french onion soup {day 65}

I've reverted to my real old school ways. I'm keeping a paper calendar again. I know, this is so 20th century. Those who know me, are not surprised. Much as I love technology, the inner workings of it are not my strong suit. Honestly, it's hilarious I publish this blog, and am considered a social media maven in some circles—until last week, I didn't know how to load a cd on my iPod—seriously!

After 16 years together, Mikey and I morphed into one whole unit. We each had our strengths, and compensated for the other's weaknesses, for lack of a better word. He was the tech guy. New computer, no problem. He'd magically make all my files appear.

Need a workout playlist—done.

Printer not playing nice? A few curse words later, and all my tech worries were a memory.

My comfort zone was obviously in the kitchen, so much so that I unseemingly pushed Mikey out of it. I became a zen master at getting a homemade dinner on the table in no time, often pulling a meal together from simple pantry ingredients. He was always amazed at what I'd "scrounge" for dinner on a moment's notice.

I don't have many regrets, but I wish I would've let my grip in the kitchen go, so maybe he would've felt more welcome to stand by my side and chop an onion. My strong suit, and fault, is that I'm a perfectionist and a quick learner. This can be very intimidating. The ease and speed with which I breezed through the kitchen kept Mikey in awe, and also deterred him for fear of making a mistake. Friends who have cooked with me, know that's not really the case. Mikey was a sensitive creature, though, and I should've been more gentle and reassuring.

I also wish I would've learned how to set up the computer network. He took that with him three days after he died, and I've been stuck in a tech netherworld, having to actually plug the printer into my laptop to print a document. That's the least of my worries, though.

I've let my hair down a bit in the last 65 days. I'm trying to see what works for my new normal, fully aware that it will change based on the needs of each day.

I'm more willing to push the boundaries of bedtime on Friday and Saturday nights. I've even been venturing out to restaurants with them more than Mikey and I ever did. I'm very conscious of how suffocating motherhood can feel when you're doing it all on your own. This has nothing to do with love. It is about realizing I was a fiercely independent person before my life changed so drastically on August 7th. Understanding my need to not feel trapped is vital in navigating these new waters. All that talk about work-life balance is being put to the test.

I try to approach each day with a set of fresh eyes. Finding joy and pleasure in simple things, like browning onions in butter to make this soup. Tonight I came home feeling a little down. I decided I didn't want to cook and ordered pizza from Enoteca, a local wood-burning oven joint, one Mikey and I went to a few times for date night. I've never been disappointed by them, but from the first bite this evening, I was filled with regret. I knew I could've made something way better myself, and saved money too.

So I marched into the kitchen, and sliced the onions that had been sitting on the counter for a week now. I'd been planning to make this soup but the urge just hadn't struck me. That takeout delivery was just the kick in the pants I needed. By time I was done tucking the girls into bed, the soup was finished. I already feel better about waking up tomorrow, knowing I'm starting the day with dinner ready and waiting for us in the fridge. Right now, it's all about savoring the small victories.

French Onion Soup

serves 4

print recipe

I originally published this recipe almost two years ago. For some back story and a few more pictures, and to see why this recipe is so special (hint: it's the heartiest vegetarian French Onion Soup you'll ever taste), go read the original post.

4 tablespoons butter

4 large onions, sliced

1 bay leaf

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

2 1/2 cups water

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

1 tablespoon molasses

Four 1-inch thick slices of baguette, toasted

4 ounces shredded Provolone, Swiss, Gruyere, or any melting cheese of your choosing

Melt butter in a 6-quart stockpot over medium-high heat. Add onions, bay leaf and season with salt and pepper; stir to coat well. Saute until they begin to soften and become golden, about 15 minutes. Cover pot and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, covered, until onions are softened, about 20 more minutes. 

Remove and discard bay leaf. Stir, scraping up browned bits at bottom of pot. Raise heat back to medium-high and slowly pour in the water. Add garlic clove, sherry vinegar and molasses. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 10 more minutes. Taste, and season with additional salt and pepper if necessary.

Preheat broiler. Evenly ladle soup into 4 oven-safe bowls. Place one slice of toasted baguette on top of each. Evenly sprinkle cheese on top and place on a rimmed baked sheet. Cook under broiler until cheese is golden and bubbly, 3 to 5 minutes.

Comments

  • Lisa: I am so excited to make this. French onion soup is my absolute favorite food. If a restaurant offers it, I have to try it. I received crocks as an engagement gift. My brother made it for me as a birthday present one year. I think I was 12 and he was 15. He could have become a chef. Sorry, back on topic. Most of the recipes I’ve seen use beef broth. I have a kosher home so those were nixed. I love to cook so I’m not sure how I’ve never made my fave. I’m definitely going to use those crocks now. Thanks for posting!
    P.S. I really admire you.

