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homeward bound

Recipe: french onion soup

Oh, you are all so very very sweet. Thank you for the kind wishes and new year’s greetings! I hope we ALL have a great 2010 and beyond. I’m definitely much better now from that nasty sinus infection although there is some lingering congestion, kinda like when some guys don’t get the hint and they just keep hanging around… ;) If you attended a technical university, you will most definitely know what I’m talking about. Anyhow, I realize I’ve fallen dreadfully behind on the comments and well – I’m not sure that I’ll be able to get to them this week just yet. See, I’m in Virginia.


the land of krispy kreme donuts

and southern haaaaaaaaam



I’m chilling out with my parents at their place. Their current house is relatively new (same neighborhood). It isn’t the house I grew up in, but I noticed while walking through the rooms that it still feels familiar to me. Even though the building and the furnishings have changed, there is a sense of coming home.

entering the house

the sunroom overlooking the water



My mom and dad were so excited about my visit that they had been calling me for days before my arrival to plan out every single meal (typical foodies, no?). When your head is full of mucus and you feel like crap, it’s hard to imagine wanting to eat anything – and I didn’t. However, the day before I flew out I suddenly found my spare time thoughts racing from one recipe to another. I had been worried that I had lost my cooking mojo, but it was just the blasted flu and sinusitis muddling up my brain. Mom made me Chinese hot pot the night I arrived – the perfect remedy to any cold or flu. Tonight, my dad prepared a “simple” meal of rack of lamb and I offered to slap together some roasted vegetables to go with it.

brussels sprouts and potatoes for roasting

dad slices the rack of lamb

my parents’ idea of a simple meal



I’m trying to pace myself because 1) I know they have a marathon of food lined up and 2) I haven’t regained my appetite completely… although it’s easier to have an appetite when the food in front of you looks and tastes amazing. In any case, I’ll have the camera at the ready to document the culinary proceedings. Jeremy will join us toward the end of the week after his conference is over.

Being back in my hometown reminds me of my earliest cooking years when I joined my neighborhood 4-H group. We learned to cook French onion soup one day at 4-H and it was forever etched in my brain as something so easy a fifth grader could do it. I think that’s a great solution to overcoming fear – learn to do it young. Man, I wish I had learned to ski moguls and glades as a kid…


onions and thyme

sliced bread for croutons



I’m not typically a huge fan of cheese and while I like onions I’m not *crazy* about onions, but put them together in this soup and I have a hard time turning down a bowl with all that melty, cheesy goodness bubbling on top. If you make this recipe in winter you get the added bonus of filling your house with the wholesome aroma of homemade soup while you fill your tummy with the actual soup. It makes for a perfect après ski meal.

toasted croutons

pouring broth into the caramelized onions



You can make this as easy or as complicated as you like, mostly depending upon whether you make the broth from scratch or not. And if you’ve never caramelized onions before, I have notes in the margins of this recipe that read, “have faith, they will caramelize.”

set croutons and cheese in bowl

more cheese, please



I guess some recipes call for broiling the crocks briefly to melt the cheese, but I prefer how this recipes bakes them for a good half hour. It heats the whole ensemble through so that it’s piping hot when you take it out of the oven. Makes for maximum enjoyment when you dig in. Just please please please make sure your crocks or bowls are oven safe.

i have found the center of the galaxy, and it is this bowl of soup



Jacques’s Onion Soup Gratinée
[print recipe]
Julia and Jacques, Cooking at Home

2 tbsps oil
1 tbsp butter
1.5 lbs. onions, peeled and thinly sliced (about 5 cups)
1 tsp fresh thyme sprigs, minced (or 1/2 tsp dried)
1/2 tsp salt, or more to taste
5 cups hot chicken stock (I used beef), homemade or low-sodium canned
1/4 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
1/4 cup red or white wine (optional)

for each crock of onion soup gratinée
3-4 slices of baguette, about 1/4-inch thick cut on the diagonal
2-2.5 oz Gruyère or Emmentaler cheese, grated (about 3/4 cup)

