pepper. Cook onions, stirring frequently, for another 15 to 25 minutes, until they are tender, limp and sweet. Add the stock and simmer for 20 minutes. Wrap the herbs (see Note up top) in a small piece of cheesecloth and tie with kitchen string. Trotter suggests you drop the bundle into the broth for one minute, then remove it, but after going through such an effort to make one, I decided to leave mine in a little longer; it made me feel better. Adjust seasonings with additional salt and pepper, if needed.

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Brush both sides of the baguette slices with oil. Bake on a baking sheet until light golden brown, 5 to 10 minutes. While the croutons are still warm, spread them with blue cheese.

To serve, divide the rice among four bowls, and ladle broth and onions on top. Float two croutons in the center of each bowl, and sprinkle with more pepper. Eat immediately.

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124 comments on vidalia onion soup with wild rice

  1. I would like to see a Deb Makes Only Onion Soup blog, wherein we get to see all your awesome riffs on the topic. Possible?

    This one looks insane, and could make a fine inaugural post.

    1. deb

      Shauna — Ha! That would be so much fun. In the summer it could be Deb Makes Only Slaws. Wait, you really shouldn’t encourage me.

  2. I have a crate full of spring onions from our CSA – how about them in place of Vidalia? I love the idea of a lighter broth spring version of onion soup. Thank you.

  3. Lenka

    Hi Deb…..I always use rice in my onion soup! But I also use some tarragon too, I find that it gives it a great aroma and better taste. Love the haircut on your little one! Would NEVER yell at you……what would we do without YOU???!!!

  4. I had to go to your Flickr account to tell that the 7th picture was the cooked rice in those bowls…I first thought it was mushrooms….and now that I think about it a bit more, I think I would definitely add some yummy mushrooms too – maybe a few porcinis.

    This is the perfect alternative to French Onion, though I’m pretty sure I’ll hold off on this one for a while, and it’s about a million degrees down here in FL. Thanks for the eye-candy…er… eye-soup? anyway.

  5. Just yesterday I made French Onion Soup for brunch for my friends. I followed your recipe religiously and the outcome was great. My friends did actually fight over seconds…
    And today you post this recipe that looks as an amazing alternative to the regular one.
    Well, after yesterday’s success I guess next Sunday I’ll make this one for brunch. And I’ll bet they will fight again for seconds!

  6. Just escaped the rains of NY/NJ for Palm Springs for a short but much Needed get away. Will think about wen I’m out of 100 degree dessert air.

  7. Deb, I have 3 giant vidalia onions sitting on my counter just wating for THIS!! My CSA delivered them the other day and I wanted to so something special with them. The blue cheese toasts with them looks DIVINE! Thank you.

  8. Such a sweet photo of the two of you. Quick note: “It’s a onion soup for puddly days like this, when you’re stuck inside after an all-too-brief sunny weekend.”

    1. deb

      Molly — Thanks!

      Deanna — I know! I never, ever write about them. It’s such a shame. I have a couple reasons for it. One, they’re not terribly popular as they’re perceived to be a lot of work to cook. But the main reason is that I just like them plain, steamed until tender and the leaves dipped in a mixture of an aioli or mayo and lemon juice and black pepper. Actually, a reader sent me a recipe for a baked artichoke rice a while back that I haven’t gotten to try out; email me if you’d like me to forward it to you. Also,there’s this.

  9. Wait…I have artichoke plants that are producing like crazy. I need a Deb cooks her very favorite vegetable blog. Because I am running low on inspiration and I’ve already made all of the artichoke recipes on here.

    I just bought a bag of vidalia onions, I’ll busy myself with soup while keeping my fingers crossed for artichokes.

  10. As much as I love onions, I have never made onion soup before but now you have convinced me to give this a try. I like the idea of rice in the soup, it gives it substance and I know for sure what kind of wonders blue cheese can do for food!

  11. SusanL

    Looks fantastic! Do you have any suggested substitutes for the blue cheese? I love blue cheese, but I’m 7 weeks pregnant and blue cheese is on the (very depressing) banned foods list…

  12. Angela

    Question – How much difference would it make in the taste to just put the chopped herbs in the soup instead of the bundle that is removed? Thanks.

    1. deb

      If you were to put them in straight, I’d probably use a lot less. All of those spoonfuls would add up to something too intense.