  • Sarah: I’ve never made French onion soup before, but this sounds delicious. I know what you mean regarding that “take-out” regret. I say this as I push through making extra pizza tonight so that I won’t cheat and buy lunch at the office tomorrow. It’s a lovely feeling to have a fridge with meals ready to eat!

  • Sarah: Thank you for sharing so much, so readily. As someone who has lost someone they love and walked a similar tightrope of grief vs. “normal”, I think you’re doing amazingly well. And molasses in French Onion Soup? Yes, please!

  • robin: I was wanting a french onion soup recipe for me and my 15 year old son who thinks Im an amazing cook, thank you and youre doin good kid.

  • Denise-EPL: I love my Moleskine paper calendar and I am about 95% vested in the digital world. I just can’t let it go.
    French onion soup, this recipe sounds delightful. I think I’ll surprise my family and make this. The bubbly cheese, oh my goodness.

  • Kara: I am trying to avoid food high in cholesterol and this onion soup recipe is probably not the best idea :( I wonder if a small bowl would be ok though…it truly looks too amazing to not taste!
    http://www.thecholesterolscoop.com/food-high-cholesterol.php

  • Nina: French Onion Soup is like Chicken Soup for the heart and soul… nourishing and comforting.
    Finding joy and pleasure in simple things is the best way forward in a world where it has been turned upside down and inside out.
    Je vous embrasse.

  • Tara: I’m so intrigued by a FOS recipe without beef stock but can already taste in my head what the molasses will do for it. I’m going to make it this weekend, and after reading your regret, I’m going to get my husband – who I normally banish from my kitchen too as he just “gets in the way” – help me chop the onions. So thanks for the recipe AND for the gentle reminder to treasure every minute we have with those we love.

  • Jessica / Green Skies and Sugar Trips: I have been in the mood for french onion soup for weeks now. Ruhlman even wrote about it, but somehow, this was the “kick in the pants” that I needed to make it. Thank you Jennie. :-)

  • Rachel Willen@FoodFix: I’m doing a series of classes on “comfort foods from around the world” and I don’t know why I didn’t think of onion soup! The ultimate in comfort…cheesy, warm, sooo savory! I like the idea of a completely vegetarian version too. Jenny, your journey is so compelling…even though the circumstances that put you on this new path of discovery are so sad, tragic…I feel excitement for you and your new beginning too.

  • Mimi: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NF5sbWheuN0
    french onion soup is my DD’s favorite soup and I make it for her, in the little crocks too!! LOVE the idea of the molasses.
    Jennie your writing is amazing thank you for sharing these intimate details with us…hang in there girlie…<3

  • Sarah: I’ve been checking in here for about a month now, and often wanted to comment but was never quite sure what to say. You are incredibly brave and I feel for your loss.
    This soup looks absolutely amazing and I cannot wait to try it. I’ve never been a huge fan of French Onion soup, but you’re the second person recently that has mentioned it within my world, so I think I need to re-evaluate and make it properly to give it a real chance. I mean seriously, it’s French – how could I not like it?!
    The toasted cheese on top – mmmm. I’ll let you know how I go when I get onto it :-)

  • Scott: I’m in a very similar situation as you were in the kitchen with Mikey. I do the cooking in my house and because I like to have things done my way when I’m preparing a meal, my wife is hesitant to get involved. She’s afraid she’ll be in my way, do something wrong, or at least not the way I want, and doesn’t want to fail. So she doesn’t bother.
    I want her to get involved but am not sure how to coax her back into the kitchen. Do you have any ideas?

  • Kim in MD: I think about you everyday day, Jennie. I am so glad you made this soup. Stay strong…

  • Jen F: What a great improvisation on a classic. I love that you can actually control the amount of sodium in the soup since you aren’t using stock! A truly fantastic idea.

  • Mrs Ergül: I have a friend who loves onion soup to bits and have been bugging me to make it for her. I shall do so the next time she comes over for dinner.
    I’m like you about the kitchen. I’ll now learn to let go a little so my husband will feel less redundant in it.

  • Diane: This looks Amazing and my hubby loves French Onion Soup!
    I think we have to make this recipe together :))
    I look for your posts everyday to see how your doing your someone to be admired!
    Thanks!