Heat the oil and butter in a heavy 3- or 4-quart saucepan over medium-low heat. When the butter is melted, add the onions, thyme, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Stir together well. Cover the pan and cook for about 10 minutes. Give it a stir from time to time. When the onions are tender, remove the lid and increase the heat to medium. Cook another 20-25 minutes, stirring often, until the onions have caramelized (dark golden color). You can reduce the heat if the onions look like they may burn. Meanwhile, heat the stock in another pot. When the stock is hot and the onions are caramelized, stir the stock into the onions and bring the soup to a boil. Taste and adjust seasonings adding salt, pepper, and wine if you like. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Toast a dozen or so baguette slices on a baking sheet in a 400°F oven until crisp and starting to turn golden (10 minutes). When the soup is ready, place the croutons (whole or broken) into the bottom of each oven-safe crock and sprinkle 2 tablespoons of cheese on top. Arrange the crocks on the baking sheet. Ladle in a cup or more of soup to about 1/4 inch from the rim. Mound grated cheese all over the surface of the soup to cover. Repeat for each crock. Place the baking sheet with all the crocks in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes until the cheese turns golden and crusts over the soup. Move the crocks carefully onto individual plates and serve. Makes 5-6 small crocks.

48 nibbles at “homeward bound”

  1. Dragana says:

    Gorgeous view from your parents living room! Have a wonderful visit with your parents and enjoy every morsel they put in front of you! I need my urb fix on a regular basis in 2010!

  2. Jennifer says:

    Why must you flaunt such yummy foodz in my face? Now, I have to eat some pizza from my refrigerator, like a fatty, and then regret it by doing a million crunches in the morning.

  3. Tartelette says:

    So happy to see the recipe from Julia and Jacques. Julia’s recipe is exactly like my moms and sends Bill into fits of anticipation frenzies whenever I make it!
    Enjoy the visit with your parents!

  4. Maya says:

    Happy New Year Jen! Have a lovely visit home :)

  5. Debbie says:

    Hey, you are in my territory…or at least state! I live in northern Virginia…the land of traffic! Your parents sunroom is absolutely gorgeous. I would spend lots of time in there if that were my home. Hope you have a nice visit. I had to laugh when I saw the Krispy Kreme box…my husband swears they are the only really good donuts in the world. I grew up in NY so we all only knew Dunkin Donuts. My hubby can’t stand them!!! Must be because he is a native Virginian!

  6. Kristin says:

    Oooh, that room looks great. I’m always on the lookout for a light-filled room at this time of year, and the view looks wonderful. Meat & veg, sure, that’s a simple meal (ha!). That soup is soooo tempting. I need a night when it’s just me & my son, & we’d be in heaven. Maybe the other 2 could just have leftovers.

  7. Crystal says:

    I lived on 10-minute onion-miso soup when I first got bronchitis (Christmas), and I’ve been craving a real batch since I got my appetite (but not my taste buds) back! Thanks for posting, and I hope you feel better soon :)

  8. Fran says:

    Welcome to VA. I guess this frigid weather is not anything you can’t handle though. We’re just not so used to it in January.

    The home and food photos are amazing as always and I now feel the need for lamb chops and French onion soup STAT! :)

    I hope you’re feeling better very soon!

  9. Phoo-D says:

    That is one of my favorite cookbooks. We have French Onion soup on the menu this week as well! I have a homemade baugette I’ve been saving just to make soup. This looks totally delicious, and your parents’ house is lovely.

  10. alice says:

    This is one of my favorite soups, ever! Happy New Year!

  11. Sara says:

    Oh man, I want a spoon of this in my mouth right now! This looks so good! Have fun at home with your parents, it’s so nice that it still feels so home-y to you. Awwwww!

  12. Trent says:

    Very nice Jen. It’s been a long time since I’ve made Onion Soup Gratinee, this may be my tipping point. And yes – more cheese!

  13. Pam says:

    Having grew up, went to high school/college in VA, I too love the Krispy Kreme’s and they don’t compare at all to Dunkin Donuts. Spent lots of summers at my friends home on the water in Va Beach. Also love the Smithfield Ham, nothing like it. My kids are all in 4-H and love doing demonstrations for cooking at our local competition, maybe we’ll include a French Soup theme in this spring’s event. It’s cold on the east coast, so use that sunroom all you can. Can’t wait to try to soup.

