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Babysitting Reindeer (with French Onion Soup)

You may say it’s too early to start talking about Christmas, but it’s November and I just saw a gentleman in a seersucker suit.  Was his hair perfect?  Yes.  Does he change into a random holiday vest for dinner and sleep like a baby at night?  Probably.  Because he is not tied down by silly things like conventions and seasons.  It would not kill us to be more like that guy.

Also, if you plan to sit by a tree with one of these National Lampoon collectible moose-shaped eggnog cups, you need to think about ordering them now.  Because I plan to buy them ALL.  Moose goblets, flannel pajamas and plastic yard elves are all I need to have the holiday season of a lifetime.

What I do NOT need is to worry that Scott is in a body cast or being held hostage by a bunch of pissed off reindeer.  That is pretty much THE OPPOSITE of what I need.

So when Scott mentioned he would be supervising a reindeer pen from Thanksgiving to Christmas, I wanted to staple gingerbread to my face.

I don’t know who decided Scott is qualified to supervise a bunch of North American caribou (which, conveniently, are not being supervised by anyone in this picture):

I’m also not sure about installing the pen outside the Space Center.  That’s just asking the reindeer to bite our best engineers, pee on the Pathfinder space shuttle, or eat the nearby Botanical Gardens.  And I don’t know how smart reindeer are, but let’s not forget the movie “Space Camp,” where a bunch of kids were left unsupervised for one hot second and they wound up pretty close to THE MOON.

Don’t get me wrong– I’m not saying I’d be better at this, or that Scott will not exert himself.  I am just pointing out a key fact here, which is that Scott was not raised by nomads, trappers or zookeepers.

So I am preparing a helpful list of adverse outcomes for the person in charge.  This is what I have so far:

(1) Scott will leave the pen unattended at some point because he’s hungry.  Scott gets underfed easily.  When this happens, he wanders off in search of food–typically, Combos, snickers or meatloaf.  Reindeer subsist on lichen, Arctic char and lemmings, which Scott won’t eat unless the reindeer pen comes with a deep fryer.  Which brings us to the next point.

(2) The reindeer will wander off in search of food/Antarctica.  The more urgent problem here is that the REINDEER will wander (i.e. TRY TO MIGRATE) the entire time they are here.  They migrate more than any other land-based mammal: about 3,100 miles a year, or up to THIRTY-FOUR miles a day.  Once they jump the pen, they will be propelled by genetic Manifest Destiny to haul it at 50 miles per hour toward the Arctic Circle.  Scott is not the guy to stop them, if only because he can’t see ultra violet light AND REINDEER CAN.

My point is that if Scott is not sitting by the Christmas tree next month because of a reindeer-related accident, I am going to be too depressed to make this delicious, chest-warming french onion soup ever again.  And that would be a real shame.

This is pretty much the onion soup recipe in Classic French (Smithmark ed., 1996), but I added shaved mushrooms.  It was phenomenal: hearty without being heavy or greasy.  The only annoying part of the preparation process is cutting three large onions thinly– otherwise, it’s easy because there are so few ingredients.  Don’t omit the mustard from the toasts without good reason: the tang of the mustard smothered under the rich, meaty gruyère is fantastic.  I use Maille brand dijon because it’s my favorite.  (And the Maille store in Paris has its mustards on tap, which ruined me for other mustards forever.)

French Onion Soup with Shaved Mushrooms and Gruyère Toasts


3 large yellow onions

8 oz. white button mushrooms (1 package)

2 tbsp. butter

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 tsp. brown sugar (packed)

1 tbsp. flour

2 10-oz. condensed beef consommé

2 tbsp. sherry

1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

black pepper

french or sourdough bread

2-3 tbsp. dijon mustard

1-2 c. gruyère

parsley (optional, for garnish)


Slice the three onions and the mushrooms as thinly as possible.

Over medium-low heat, sautée the onions and mushrooms in a large pot with the 2 tbsp. butter, the  1 tbsp. olive oil and the 1 tsp. brown sugar for about 30 minutes.

Stir in the 1 tbsp. flour and toss to coat.

Stir in the 2 cans beef consommé, 2 cans of water, 2 tbsp. sherry an 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce.  Season with black pepper and simmer, covered, about 30 more minutes.

