French Onion Soup and Roasted Acorn Squash— An Easy and Tasty Winter Supper

| November 15, 2010 | 2 Comments

French onion soup is one of my comfort foods. I don’t make it more than a few times a year, but it never fails to bring back memories of Fort Worth, Texas, oddly enough. That’s where I fell in love with French onion soup. It was one of those loves that borders on infatuation, when you almost can’t get enough of it. 

That love was sparked by the Camp Bowie Boulevard branch of La Madeleine, a French bistro that had the most wonderful bread, rotisserie chicken, lavish pastry, fantastic Caesar salad and, last but not least, French onion soup. 

Mom, Charles and I would each luxuriate over a steaming bowl, share a baguette and people-watch. Back then I didn’t have the heart to tell Mom that the soup contained beef broth. Mom doesn’t eat beef. She loved the soup as much as I did. It didn’t make any sense to break her heart. 

It wasn’t until we moved away to Oregon that I actually tried to make French onion soup. I found an easy recipe in a Good Housekeeping  cookbook that I had purloined from the Austin American-Statesman‘s features department when I was single and needed to know basic things like how to make lasagna and how long to bake a potato. 

Inevitably, I make French onion soup in the wintertime. When we’re craving something hot, hearty and satisfying. Usually, the entire house will be drawn to the kitchen with the aroma of caramelizing onions wafting up from the Le Creuset Dutch oven on the stove, drifting upstairs where Charles will be usually glued to his computer and Mom glued to her Thai satellite TV. The dogs, well, they don’t seem to get into the act until the part where I add the beef stock. Then they all come sniffing around the kitchen. I’ll usually make a big batch and freeze half of it so that we can enjoy it again in a few weeks. 

The first time I made it at home, Mom came down and spied the carton of beef broth on the counter. There was no denying it. I could not actually tell a bold-faced lie to my mother when she was staring at the carton of beef broth. “What are you making?” she asked. “French onion soup,” I replied. “It has beef?” “Well, not beef, beef juice,” I answered. “Oh,” she replied, and then said a statement that amazed me. “I guess that’s OK, as long as it doesn’t have beef.” In Mom’s mind, beef juice (aka broth) is not the same as beef. Her family never ate beef. The cow is  considered a sacred work animal to many in Thailand. In Mom’s household, you don’t eat the animal that helps the farmers plow the rice patties and put rice on your table. 

Making good French onion soup, I’ve learned, takes patience. If you don’t take the time to slowly caramelize the onions, it just doesn’t taste as good. You just can’t rush a good thing. In the beginning, making the soup is a tearful process. I’m usually red-eyed by the time I’ve finished peeling and thinly slicing four large sweet onions. By the time we’re eating the soup, though, I’m all smiles. 

French onion soup has such an honored position at our table that one year Charles surprised me by buying a set of four Emile Henry azure lion’s head soup bowls for us. The soup has never tasted better. C’est magnifique! 

A simple winter meal of French onion soup and oven-roasted acorn squash.


French Onion Soup and Roasted Acorn Squash

Serves 8 


  • 2 sticks (16 tablespoons, 120 ml.) of butter (with one of them at room temperature)
  • 4 large sweet yellow onions, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml.) brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml.)  flour
  • 3 cups (720 ml.) red wine
  • 32 oz.( 1 l.)  beef broth
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 4 acorn squash, cut in half and seeds scooped out
  • 16 tablespoons (120 ml.) of honey
  • 8 slices of white bread, trimmed into rounds
  • 8 slices of emmentaler cheese


  1. Preheat oven to 350 °F.
  2. Melt 1 stick of butter (8 tablespoons) in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.
  3. Add onions and occasionally stir until they all start giving off their juices, reduce heat to medium. Keep cooking the onions, gently stirring them until they turn translucent and begin to caramelize.
  4. Add sugar and stir in until dissolved.
  5. Add flour and stir in until dissolved.
  6. Add wine, beef broth and bay leaves. Cover and simmer over low heat for 1 hour.
  7. Set the halves of acorn squash in Pyrex dishes and, with a paper towel, apply butter from the room temperature stick along the inside surface of the squash. Add two tablespoons of honey to the hollowed-out cavity of each squash and bake for 1 hour.
  8. After an hour, remove the squash and set aside, and turn the flame off under the onion soup. Ladle onions and soup into bowls, leaving about half an inch of space from the top. Float a piece of the trimmed bread on top of each bowl and cover with a slice of emmentaler. Place bowls on a cookie sheet and under the broiler in the oven and broil for 3-4 minutes until the cheese is melted and begins to bubble.
  9. Serve squash in bowls and soup bowls on a salad plate so that your dinner guests won’t have to handle the hot bowls. Be careful as the soup will be very hot!


— Vic

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Category: Soup

About the Author (Author Profile)

Victor Panichkul is a journalist and writer by training; a cook, wine lover and photographer by passion; and a lover of the outdoors since moving to Oregon more than 10 years ago. He is a native of Bangkok, Thailand.

Comments (2)

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  1. Isn’t that funny about your mom and the beef broth?

    Isn’t it funny, too, that as many times as I’ve been to La Madeleine, I don’t think I’ve ever tried their French onion soup. But then, I tend to avoid French onion soup. A holdover from my expense-account lunch-interview days: It’s impossible to conduct an interview while eating French onion soup. I was always too busy writing down quotes to attend to the gooey cheese.

  2. Victor says:

    Ahh, but that’s when it’s best, while the cheese is still gooey!

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