French Onion Soup

French onion soup is definitely the perfect solution for being holed up on a snowy weekend.  This soup is so easy to make and tastes so good when you use good ingredients.  I followed Deb’s recipe on smittenkitchen.com, which is pretty much similar to other recipes but with a few extra details like most of her recipes.  Caramelizing the onions for a long time and using Gruyere cheese produces a first rate product.

five cups of onions. about 2 1/2 of the big ones.
the onions after 15 minutes
the onions after 1 hour just before adding the liquid. I probably could have done them a little longer to get them just a bit darker but they were getting very sticky and I didn’t want to burn them.
I toasted the bread in a 400 degree oven, turning them every five minutes until they were very hard. Don’t use un-toasted bread or it will turn to mush.
ridiculously expensive… but so worth it.
into the oven they go
Olivia Newton John enjoying her soup.

I pretty much followed the recipe below except I didn’t add the raw onion and the cognac at the end. It turned out perfectly.

From: www.smittenkitchen.com

Onion Soup [Soupe à l’Oignon]
Adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking

1 1/2 pounds (680 grams or 24 ounces or about 5 cups) thinly sliced yellow onions
3 tablespoons (42 grams or 1 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil
1 teaspoon (5 grams) table salt, plus additional to taste
1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) granulated sugar (helps the onions to brown)
3 tablespoons (24 grams or 7/8 ounce) all-purpose flour
2 quarts (8 cups or 1.9 liters) beef or other brown stock*
1/2 cup (118 ml) dry white wine or dry white vermouth
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons (45 ml) cognac or brandy (optional)

To finish [Gratinée] (Optional)
1 tablespoon grated raw onion
1 to 2 cups (to taste) grated Swiss (I often use Gruyere) or a mixture of Swiss and Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon butter, melted
12 to 16 1-inch thick rounds French bread, toasted until hard

Melt the butter and oil together in the bottom of a 4- to 5-quart saucepan or Dutch oven over moderately low heat. Add the onions, toss to coat them in oil and cover the pot. Reduce the heat to real low and let them slowly steep for 15 minutes. They don’t need your attention; you can even go check your email.

After 15 minutes, uncover the pot, raise the heat slightly and stir in the salt and sugar. Cook onions, stirring frequently, for 30 to 40 minutes until they have turned an even, deep golden brown. Don’t skimp on this step, as it will build the complex and intense flavor base that will carry the rest of the soup. Plus, from here on out, it will be a cinch.

After the onions are fully caramelized, sprinkle them with flour and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. Add the wine in full, then stock, a little at a time, stirring between additions. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and simmer partially covered for 30 to 40 more minutes, skimming if needed. Correct seasonings if needed but go easy on the salt as the cheese will add a bit more saltiness and I often accidentally overdo it. Stir in the cognac, if using. I think you should.

Set aside until needed. I find that homemade onion soup is so deeply fragrant and flavor-rich that it can stand alone, but that doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy the graitinéed top once in a while. Here’s how to pull it off:

Preheat oven to 325. Arrange six ovenproof soup bowls or crocks on a large, foil-lined baking sheet. Bring the soup back to a boil and divide among six bowls. To each bowl, add 1/2 teaspoon grated raw onion and a tablespoon of grated cheese. Stir to combine. Dab your croutons with a tiny bit of butter and float a few on top of your soup bowls, attempting to cover it. Mound grated cheese on top of it; how much you use will be up to you. [Julia Child, in another era, felt that 1/2 cup of grated cheese could be divided among 6 bowls. I can assure you that if you’d like your gooey bubbling cheese lid to be anything like what you get at your local French restaurant, you are looking to use more, such as a generous 1/4 cup.]

Bake soups on tray for 20 minutes, then preheat broiler. Finish for a minute or two under the broiler to brown the top lightly. Grab pot holders, and serve immediately.

* Porcini or mushroom stock are a robust vegetarian substitution.

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Kartoffelpuffer – German Potato Pancakes

Potato pancake with homemade applesauce and sour cream. The way they should be.

We celebrated my Dad’s birthday on Sunday with his favorite meal of roast pork, potato pancakes – Kartoffelpuffers to be precise – and sauerkraut.

Kirsten has always been the head kartoffelpuffmisteress in the house.
Dad is always chef #2. (Mom always smartly stays out of the kitchen 🙂 )
Vince: der kartofflepuffer-bursche in training.