To prepare gruyère toasts, cut slices of bread turn oven to broil or 450 degrees.  Place toasts in broiler or on a baking sheet and toast for 2-3 minutes (they will toast quickly, so keep an eye on them).  Remove toasts and spread dijon on one side and top with gruyère.  Return to broiler or oven for a few minutes, until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Float a toast in each bowl of soup, garnish with the parsley if desired, and serve.

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21 Comments Post a comment
  1. Hilarious! Thank you for making me laugh out loud yet again.

    November 8, 2011
    • Maggie, thanks to your last post, I just unplugged our printer. The thing about the phantom energy was nuts!!

      November 8, 2011
  2. Kate #

    I was thinking about Thunder this morning and hoping there would be a new post and picture of her. Amazing picture!

    November 8, 2011
    • Kate, all this talk about reindeer reminded me that I MOOSE HAVE A HUG from you soon. Heh. So cheezy. And so good.

      November 8, 2011
  3. Ha! Love the pup on the prowl!

    November 8, 2011
    • Hello Ms. Snodgrass—She is always waiting, and I think the house smelling like beef stock all day was driving her BONKERS. 🙂

      November 8, 2011
  4. jz #

    Yes but how do I cook reindeer meat?

    November 8, 2011
    • Excellent question. I would have to go with sticking it in a slow cooker with some bourbon and some beans. I mean….right?

      November 8, 2011
  5. 1. I love Thunder.
    2. Is Scott worried that the reindeer will fly away? Because I’d be super worried about that.
    3. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is my favourite movie OF ALL TIME. Just sayin’.

    November 8, 2011
    • Okay, so I asked Scott and he said his is “extremely worried” hat they will fly away– in fact he thought about it more and clarified that it was “one of his greatest concerns ever.” But then we got distracted by National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, which we started watching again last night! I agree– for me it’s up there with Groundhog Day.

      November 9, 2011
      • But, but, what? You LIKE Groundhog Day? I have to re-assess our relationship. I… I… I am not fond of that movie. But I guess your love for NLCV (that’s how cool people refer to National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation) balances things out.

        Please keep us updated on the whole reindeer situation. I would like to know what happens if the reindeer do, indeed, fly away.

        November 10, 2011
  6. Kate #

    Picture this, but with actual reindeer:

    Love how they slip this in: “He was tranquilized for his own comfort.”

    November 9, 2011
    • This is awesome! Is it weird that I kind of want to hang out with the police officer who decided to name them “Rudolph” and “Rudolph’s Girlfriend”?

      November 9, 2011
  7. Dave #

    so you finally came around to toast?

    November 9, 2011
    • Dear Dave, Let me be clear: I STILL HATE TOAST. But there is this uncomfortably delicious grey area that slides right into open-faced grilled cheese, and that’s currently where I find myself.

      November 9, 2011
  8. rebecca #

    the bowl is gorgeous! Where are they from?

    January 7, 2012
    • Hi, Rebecca. It’s from Bed, Bath & Beyond, believe it or not. And I got it recently, which is good in terms of finding another. I’ve been looking on line to find you a link but haven’t seen it yet. I’ll look at the bottom of the bowl for the name of the model and get back to you.

      It’s funny that you like the bowl because buying it was one of the most annoying experiences I’ve had at that store. It didn’t have a label on it and they called for a price check on “a white bowl,” insisting that it would be faster than me going back there to look at it. I was like “a white bowl? Really? That’s all you’re going to tell the price check people? Do you know how many WHITE BOWLS there are in this store?” It took forever.

      I love the way it looks, but it’s easy to forget that there are slits in the side. Every time I use it, I fill it up too far and stuff falls out through the handles. I used it in the cauliflower post ( and it’s better for solids than for soups, but I still lost some veggies out the side.
      Take care!

      January 7, 2012
  9. I’m totally dedicating today to reading through your archives. This post make me do one of those laughs where you are not supposed to be laughing so you try not to and it kind of looks like you might be crying or it could be sneezing and then you sort of make a squeaking sound.

    ‘I wanted to staple gingerbread to my face’.


    August 6, 2012
    • It’s funny you say that because when I first wrote this, I had something like “I wanted to put my fist through a wall” or “I want to slap myself in the face” and Scott was like “dude. You can do better than that. Think of something weirder.” That’s pretty much the rule now. 🙂

      August 6, 2012
      • I like it. I attempt a similar inventive approach to language myself, but I will never say anything as funny as that. Like, ever.

        August 6, 2012

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