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French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup

Since Clara’s birth, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “and that’s why I could never have kids” in response to something I said. It doesn’t really bother me because I realize not everyone wants (or is ready) to be a parent. Usually, I just smile and nod and remark how easy it is to adjust to life with a baby. People’s horrified faces when they find out Clara stopped sleeping through the night when she started teething tell me that not everyone agrees, and that’s okay. You live through it and maybe drink a little more coffee. No big deal. At least in my experience, the little challenges that have come with being a new parent are nothing compared to the intense love that I have for Clara. I feel a sense of sheer wonderment at the power of those feelings, and it sometimes makes me feel like I’m walking around with my heart outside my body.

I experienced this in the most horrible way not too long ago. You may remember that Clara had an appointment at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia last month. Let me preface this by saying that everything is fine now, but we did get news we weren’t expecting. First, we were told that Clara’s left thumb is also abnormal, though not as severely as her right. With just one thumb affected, the likelihood of it being a random genetic abnormality was high, but with both thumbs affected, it seemed that there could be an underlying cause. Because of this, the specialist we saw wanted Clara tested for a life-threatening disorder (the test came back negative). As we walked to the lab to have Clara’s blood drawn, I felt like I was suffocating. I couldn’t take a deep breath and tears were streaming down my face. My thoughts were spiraling downward quickly, and I felt a level of fear I haven’t experienced before, not even when we were told earlier this year that Clara could have a heart defect. That is the hard part about being a parent – feeling so strongly for another person, more than you could have ever thought possible. It makes you vulnerable, but it also makes you indescribably happy.

The two weeks that we had to wait on Clara’s results were a roller coaster of emotions. I went from being scared of what might happen to certain that the test would come back negative and then back again pretty much every single day. We needed comfort food, and this soup provided exactly the kind of comfort we were looking for. It’s rich, warm and covered in gooey, toasted cheese. This soup is a far cry from the onion soups I’ve had before, which basically tasted like salt and not much else. The onions in this soup are slowly caramelized, which gives them a depth and richness that can’t be achieved otherwise. If you’re looking for comfort in the form of food, I can’t think of a better recipe than this one. And even if you’re not seeking comfort and simply want something hot and delicious to warm you to your bones on a cold night, this soup is perfect for that too.

French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup

Cook Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Yield: 4-6 servings

French Onion Soup


For the soup:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1½ pounds (about 5 cups) thinly sliced yellow onions
1 teaspoon table salt, plus additional to taste
¼ teaspoon granulated sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 quarts beef or mushroom stock
½ cup dry white wine or dry white vermouth
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons cognac or brandy (optional)
For topping:
2 to 3 teaspoons grated raw onion
1 to 2 cups (to taste) grated Swiss or Gruyere cheese
1 tablespoon butter, melted
12 to 16 1-inch thick rounds French bread, toasted until hard


Melt the butter and oil together in a large pot or Dutch oven set over low heat. Stir in the onions, cover and cook for about 15 minutes. Remove the cover, add the salt and sugar and increase heat to medium. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, for 30-40 minutes or until the onions are a deep golden brown. Once the onions are fully caramelized, sprinkle in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Stir in the wine, and then gradually add the stock, stirring after each addition. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring the soup to a simmer and continue cooking, partially covered, for 30-40 minutes. Stir in the cognac or brandy, if using.

Heat your broiler to high (or if you have gas like us, something like 500º). Arrange 4-6 ovenproof bowls on a large baking sheet. Divide the soup evenly and stir ½ teaspoon of grated onion and 1 tablespoon of cheese into each bowl. Lightly spread the melted butter over the bread slices, then float them on top of the bowls, using as many slices as you need to cover the soup. Top with as much grated cheese as you like. Place under the broiler until the cheese is melted and lightly browned. Serve immediately.


  • Misty

    I’m so glad you received the results you would hope for regarding Clara’s tests. Being a parent is hard, but yes, it is sooooo rewarding. This recipe sounds delicious!

    • Courtney

      Thanks, Misty!

  • USA Kiwi

    I fully understand what you mean about being in awe of the POWER of the feelings you have for Clara. I have the same feelings for my son. I feel for you having to go through what had to have been a very scary time. I’m so glad you got back a good result and all is well.

    That soup looks fabulous…. I’m so making it!