    1. Toni McCormick

      Its not the heaviness its the SMELL! No matter WHAT I do–oven caramelized, ALL windows open and cooktop exhaust hood full blast, the house smells for DAYS of onions. It literally keeps me up at night! I hope to try this as an unexpected cold front it us in N.O. late March. I have chicken & leek stock in the freezer that I need to use up.

  13. This springtime onion soup looks just perfect! Those croutons are the prettiest and I just wish I was over for dinner last night because man-0-man.

  14. Abby

    Looks so yummy. I always want to keep lots of herbs around, but they never stay. Do you have any tips for preserving fresh herbs so I’m not throwing money out the window?

    1. deb

      Abby — You can create a makeshift one with a jar with a puddle of water in the bottom and a plastic bag over it upside-down (open at the bottom, of course), but this contraption really is great. Or, great for other, more responsible people. I’m such a mess that I still left it in the fridge long enough for it to become a horrific science project once.

  15. I saw this soup recipe come across my feeder and I thought it was a bit strange to see a soup recipe in the middle of May, (because it’s 85 degrees where I live) but now I see that you had a cool and soup kind of day. I love the looks of those blue cheese croutons. Definitely going to bookmark this recipe for fall!

  16. It’s wet and cold in Melbourne at the moment, so it made me very happy to see a soup recipe (and not a depressingly summery berry tart or something) :)

  17. sarah

    it’s raining here in athens, georgia right now so it’s a perfect time for this soup, especially after 8 pm when the temp still drops a bit down here! i’m just tickled pink to see our sweet onions on your great blog.

  18. Mmm…I’ve been so in love with onions lately this seems to be screaming my name. I did just buy a set of ramekins with fantasies of a super cheesy, rich traditional onion soup, but this may have to hold me over until the weather is beckoning for that again!

  19. Personally I could eat any soup in any weather, but I just love soup! The wild rice in this definitely kicks up the hearty factor. Great recipe as always!

  20. Josh

    Deb, I’m from Vidalia and you should totally go to the festival one year in May. There’s always all sorts of Vidalia onion foods floating around, even an annual cook-off.

  21. Stuart Borken

    Next on my “soup to make” list. I’ve got the onions, wild rice, vege’ stock, bread and blue cheese. I grow chives, basal and parsley. I’m ready.

  22. Yum! Love this light, spring, and vegetarian version of an onion soup. I’m going to have to try to seek out some sweet onions here in Stockholm – may not be an easy task. (If any one knows of anywhere, please let me know!)

  23. I love the idea of French Onion Soup much more than any actual vegetarian-ized version I’ve tried (I understand that this is my own fault for shying away from beef broth and no fault of your favorite soup). But now I know what those vegetarian onion soups were missing! Rice and blue cheese, obviously. You may be moving on to slaws for the summer, but here in Seattle I will be making this soup clear through the month of July. Thank you!

    1. Lauren B

      I vegetarianize Geoffrey Zakarian’s french onion soup recipe – use half unsalted mushroom broth, half regular veg broth, and probably an onion more than called for. Turns out great! My meat-eating friends tell me it is as good as a restaurant soup.

  24. Jennifer

    I grew up not far from Vidalia, Georgia, so I love using their onions because it makes me think of home. The recipe looks comfy and delicious, like I should curl up with a book to eat it. I smiled the most at your usage of one of my home state onions though :)

  25. Anonymous

    I want to make this tonight for dinner when I get out of work. Unfortunately, I’m on a ridiculously strict budget so I will have to tweak your recipe and use what I already have at home.

    I will have to substitute quinoa for the wild rice.

    I have fresh basil at home. I don’t have tarragon or chives (I’ve never used tarragon or chives), but I do have both fresh and dried oregano. I don’t have parsley, but, I do have cilantro (I just happen to never use parsley).

    Do you think I can just finely chop these (basil, oregano, AND/OR cilantro) and place straight into the soup instead of doing an herb bundle? PLEASE…..any suggestions on tweaking….I don’t mean to butcher your scrumptious sounding recipe. ANY HELP IS GREATLY APPRECIATED!

  26. Perfect pairing! I live in walla walla onion and wine country, so my version includes generouse amounts of wine and sherry, water is for amateurs.
    Sunday I made a roast chicken and cooked wild rice int eh drippings, lots of flavor!