  • Jody Gates: I really like this post for several reasons. I began reading your blog when the post about make a pb pie for your hubby was linked on Tasty Kitchen I think. Anyway, love French Onion Soup and agree with you that eating out is way too expensive these days and I know I can make something just as good or better, just hate to take the time to plan. But after reading along with you regarding your new normal, what could be more important than making a delicioius meal for those I love and taking the time to plan! I don’t know you, but will continue to traipse along with you on this adventure called life.

  • Rocky Mountain Woman: Ahh sweetie, it’s good to see you coming out of the fog a little. Soup is such a healing thing!

  • Karen: Dear Jennie,
    I haven’t commented on your blog at all because I didn’t know what to say and, although we have a mutual friend, I don’t know you. I felt that this was your place for expression and I would have been awkward in it.
    That said, I really need to thank you. You created so much joy in my home this weekend. I (eventually) made your lentil and ricotta meatballs for a dinner party on Monday night. I say eventually because I loved the fact that everything could be made ahead of time. So on Saturday, I made the lentils and the ricotta. Then on Sunday, I made it again because, lo and behold, we had eaten it all. The lentils and ricotta separately will now be staples in our fridge and I can see those lovely little balls being fried up regularly.
    I explained to my boyfriend what was going on in your life and he (who doesn’t even really understand what a blog is) said that we had to leave a comment to let you know how good you made us feel this weekend.
    Cheers to you!

  • Grace: Thank you for this. Vegetarian French Onion Soup sounds just right to me as I had a bit of a meat buying blowout episode at the grocery store this week and I’m sick of it! Thank goodness I found an upright freezer at a yard sale for $50!
    Sometimes the small victories mean everything, don’t they? They can provide the momentum to achieve the next small victory. Keep going, Jennie, one step at a time. I’m so impressed with you. I’m afraid I would be rolling around on the floor naked and covered in my own poo.
    Hug your girls for me and you ladies enjoy your delicious homemade dinner.

  • Stephanie: I’ve always loved French Onion Soup, but haven’t eaten it in decades since keeping kosher. I can’t wait to try this vegetarian version, using up some of the many onions I dug out of our garden that have been looking for a home.
    I started reading your blog when your post about PB pie was linked on another blog I’d been following. Please keep writing.

  • Mary Kay: I’m also technology challenged and just figured out how to send you a comment. I’ve been following your blog for the last month or so and you are on my mind all the time. I’m in awe of your spirit and determination. I went through a similar situation a few years ago, and I’m so very sorry about Mikey. Thanks for sharing you and your heart.

  • Patty: I am 3 years ahead of you on the calendar of grief – normal – healing – one day at a time. I really do think it was just robotic for the first year. I moved forward but as I look back it is a blur. Actually, finding your site (from 3 Many Cooks & the PB pie) has been a blessing, both for the unwanted, but comforting sameness we share, and for your writing & recipes. He was also the techie in my life and I have sat sadly at the computer or trying to helplessly help my daughter with a laptop issue. So many things change. We accept some, fight some, and then live with the results, and the newness. I will be making onion soup and hoping my daughter will chop onions with me – together.

  • Winnie: Your posts over the last 65 days always leave me a little speechless Jennie. So while I don’t quite know what to say, know that I love reading each and every thing that you share, and that I admire you so much. This soup looks delicious btw: so easy yet I am sure so delicious.

  • meg jones wall: you are so amazing. i don’t even know you but your blog and your writings and your obvious strength are so inspiring. keep taking it one day at a time, and keep making dishes like this that feed the tummy and the kids, but also feed the soul. my thoughts are with you and your family.

  • AnnHolly: I’m glad you are finding joy. The French onion soup sounds delicious and I’m sure when you come home from work it will be terrific! I understand about morphing into a whole person. My husband needs his prescriptions re-filled and he had no idea how to do it…so we talked about you and Mikey (he’s been following your journey in his heart with me) and decided it was time he learned how to do some of these on his own.
    I’m going to fill up my own gas tank….it’s small, but he does it for me all the time. We need to learn and learn. I’m also mowing the lawn this weekend!