  14. Nichole says:

    going home: there’s nothing quite like it. it warms and nourishes you like a good bowl of soup. thanks for sharing both with us here!

  15. Krista says:

    Mmm, truly divine! :-) I adore French onion soup. Your parents are so cute, spoiling you and lovin’ on you. :-)

  16. sheauen says:

    nothing beats the cold in VA like a hot cheesey bowl of french onion soup. thanks for giving me a great reminder of my childhood in Herndon.

  17. Valérie says:

    It’s always nice to be looked after by our parents, isn’t it? And a nice big bowl of cheesy soup can only improve things! It looks delicious!

  18. Clark says:

    Jen: Thanks for the recipe – and walk down Williamsburg memory lane. Your parents old place was always a great home away from home. Please give them my best – and enjoy the time back in the womb…

  19. Mrs Ergül says:

    I adore how much light your parents’ place get! i believe this is the same unit as the one you showed previously? The one with the beautiful deck.

    And I have always wanted to try making onion soup! Thanks for sharing another keeper recipe! take lots of care Jen!

  20. Georgia Pellegrini says:

    Gosh, that picture of the lamb made me want to hi-tail it to the butcher!

  21. Charli says:

    I couldn’t help but smile at your sinus infection analogy. So true about the technical school boys…

    I now have a huge craving for french onion soup.

  22. Abby says:

    I’m making this, this weekend. For sure.

  23. Margie says:

    My youngest daughters favorite soup! I’ve never attempted it, but that should be a thing of the past, especially since this young lady is stricken with a nastry strep infection and in need of the perfect cup of soup.

    The photo’s are beautiful; the home, too.

    I hope you enjoy a wonderful visit. Flush that nasty sinus bug down the drain and get well, ASAP!

  24. Karen B says:

    Purple potatoes! I love purple potatoes! They add such a nice shock of color to dinner.

    I wouldn’t have thought of making French onion soup with kids, but it’s a perfect recipe for little hands. Or big hands too! Mmm, it looks good.

    Have a great time being well taken care of!

  25. lebertran says:

    I saw purple potatoes. I wonder how they would be tasting. I really think you may have found the universe in that bowl of soup. It looks so spicy!

  26. emhuze says:

    Beauuuuutiful veggies! The purple is so seductive… oh my!

  27. Jennifer says:

    French Onion Soup is one of my faves, and I’ve been meaning to make it for weeks. This post is a kick in the pants for me to getting caramelizing some onions. In fact, I’m going to get some from the pantry right now…

  28. Brooke says:

    Onion and Thyme! Why does that combination thrill me so? Your parents’ home reminds me so much of my Dad and Step Mom’s place in Gloucester, MA. You just made me Thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis much more home sick, seeing your home photos.

    Happy New Year! Hope you’re feeling better soon!

  29. TheKitchenWitch says:

    Oh my gosh! You were a 4-H geek too?? How come you guys made awesome stuff like French Onion soup and we made crap called Hamburger Haystacks?

    You were in a far, far, superior class, my friend.

    Glad you are feeling better and hope you enjoy the time with your family.

  30. Caitlin says:

    I hope you’re having a wonderful time at home – that area is just gorgeous! And regaining your appetite can’t be too hard with food like that!

  31. Lori says:

    I just love French Onion Soup!

    One time a group of docs bought our dialysis unit (where I worked) subs. There was this huge container of sliced onions left over. I asked if anyone wanted it. Everybody was like what am I going to do with all those onions. I took them home and whipped up a batch of French Onion Soup- easy peasy style.

  32. Dani H says:

    So glad you’re on the road to recovery. French onion soup is my absolute favorite soup. I even like it for breakfast. Thanks for sharing. Have a lovely rest of your trip. I’m sure you’re missing Kaweah, but it’s nice that you’re spending time with your parents. Take care.

  33. Julie Ferrell says:

    Ah – the Burg. How I miss sandwiches from the cheese shop (roast beef, white cheddar, extra house dressing). Then I think about real ham, salty peanuts…yum. Keep getting better and travel safely.

  34. Sally says:

    Hey you are in Smithfield? that house doesn’t say Smithfield to me! must be close by– small world– I had no idea your family settled here. enjoy your visit.