  27. Hm, Deb, do you think you could use chevre instead of the blue cheese? Or another spreadable cheese? How much does this need the flavor-intensity of blue?

  28. I am here in NYC too. (Brooklyn, truthfully, but it is rainy down here all week too) ;) It is only Tuesday and I’m already feeling a tripped out (not in a good way) from too much Yo Gabba Gabba.

    Me thinks we need to go to Fairway and then spend the afternoon making this soup instead of throwing bouncy balls at the glassware, peeing on the floor and pulling all folded t-shirts out of the drawer in order to ‘decorate’ the bedroom.

    Thank you.

  29. Susan

    I’ll have to remember this one when the weather cools down..probably next winter. I love that there’s wild rice in this as sometimes the onions get so tender that there isn’t much texture left except for the crouton.

    I was looking at the picture of your kid’s hair in one of the last featured recipes and thought it looked like something you’d see on a perky young girl in an Old Navy commercial! It’s so charming and pixie-ish. I would totally love to have a head of hair to wear like that..uh..if I were young and perky!

  30. Kris Sayre

    Here in Minnesota we have hand harvested wild rice, completely different from the commercially processed stuff. Cooks in half the time and the flavor is incredible. You’ll never go back. Get it from the White Earth Land Recovery project.

  31. I have never even considered using cheese other than gruyere for any type of “french onion soup”. I’m not sure why, I guess just because it’s traditional. But blue cheese, that is an amazing idea!

  32. I love this…you are so right about French Onion Soup; it’s fabulous when it’s cold but just too much for the lighter fare I crave in the warmer months. Evenings in Colorado get cool enough that I still enjoy a bowl of soup…this will be made.

  33. I also love onion soup and decided long ago that whenever I want soup I can’t wait for that cold day in Texas. I’ve blogged one that has a cheese souffle topping and I believe the heat of the soup is what keeps the souflr top from collapsing while you eat it. Hope you will try it sometime. –sherry

  34. Jess

    Great riff! Thank you! I’m excited to try this after I make my next pot of chicken stock. I’m always looking for an AWESOME recipe to make with some of the broth the very next day, after freezing most of it. This is it .I wonder if one of the first commenter’s change to spring onions worked well, as I’ll probably have onions fro the garden by then. But, I do love Vidalias…

  35. mhalvor

    This looks terrific. Can’t wait to try it with my onion soup addicted family. A question a bit off topic, though–Am I the only one who gets a seeming scanty three cups of broth out of the hours of stock-making from scratch? I’m talking 3# of chicken backs and carcasses, plus all the veggies, and water to cover. It’s so much work and yields so little, or am I doing something wrong?

  36. onion soup has got to be one of the most comforting, delicious things to eat on earth. awesome recipe, love the addition of the wild rice and crusty bread!! :D

  37. Hi Deb, here’s a new fan to your list from India. You are out an out amazing with you writing, photographs and more with the simplicity of recipes.though i’ve just read 2 of your recipes so far but i am so impressed already. I’d love to try this soup, only if i find wild rice somewhere in our stores here. If i don’t i’d just rather try with brown rice.

  38. Yay Everyone has to love onion soup, no matter how hot it is outside! I would eat it in a boat, with a goat, in the rain, on a train, etc. etc. SOUP!

  39. I’m making this right now-thank you! I read this recipe first thing today on a deary rainy spring morning, & realized that I had everything at home to make it already, including homemade chicken stock from the very first of my meat chickens. I love Vidalia onions, I lived in the South for a couple of years & am so glad they have reached New England grocery stores finally. I’m a huge wild rice fan too. Seriously this recipe cheered me up so much throughout a long long workday, just daydreaming about trying it out. Thanks again!

  40. Onion Grantinee is one of my all-time favorite soups and I think Balthazar is one of the few places in NYC that makes a proper one. But like you said, it’s best enjoyed on a cold, rainy, wintery day. Your recipe sounds like a wonderful, Spring-y alternative! Lately I have found blue cheese to be too strong for me, so I would probably substitute a goat cheese for the croutons.

    Can’t wait to try this out!

