Slow cooker French onion soup and other cozy comfort foods

Oct 31, 2014 at 4:00 p.m. ET

Comfort food is my favorite food. I love pot roast, mac and cheese, chicken and dumplings, apple pie, any recipe that feels like a warm hug. This autumn, hug your family and bring them back around your dinner table with these body and soul-warming recipes.

Slow cooker French onion soup

The secret to this classic recipe (which is in my latest book) is to cook onions low and slow in butter for at least 30 minutes so they release their water content and become soft, golden and sweet or caramelized. After they cook, you can put everything into the slow cooker and let it go.


  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 2-1/2 to 3 pounds yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 quarts beef broth
  • 1 tablespoon Better Than Bouillon Beef Base
  • 4 cups (1 pound) shredded Gruyere
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) shredded Asiago
  • Croutons, store-bought or homemade


  1. Melt the butter with the canola oil in a Dutch oven over low heat.
  2. Add the onions and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Increase the heat to medium and cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until the onions are caramelized, 25 - 30 minutes.
  4. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, 1 - 2 minutes.
  5. Raise the heat to high and stir in the white wine.
  6. Once the liquid has reduced by half, pour the onion mixture into the slow cooker.
  7. Add the bay leaves, beef broth and beef base.
  8. Cover and cook on high for 7 hours.
  9. When the timer goes off, preheat the oven to broil.
  10. Arrange 6 oven-proof bowls on a baking sheet.
  11. With a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked onions to the bowls, being sure to discard the bay leaves.
  12. Ladle the hot soup into the bowls, leaving about 1/4 inch of space at the tops.
  13. Place 2 or 3 croutons on top of each bowl.
  14. Pile the Gruyere and sprinkle the Asiago on top of the croutons.
  15. Put the bowls under the broiler and broil until the cheeses melt and become bubbly and brown, 2 - 3 minutes.
  16. Serve the soup hot with additional croutons.

Country style pot roast

Serves 6 - 8

Pot roast can be prepared in the oven, a pressure cooker, slow cooker. This recipe mirrors my mom's famous pot roast, which she made in the oven. Most slow-cooker recipes take about 8 - 10 hours, allowing you to enjoy pot roast on a weeknight. Or, check out the pressure cooker recipe in my new comfort food cookbook Back Around the Table... you can have a pot roast on the table in a little over an hour.


  • 1 (3 - 4 pound) boneless bottom round roast
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 medium onions, quartered
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 3 cups beef stock
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 carrots, sliced into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 celery stalks, sliced into 1-inch pieces
  • 6 white or Red Bliss potatoes, quartered
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Pat the roast dry with paper towels. Spread the flour on a large plate. Dredge the roast in the flour, coating it completely. Season it liberally with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat the canola oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Sear the meat on all sides until it's well browned. Remove the browned meat to a plate. Add the onions, garlic and tomato paste to the pot and cook until the onions and garlic begin to turn golden. Add the red wine and cook, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pot, until the wine has reduced to 1/2 cup, about 10 minutes. Return the meat to the pot.
  4. Add the beef stock, thyme, and bay leaves and bring to a simmer. Cover and transfer to the oven. Roast for 2-1/2 hours. Add the carrots, celery and potatoes and roast for 2 hours more. Transfer the roast to a cutting board and let it rest for 15 - 20 minutes. While the meat is resting, skim the fat from the gravy. Transfer the gravy to a saucepan and heat. Cut the roast into thin slices, arrange them on a serving platter, and garnish with the parsley. Serve the pot roast accompanied by the gravy.

Apple pie bread pudding

Serves 8 - 10

If you've got some leftover apple pie from that family gathering, you can make a brand-new recipe that just might be even better than the original pie. I've also been known to buy a pie just to make this. There's no rule against serving this for breakfast... just sayin'.


Bread pudding:

  • 24 ounces (1 loaf) challah bread, cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 8 eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2-1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 (9 x 3-inch) deep dish apple pie, chopped into large chunks

Caramel rum sauce:

  • 1 (19.5 ounce) jar caramel sauce
  • 1 teaspoon rum extract


  1. To prepare the bread pudding, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 x 13-inch casserole dish; set aside.
  2. Place the bread cubes in a large bowl; set aside.
  3. Whisk the eggs, milk, heavy cream, both sugars, cinnamon and vanilla in a medium-size bowl. Beat until well mixed. Pour the egg mixture and melted butter over the bread and gently toss until most of the egg mixture is absorbed by the bread. Add the apple pie chunks and lightly toss to evenly incorporate.
  4. Loosely cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and bake for 35 minutes. Remove the foil and bake uncovered for an additional 35 - 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  5. To prepare the sauce, combine the caramel sauce and the rum extract in a microwave-safe bowl; microwave for 60 - 90 seconds, or until warm. Serve over the warm bread pudding.

David Venable is the program host of QVC's popular cooking and dining showIn the Kitchen with David. He offers a diverse and unique viewership experience with features such as product information, cooking demonstrations, on-air guests, celebrity appearances and live viewer interaction. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.