  35. Sally says:

    Duh– you are in Williamsburg– nice- I was born and raised in Petersburg and spent lots of time in the burg–

  36. day six: snap, crackle, pop « Jennie's Project 365 says:

    [...] onions weeks before and stored them in our back room, where temperatures dip into arctic territory. Jen’s post gave me the nudge I needed, and in minutes I was in the kitchen slicing and caramelizing. [...]

  37. Asianmommy says:

    Ooh–I haven’t had hot pot in such a long time. I need to ask my mom how to make it. :)

  38. barbara says:

    What a lovely sun room Jen. It looks like a comforting spot to curl up in and read a book, glancing up occasionally to look at the water. I like the piece of red glass. I guess J is with you now. Have a fun weekend. xxoo

  39. Indian Takeaway says:

    That rack of lamb looks like it was cooked to perfection. I certainly envy you, your parents house looks lovely and the food too!

  40. Lezel Safi says:

    Jen-Made it last night….the best french onion soup recipe yet and sooooo easy!

  41. Casey @SpicyandSweet says:

    Your pics are BEAUTIFUL! I just found your blog :). Very impressive!

  42. hungry dog says:

    Lovely photos. I really like your blog! Your parents’ home looks very pretty…as do those lamb chops! Hope you feel better!

  43. Ruth Ann says:

    Making me hungry!

  44. Melissa says:

    Had to smile when I saw Jacques and Julia. I have become a huge fan of Jacques this past 4 months or so. There is no doubt I would love this soup.

    I know from your subsequent post you aren’t 100%, but I hope you get there soon and enjoy your time. “A simple meal”… well, for me too… and I imagine for you as well, no? I think our perceptions as cooks are different from whose who coined the phrase and that’s just wonderful by me.

  45. Eileen says:

    perfectly simple for sunday night dinner, thanks for reminding me of this winter staple!

  46. jenyu says:

    You guys are the best! I had a very nice and mellow visit with my parents – making it a priority to rest and recover… otherwise Dad and I might have entertained the idea of going sailing :) Thanks heaps!

    Tartelette – I think any time you entered the kitchen, B would go into fits of anticipation. In fact, I would too! The stuff you crank out is what dreams are made of :)

    Debbie – yes, he must be a true Virginian! But out here in Colorado, I’ll take anything I can get – ha ha.

    Fran – it’s always nice to come back and be reminded of just how lovely the state is. We take a lot for granted as kids :)

    Pam – how awesome, I hope your kids spank the cooking competition!!

    Nichole – oh! I love it when you visit urb :) xoxo

    Clark – hello sweetie! Great to have you drop by. My parents say hi (they always remember my friend “that nice young man, Clark”). Someday we will once again be in the same place at the same time :) xo

    Mrs. E – yes, same one! :) You have a really really good memory.

    Margie – oh, the poor dear. I hope she is well now. It’s always nice when Mom nurses you back to health.

    lebertran – the purple potatoes don’t really taste any different, although they’re so pretty I like to think they taste better :) hee hee.

    Jennifer – You’re such a superstar, how do you cook and raise kids and write and travel and manage everything that you do? Wowee, lady!

    Brooke – hey beautiful! Happy New Year to you :)

    TKW – you crack me up. Seriously.

    Julie Ferrell – Wow, so cool to get you and Clark on the same post :) Feels like old times, no? Those cheese shop sandwiches are the best!

    Sally – yup, Williamsburg. It was a good place to grow up (but I would have loved to live near a place that had decent skiing!)

    Melissa – it’s true, being cooks – our outlook on food is so drastically different from those who don’t cook :) But I like it that way too!! xo

  47. Ruth Ann says:

    An article on how to grow sprouts (soybean and others). It may be useful (or not) for you snow dwellers.
    http://bit.ly/5kf6ka

  48. Brian says:

    I made the soup tonight… absolutely wonderful and simple. Great tastes and aromas! I’m wondering how a whole scotch bonnet pepper in the bubbling broth might work (imparting the heat and flavour without pepper parts in the final product)…hmmm…. Thanks for posting the recipe! I hope you have gotten past the flu and have skied to your heart’s content!

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