  41. Olivia

    I couldn’t wait to get home tonight to make this soup! I’ve had some homemade turkey stock in the freezer just waiting to be used… And this was amazing ! Totally worth the hour plus wait :) I simmered the herbs for about five minutes and the finished product was perfectly tarragon-y. YUM.

  42. Mo

    I saw this recipe this morning as I was getting ready to go to the grocery store, and knew I needed to make it tonight. No vidalias here yet, sadly, but the soup turned out wonderfully with plan old sweet yellow onions. I’m looking forward to eating the leftovers for lunch tomorrow!
    I steeped my herb bundle about 4 minutes and liked the level of herbiness I got from that length of time. I also had some parmesan rinds in my fridge so I threw those in for an extra savory/cheesy flavor.

  43. There is nothing better than making soup on a chilly, rainy day. Especially a soup with toasty bread, savory cheese and sweet onions all mixed in! I can’t wait to try out this recipe on my next damp and cold day. Looks delicious!

  44. I used to be totally opposed to French Onion Soup. First, I wasn’t into onions. Once I realized I like onions, I was a vegetarian, so the beef broth made me not try it. I have since tried making it with vegetable broth & we loved it. This looks perfect for our summer soup nights!

  45. Katya

    My first ever onion soup. Was super easy to make, but came out a little watery. Is that how it’s supposed to be? The crouton on top was a definite hit!

  46. Ash

    I’m in. Really. Finally a good onion soup that doesn’t demand a beef stock. I’m not terribly fond of beefy soups. Though I may have to plan a roasted chicken before making this soup as I am out of my homemade stock…


  47. lgr

    if you cook wild rice in chicken or veg broth instead of water (or, if you’re like me, add a bouillon cube to the water with the wild rice because you never have any broth on hand) it turns out to be so magical.

  48. We eat French onion soup pretty much year-round, during chilly fall and cold winter and rainy spring and foggy summer. Since I don’t care for beef broth I always make it with chicken stock and use whatever cheese is in the house.

  49. Amber

    I made this tonight and it was amazing! I deglazed the onions with a splash of whiskey before I added the broth because it just seemed wrong not to :) Perfect dinner with spring greens salad on the side.

  50. Catherine in Oregon

    Thanks so much for this recipe! I made it yesterday for guests and my family and it was a great hit. I had never made a type of French Onion Soup before and your instructions led to a perfect success (especially on how to cook the onions-they were just like in French soups!). I used vegetable broth (4 cups) plus water (2 cups) to make to make it thinner like stock, and it worked. Also for the herbs, I didn’t have cheesecloth, so I tied large pieces of the herbs together and let the bundle float in the broth until serving, with delicious results. And for the blue cheese, I asked for a lightly flavored one at my grocery, and loved Oregon Black River Gorgonzola-scrumptious and lightly blue flavored. Thanks again!

  51. p

    @abby, re herbs: like deb, i tried the jar of water, plastic bag thing and ended up with biology-lab-in-fridge situation. too much fussing involved, time for which i do not have. so i just keep mine wrapped loosely (so moisture doesn’t build up resulting in rotting leaves and stems) in the plastic bags in which i bring em home from the store, and store them on the bottom shelf of the fridge. they last me 7-10 days that way. you can also wrap em in paper towels, put in a tightly sealed tupperware container and put in crisper drawer. also i hear, a really easy way is: chop em up, put em in ice cube trays and freeze. use cube (s) whenever you need. we use a lot of herbs so i’ve never had to go the frozen route.
    every summer i buy herb pots from WF. they’re generally 2.99 each for organic whatever. and i keep em going for a good 5 months before the apartment heating season kills em. so, that’s a money saving option, too. windowsill herbs, use what you need as you need.

  52. Steph

    Regarding the haircut – haircuts break hearts. Later, it’s the girls at school, for now it’s all of us. Don’t be one of those moms who mandates haircuts in high school.

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful son with us! (And the soup lol)

  53. Catherine

    I made this last week: delicious (improved the second day).

    I did, however, store the wild rice and the soup together. Predictably, by day 3 the rice had absorbed most of the remaining liquid. I also happened to have a quiche crust sitting around in the freezer. So today I stuck the onions, rice, and the remainder of the blue cheese I bought in the quiche crust and poured an egg/cream mixture over them and baked at 350 until done. It’s kind of fantastic.

