In the same way many people judge a Tex-Mex joint by their chips or an Italian restaurant by the rustic bread, my first impression of a French bistro is highly contingent upon the quality of the French onion soup.

What can I say? I adore it, and when it’s really good, it’s an absolute delight.

Despite only a handful of ingredients, there’s a lot of love that goes into the perfect cup or bowl. Funnily enough, my favorite of all time is from a cute little French restaurant in Colorado Springs of all places. It probably doesn’t hurt that the owners hail from France, and hands down, it’s cheesy, caramelized onion-y perfection. Even compared with bowls I’ve tried in Paris, Annecy, and Chamonix, which is particularly high praise.

Last Saturday it was a cold, rainy, and gloomy day in DFW, and I found myself craving a big ol’ bowl. Those sweet caramelized onions nestled in a rich broth. The insane Gruyére cheese pull after being placed under the broiler. The bread that was crunchy but had simultaneously sopped up some of the broth. I’m hungry just writing about it.

There are a lot of foods you can pick up for takeout that are fantastic once you get home. French onion soup, however, is not one of them. Desperate times call for desperate measures, so I immediately began slicing seven big Spanish onions that were definitely fresh. My eyes were watering so bad that I put on sunglasses before attempting the final two. In case you wondered, no, the sunglasses didn’t help much.

After melting three tablespoons of butter in my Dutch oven, the onions went in. They almost reached the tippy top of the pot, which will inevitably cause you to doubt yourself. You half expect the ghost of Julia Child to show up and scold you — even if you’ve made this recipe before. It’s a TON of onions. But with gentle heat and at least 45 minutes, sometimes even longer (no one said caramelizing onions was fast), you’ll have exactly the right amount for the broth. They shrink down A LOT.

Once you’ve caramelized the onions for what feels like half your life, you de-glaze them with wine or vermouth to pick up all the yummy brown bits from the bottom of the pan (all I had was marsala wine, so I went with that), add the broth, fresh thyme leaves, a couple bay leaves, and you’re good to go. Simmer for as long as you’d like to blend the flavors together, and then comes the fun part. The illustrious top.

Toast some rustic bread beforehand in your oven (fresh bread will be like a sponge, and not in a good way), then top it with an insane amount of the Gruyére, which melts like a dream. Pop it under the broiler and don’t leave the room. You’ll want to babysit this, so you don’t wind up with a bunch of burned sludge over the top. After it’s all browned and perfect, grab a spoon, and dive in immediately while listening to Carla Bruni. You’ll probably burn your mouth, but you’ll be so happy you won’t even care. The End.