    • Courtney

      Kylee, thanks so much for the kind words!

  • Rachel @ Baked by Rachel

    Being a parent is so hard and so amazing at the same time. Cherish every wonderful moment and remember that the bad hopefully won’t ever last nearly as long as they sometimes feel. And in the meantime… a bowl of warm comfortable soup is always a big plus. You’ve inspired me to finally get my butt moving and make some French onion soup sooner than later!

    • Courtney

      Rachel, you’re so right! The bad times, once they’re over, seem short compared to all the wonderful times. It’s just hard to remember that in the midst of them.

  • Patty

    So sorry that you have had to go through this. So glad that her heart is not affected. I’m sure with you and Eric as her wonderful parents Clara will be able to face anything she has to go through concerning her thumbs. We are so proud of all of our “Cherry Hill Girls”, you are all amazing mommas!

    • Courtney

      You’re so sweet, Mrs. Patty! I so appreciate your kind words and thoughts for us and Clara.

  • Rachel

    I am so sorry to hear about your beautiful daughter and the hardships your family is facing. I am not a parent yet, but I love your outlook on everything and I think that is really inspirational. I think it is amazing how you speak of your love for your daughter and how it totally outweighs all of the tremendous effort and work it takes to be a parent. I know I hear parents all the time saying negative things, but I think when I have children it will be such a great thing and I was so happy to read your post to know that there are families out there who cherish their children and really love spending time with them without resentment. And I love your motto about more coffee. That always helps for sure haha.
    (and this soup looks awesome btw!)

    • Courtney

      Rachel, thank you so much! Your comment really warmed my heart. And yes, sometimes more coffee is necessary. ;)

  • Courtney Jones

    Your thoughts on parenting are heart warming :) I do not have any kids of my own, but I can see the way my parents look at me even at 30 and I feel that love, care and concern never to be matched by anyone else. I can imagine feeling that for my own kids one day. I am so glad the test results came back favourably. I felt teary eyed reading about what you had to go through. I am so glad it turned out okay. What a horrible burden on your shoulders for 2 weeks while you waited for results!

    • Courtney

      Aw, Courtney, that is so sweet! I hope Clara feels the same way when she’s 30!

  • Julie @ Table for Two

    this is definitely perfect comfort food in times of hardship. i don’t know what it is like to have children, but i will someday. i know that you have an immense love for your child so i can somewhat feel what you were going through. i’m glad the tests came back negative and i hope this soup gave you that comfort you and Eric were needing! *hugs*

    PS – where are those super cute bowls from?!

    • Courtney

      Julie, I found them at World Market. They had the cutest dishes in their Christmas section, and I couldn’t resist these.

  • Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar

    Mmmm!! These look lovely!

  • ErinsFoodFiles

    I cannot imagine the anxiety & fear you must have felt during those tests, and the two weeks of waiting. It’s so good to hear they came back negative!

    • Courtney

      Thanks, Erin! I’m glad we got the results back and can celebrate Clara’s first Christmas with no concerns.

  • Kelsey

    Courtney, your love for Clara is so beautiful and so intense. This post had me tearing up. Please know your family and all the doctors and nurses who will work with Clara are in my prayers. I just wish I was closer so I could make some soup and bring it over to you.

    • Courtney

      Thank you so much, Kelsey! You are so sweet, and I really appreciate your kind words.

  • kelly

    When Clara grows up, she’s going to have an amazing gift in this blog–she’ll be able to see how excited her parents were to welcome her to the world and how passionately they loved and cared for her as she grew up! I can’t wait to have kids someday, but I’m looking forward to my sister having one soon–I’ll get some practice being an aunt first :) Sorry, I wasn’t around over Thanksgiving…if I was, I would have brought you somewhere for really great comfort food! Maybe I’ll see you in 2013! Happy new year to you three! xo

    • Courtney

      Thank you so much, Kelly! That’s so sweet of you to say, and I really appreciate it. Depending on what we decide about her hand, we may be in Philly several times this year. I certainly hope I get to see you at some point in 2013! :)

  • Shannon MacLellan

    I absolutely loved this post. We have 17-month old twin girls (Clara & Madeline) and I completely understand how the seemingly unpleasant things of parenthood (exhaustion for one) are so greatly outweighed by the blessings. Your Clara is very lucky to have such loving and caring parents and I’m sure she knows it already. :)