    1. deb

      Catherine — Brilliant. I love it. I wish I’d thought of it because we didn’t finish ours (the weather got warmer and we forgot soup) and I found it… two weeks later.

  54. Ashley

    I just finished making this and I found the soup to be really bland. Did I do something wrong? I adore all of your recipes, this is the first one I have ever had trouble with. Perhaps it’s the stock I used, or maybe the herbs didn’t stew for long enough?

  55. Molly

    This looks so warming and perfect for what is a very rainy weekend here in Boston! Question: if I make this for a dinner tomorrow, will the leftovers be good for a Monday lunch? Thanks!

  56. I made this tonight for dinner and it was amazing! Thanks for creating such delicious recipes and sharing! It was the perfect dinner for a rainy day in Toronto, and as a bonus, my house smells fantastic!

  57. Danie

    Made it, loved it! My boyfriend, who generally dislikes soup, even loved it. Planning to eat the leftovers cold, with some dark leafy greens.

  58. Abby

    This is amazing. Accidentally chopped the herbs and added them sans cheesecloth, which made the soup a little prettier and equally delicious.

  59. Megan

    It was good. I made it with regular onions (yellow. I think) because they don’t sell vidalia onions around here. They also don’t have all of the herbs available fresh (esp not affordable) so I used dried and just threw them in the soup. I used a toaster for the bread and then added the oil and cheese (Black River blue cheese, as that was the only kind they sell at the store). I used better than boullion for chicken broth.

  60. Beverly

    I live in South Florida but still love a good bowl of soup. This looks perfect. I’ll just crank up the A/C and pretend that it is cold outside!

  61. Cody in Colorado

    What a great recipe! I made a big batch this weekend to keep for lunch this week, and I’m so glad I did. I also didn’t have any cheesecloth, so I bundled up my whole herbs (basil, tarragon, chives, and oregano fresh from the garden!) with twine and dropped them in towards the end. As I hadn’t chopped them up, I left them longer than suggested. It turned out great! Sampling the soup before and after the herbs, I could definitely taste a difference. And the blue cheese croutons were the perfect final addition. Thanks for the wonderful recipe!

  62. KatieK

    Any ideas for something other than blue cheese; soup sounds wonderful but we don’t to blue cheese (maybe tiny crumbles on a steak salad).

  63. Well, I’m definitely late to the comment train on this one, having finally gotten around to making it after a year in my recipe folder, but I can definitely affirm its quality :)
    I made it yesterday with some fresh herbs tossed in instead of a herb bundle and with some grated cheese on top instead of croutons. Thanks for another great recipe!

  64. Gren

    Just made this, even with some added herbes de provence it came out extremely bland and tasted like a failed french onion soup. Anyone else?

  65. Seth A Thayer

    oooo, I loved this soup. I only had unsalted store bought chicken broth, so I had to doctor that up with herbs, spices and brandy before adding to the onions. I did manage to lightly caramelize the onions which worked out well. I can’t wait to have this one tomorrow.

  66. Alice K.

    I’ve wanted to make a vegetarian onion soup for ages. I finally bought sweet onions to make this with vegetarian stock. The soup was very good, but it did lack a strong flavor. Perhaps my stock was too weak. Will likely try again, but in the meantime, I’m enjoying this soup anyway. The toasted bread on top with goat cheese was a great addition, BTW.

  67. AAV

    I love this. I’ve been hunting for a straight-ahead vegetarian onion broth for a while now. An acquaintance of mine shared some that she’d made (“from an old Italian cookbook”). I didn’t think to push for the recipe at the time, but it was a divine base for a vegetable lentil soup. The only recipes I’ve been able to scare up have been french onion soup (typically with a beef broth). Thinking this could be a good start with a little tinkering….

  68. Amy

    I made this for lunch today as it seemed a good “bridge soup” between winter and spring. I thought there were going to be too many onions (they barely fit in my dutch oven!) but then they cooked down nicely. I used better than bouillon chicken stock because I thought it would lend a stronger flavor. I simmered the herbs in the broth for 10 minutes because, like Deb, I thought the work justified the longer simmer time. Overall, the flavor of the broth was still quite weak. I will add croutons next time that may add a bit of crunch/flavor. This is a pleasant enough soup for a spring day but I wonder what it would taste like if I had taken the extra step to caramelize the onions…