The French Chef, a Blizzard, and The Best French Onion Soup

It sure is beginning to look a lot like Christmas is coming here in Nebraska.  Our first blizzard of the winter season.  So far we have about twelve inches, with another three to four projected by morning.  Yippee??

If we can figure out how to put a man on the moon, figure out how to transmit data/voice wireless, figure out how to capture the wind and turn it into power, why oh why can we not figure out how to make the snow ONLY land on the ground not on sidewalks and driveways??  Shoveling one or two inches once a day is not a big deal.  However, shoveling three or four inches every six to eight hours for the first snow fall of the season is disheartening…especially when you realize that this is only the first week of December.  Our winter will last another three more months.  What else is in store for us this winter?

I did have a wonderful blessing in the middle of my second shoveling session.  Two of my dear, sweet cousins surprised me by coming down to my home and helping with the shoveling.  Such darling young men.  I found it very hard to grumble and feel sorry for myself when I had those two special young men helping me.  Colton and Shea are such kind souls.  Their parents have every reason to be proud of them.  The only “attitude” they showed me was an attitude of service.  Huge smiles on their faces all the time we were shoveling.  Those extra four arms and two shovels made a task into a memory to store in my heart.  I must admit, the time just flew by and I wanted it to last longer.  They are moving tomorrow, weather permitting, out of our neighborhood.  They are moving only about two miles away, but they won’t be three doors away.  It was always a source of comfort to me knowing that they were so close.  Just a quick walk for me to bring them extras of all my cooking/baking experiments.  Their new home is in a wonderful neighborhood, with lots of their classmates close, and their new home is awesome!  I truly am so happy for them.

Since the DVD of “Julia and Julie” is available today to rent what better way to celebrate “The French Chef” (Julia Child) then by eating a warming bowl of French Onion Soup while I watched the movie?  While I sliced the onions it brought back memories of my backyard neighbor from my “other life” (marriage).   Kathy was an amazing cook.  She brought grace, elegance, and joy to everything she made.  I wanted to be just like her in the kitchen.  The toffee that she gave out every year for Christmas was something I looked forward to each year.  She must have been so tired of telling me each year that this was her special recipe and just could not share it with me.  Sad for me, this will be another year that I won’t be a receiver of this special candy again this year.  I lost that treasure in the divorce.   Why is it that friends are more things that are “divided” up in any divorce?

Gracious, is it the freezing weather that is freezing up my brain?  Why the sadness in my writing?  Why am I being such a big baby?  Shift gears and get back to the French Onion Soup.  It was awesome and I really wanted to eat two bowls, but restrained myself.  The leftovers will make a great lunch for Boo and me.  She was pleased to know that the university has already canceled classes for tomorrow – now if only she would get a call that work is closed her day will be perfect.

This is a recipe that I have adapted from “Cooks Illustrated” and we just love it.  I find, as it is with most soups, time and reheating only makes it better.  Except for the tears you shed while you are slicing the onions, this is one of the easiest recipes for a hearty meal.  I do lazy it out by purchasing a great loaf of french bread from either the grocery store or a bakery.  Truly, is there anything better than the smell of onions roasting?  Okay, maybe turkey will beat onions, but this has to be a close second.  You can make your life easier by purchasing chopped onions in the freezer section of your grocery store, but I don’t mind the tears.  I hope you give this a try and will experience joy rising!


The Best French Onion Soup

From:  adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

Serves 6


For the best flavor, make the soup a day or 2 in advance.


  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter , cut into 3 pieces
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 large yellow onions (about 4 pounds), halved and cut pole to pole into 1/4-inch-thick slices (I use the sweet onions)
  • Table salt
  • 1T worcestershire  sauce
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth (I use Swanson Certified  Chicken Broth )
  • 1 cup beef broth (again, Swanson)
  • 1 cup white wine (I like Pinot Grigio)
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme , tied with kitchen twine or just tossed in the pot (remove the stems before serving)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Ground black pepper

Cheese Croutons

  • 1 small baguette , cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 8 ounces shredded Gruyère cheese (about 2 1/2 cups)


For the soup:

  1. Generously spray the inside of a heavy-bottomed large (at least 7-quart) Dutch oven with a nonstick cooking spray. Place the butter and olive oil in the pot and add the onions and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook covered on medium low heat, for 1 hour (the onions will be moist and slightly reduced in volume). Stir the onions, scraping the bottom and sides of the pot. Continue to cook until the onions are very soft and golden brown, about 20 – 25 minutes.
  2. Turn heat to medium high and cook onions, stirring frequently and scraping bottom and sides of pot, until the liquid evaporates and the onions brown, 20 – 30 minutes, reducing the heat to medium if the onions are browning too quickly. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the pot bottom is coated with a dark crust, roughly 6 to 8 minutes, adjusting the heat as necessary. (Scrape any fond (that’s the burned looking stuff on the bottom of the pot) that collects on spoon back into onions.)
  3. Stir in the wine, scraping the pot bottom to loosen crust, and cook until wine evaporates and pot bottom has formed another dark crust, 6 to 8 minutes. This step is called “deglazing”.  The onions will be a  very dark brown. Stir in the Worcestershire Sauce and let the mixture cook about five minutes.
  4. Stir in the broths, add thyme, bay leaf, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, scraping up any final bits of browned crust on bottom and sides of pot.
  5. Increase heat to high and bring to simmer. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove and discard herbs, then season with salt and pepper.  At this point you can refrigerate the soup, after it cools, or continue.

For the croutons:

  1. While the soup simmers, arrange the baguette slices in single layer on baking sheet and bake in a 400-degree oven until the bread is dry, crisp, and golden at edges, about 10 minutes. Set aside.

To serve:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.   Set individual oven-safe crocks on baking sheet and place in one or two baguettes (the bread will help thicken the soup).  Fill each with about 1 3/4 cups soup. Top each bowl with evenly with Gruyère.  Bake until cheese is melted and bubbly around edges, 35 – 40 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.
  2. If you don’t have heat safe crocks to serve the soup, try topping the baguette slices, while still on baking sheet, with cheese and place bake under broiler until cheese is melted and bubbly.  Then carefully place baguettes onto soup in serving dish.