  • ~Chelsea~: I couldn’t help but smile reading your words about how you were in the kitchen, how Mikey saw you, how you were with others in the kitchen – perhaps a little different than with Mikey.
    My husband was a chef. I was, well, fairly hopeless in the kitchen. I felt just as you described Mikey, when I watched Elias cook. Amazed at his skill, his ease, and at what he could pull together out of nothing. I would walk into the kitchen – a few pots on the go and a bunch of food getting chopped – I’d ask him what he was making and he would answer, “I’m not sure yet”. I never was able to figure that out, but it sure made me smile. And, I sure miss that. (and, it was always amazing)
    I know he was a little ‘different’ with me in the kitchen, compared to others, but I also don’t doubt that I didn’t take his instruction as well as others. I did want to pitch in more. I wish I had the opportunity to learn more from him, especially now that it’s just me on my own to cook for our girls (which is actually how I found your blog recently as I was looking for recipes). But I still look back on our ‘cooking relationship’ and smile. It was, how it was meant to be.
    And, I am amazed at how much I did learn from watching him. Just sitting in the kitchen with him and talking about our day as he cooked. I think he’d be impressed with how my knife skills have improved. At how, though I’m now an only parent working full time, I still manage to cook fresh food with healthy ingredients the majority of the time. It’s not easy for me, but it was important to both of us, and I do my best.
    I’m rambling incredibly, but I wanted to thank you for your words. And, I’ve never tried to make FOS (as a vegetarian I rarely eat it as most people make it with a non-veggie broth), but maybe one day I’ll try yours
    ~C~

  • Melissa: I’m about to tuck into a bowl of this for lunch. All of the taste I’ve snuck in (in the interest of quality control of course) indicate I’m in for quite the treat.

  • Jen: It’s so hard to know the right thing to say. Your recipes are lovely, your photos are beautiful and I admire you so much.
    I won’t bother you with details but I lost someone very close to me once, very suddenly. No one can take away the pain, but just hang in there and take care of yourself.

  • Bevi: This looks lovely and sounds delicious. As the soup days approach, I will be sure to put this on the menu. I made a FOS in a class and never followed through with my own attempt at home. Yours will be the one that graces our table. Your courage is amazing and it is comforting to see that you are so well loved by so many.

  • Margie: One of my daughter’s favorite comfort foods. I’ve never made it, but you’ve inspired me. I look forward to surprising her.

  • Elizabeth A. Summers: Looking forward to trying this as I LOVE molasses and have a vision of how this might taste…and I’m wondering if a bit of beer would be good as well…know you probably would not want to add that if there are children, but beer does wonderful things to beef broth… will give it a try!
    Thank you for sharing all that you do!

  • Annie: Your words resonate with me so deeply, Jennie. I lost my mother rapidly and unexpectedly earlier this year. Tonight, I made this soup for my dad and my sister; it made me remember how much she favored ordering it at restaurants. I wish I had become acquainted with your recipes earlier so we could have shared this together, my mom and I (the rogue vegetarian of the family). Thank you for your voice and your honesty. My heart goes out to you. I am so, so sorry for your loss.

  • Sonya M Frymoyer: Jennie,
    I have been following your post for some time. Crying & rejoicing for you & the girls.
    You have been an inspiration for me, and the blog that I have been sitting on for well over a year is finally up. My husband too is the tech guy! I can so relate. He even help me get my blog up & running. I have so much to learn, overcome the computer tech fear, take good notes. With his encouragement & with others I’m putting myself “Out there” and that is huge. This weekend I am posting in honor of my Mother-in-law who has passed with breast cancer, and making your slow roasted tomato soup. Thank you for sharing your most difficult time with me, your thoughts as you work thru them and your inspiration to me in a little town of Brewerton, NY. Your are an amazing WOMAN! You have many treasures ahead of you to uncover.

  • Michelle Longo: I am literally eating this soup as I type. It is delicious!! I have to admit that I ate some of the onions before I poured the water in. I could have eaten the whole pot!
    Your writing is beautiful and moving. I am so sorry for your loss.

  • Kelly Doscher (@FoodMindedMama): Your posts make me cry when I read them. For obvious reasons, but also because I wish I could just reach out and help you, single mom-of-one to mom. I have never known love like you have, except for the love that I have for my daughter. You see, it’s just her and me. No dad. No partner in crime. No tech savvy guru under my roof. But what Lorelei and I do have is our love for each other and, well, food. I blog too and it’s cathartic. I cook too, and it brings us together. I know I’m a stranger to you, but I would be more than happy and willing to help you, commiserate about the stresses of single motherhood, or share recipes (although I have a feeling you’re one up on me there). Anyhow, I’m certain that you have all the help you may need from friends and family. Just know that you’re not alone, mama. All the best to you and yours. Kelly

  • Claire Arpasi: Hi Jennie
    I wanted to let you know that I made this soup a few nights ago for dinner and completely pigged out on it! I found myself adicted to it ;) Thanks for a great recipe.

  • terra: Hi Jennie! I gave this a try as we are (mostly) vegetarians here. We found the soup just a bit on the sweet side and I followed the recipe to the “T”. It’s been eons since I’ve had the real deal. Any suggestions for next time? Veggie “beef” bullion or something along those lines?

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