My siblings and I all left Ohio as young adults. We went away to school in other states and overseas. We moved across the country. For a while, all three of us and our partners lived 2500 miles from home, but within a mile or so of each other in San Francisco. But no matter where we lived, whenever returning home for school breaks, holidays, long weekend, reunions, and pretty much any other reason to return, we demanded one meal from our mother.
My mother’s pot roast is a perfect storm of 1950’s convenience foods, 1970’s conveniences and appliances, and 1980’s economy. Inexpensive chuck roast slow cooked in a crockpot with Heinz ketchup, brown sugar, and Lipton Onion Soup mix. In our house, it was always served over Amish-style egg noodles and accompanied by frighteningly olive green, microwaved broccoli, and gravy thickened with cornstarch.
It’s rich. Sweet. Loaded with sodium and umami. On a cold winter night, it’s an amazingly perfect meal.
I’ve long since modified the recipe, even going so far as to make homemade ketchup as one of the ingredients. My results are good, but they’re still not the same thing. They’re still not coming home to mom’s cooking.
The other day I found myself pawing through our pandemic-lightened pantry and fridge trying to decide what to make. We had leftover French onion soup. I preheated the oven, quickly browned some chicken thighs, and doused them in a mixture of the onion soup (caramelized onions and chicken stock), ketchup, and brown sugar, and set it to slow braise uncovered in the oven.
Onion Soup ChickenCourse: DinnerCuisine: AmericanDifficulty: Medium
- French Onion Soup Base
2 large onions
2 cups roasted chicken stock
1 tbsp butter
1/2 tbsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
2 1/2 cups (approx.) French onion soup base (see above)
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup ketchup
1 tsp corn starch plus 2 tbsp of water
salt and pepper (to taste)
- French Onion Soup Base
- Peel, trim, and finely slice the onions from end to end.
- Add the butter to a thick bottomed pan over medium heat.
- Once the butter has stopped foaming, add the onions and salt. Cook over medium heat until the onions are soft and translucent.
- Add the baking soda and stir well to ensure the soda coats the onions.
- Reduce the heat to very low and stir frequently until the onions begin to stick to the pan and brown.
- Add a tbsp of stock to deglaze the pan, and continue cooking – repeating until the onions are very dark.
- Add the remaining stock and bring to a simmer.
- Cook for 10 minutes.
- Preheat your oven to 350°.
- Heat an oven-proof pan over medium heat.
- Generously season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper, and place your chicken into the pan skin-side down.
- Cook until the skin side is well browned.
- Remove the chicken and set aside.
- Drain any excess fat from the pan.
- Mix French onion soup base (see above), ketchup, and brown sugar.
- Add the sauce to the pan, scraping the bottom to release any tasty roasted bits.
- Return the chicken to the pan, spooning some of the sauce over the chicken pieces.
- Transfer the chicken to the oven.
- Cook for 40-60 minutes (depending on the size of the thighs) or until very tender and falling from the bone.
- Remove the chicken from the pan, and add a slurry of cornstarch and water to thicken. Stir well to avoid lumps.
- Serve over noodles or spaetzle.
- You can make this soup using dried soup mix or prepared canned soup. The resulting dish will be much saltier, but also … a lot faster.