German Potato Pancakes (Kartoffelpuffer) – makes 16

Betty Crocker International Cookbook

  • 4 medium potatoes
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1/4 butter or oil

Shred enough potatoes to measure 4 cups; drain.  Mix potatoes, eggs, onion, flour and salt.  Heat 2 T. of fat in skillet on medium heat until hot.  Pour in about 1/4 cup batter for each pancake.  Flatten each with spatula into pancake about 4 inches in diameter.

Cook pancakes until gold brown, about 2 minutes on each side.  Keep warm in oven.  Repeat with remaining batter.  Add more oil/butter if needed.

I like mine with applesauce and sour cream.

Kids table. Penalty points for A-1 sauce with pork. Come on!
Owen fulfilling his duties as official present opener.
Happy Birthday Dad! Connor: bonus points for the sweet mustache.

Senate Bean Soup

We have been making this soup for years whenever we have left over ham and a ham bone.  It always tastes better the next day.

Senate Bean Soup

Soup Suppers, Arthur Schwartz

  • 1 lb. dried white beans, rinsed and picked over
  • 1 small ham hock (we usually use the left over bone from a ham)
  • 3 quarts water
  • 1 large onion
  • 6 to 8 celery ribs, finely chopped
  • 3 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 1 medium potato, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch cubes
  • 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley leaves
  1. Soak the rinsed beans overnight in cold water to cover by several inches. (we usually skip this as we aren’t thinking that much ahead.  Just a couple of hours soak helps though if you have time).
  2. In a 5 to 6 quart pot, combine the drained beans, ham hock, and water.  Cover and bring to a boil; adjust the heat, partially cover, and simmer briskly until the beans are tender, 1 to 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
  3. Stir in the onion, celery, garlic, potato, salt and pepper.  Keep at a steady simmer another hour, stirring occasionally, until the beans are very tender and the soup is very thick.
  4. Remove the ham hock and, if desired, strip the meat off the bones and put into soup. (we usually add more left over ham if we have it)
  5. Serve piping hot.

Northern Italian Beef Stew

Northern Italian Beef Stew

allrecipes.com

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds lean top round, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 large sweet onions, diced
  • 2 cups large chunks of celery
  • 4 large carrots, peeled and cut into large rounds
  • 1 pound crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 cups dry red wine
  • 4 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 1/2 pounds red potatoes (such as Red Bliss), cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1 quart beef stock
  • 2 cups tomato sauce

Directions

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook beef in batches in hot oil until browned completely, about 5 minutes per batch. Remove browned beef cubes to a plate lined with paper towels, keeping skillet over heat and retaining the beef drippings.
Cook and stir onion, celery, and carrots in the retained beef drippings until just softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir mushrooms and garlic into the onion mixture.
Pour red wine into the pan; bring to a boil while scraping the browned bits of food off the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Continue cooking the mixture until the wine evaporates, 7 to 10 minutes. Stir tomatoes into the mixture.
Return beef to skillet with potatoes, basil, thyme, marjoram, and sage. Pour beef stock and tomato sauce over the mixture. Bring the liquid to a simmer.
Reduce heat to low and simmer until the beef is very tender and the sauce is thick, 4 to 6 hours.

Dolmades (Stuffed Grape Leaves)

This was my third attempt at making dolmades over the past year or so and I am happy to report success at last.  I have always loved these ever since Uncle Tom and Aunt Evie introduced them to us, but could never quite get it right.  We were at the West Side Market on Saturday and they were charging $7.00 for a half dozen of them so I said… sam hell… I can make those for much less and much better to boot.

Fennel….our new favorite vegetable that makes everything taste good:  (made a risotto on Saturday w fennel, shitakes, cremini and sausage… awesome).

pine nuts.  an essential ingredient in dolmades:

The slightly cooked mixture of onion, fennel, rice, parsley, dill and mint:

rolling them up…

Not the most beautiful things… and they are a lot of work…but they sure taste good.

Dolmades (stuffed grape leaves)

Recipe 99% from Tyler Florence on FoodNetwork.com after looking at lots of recipes.  I also learned from watching quite a few YouTube videos of Greek Grandmas dolmades techniques.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 small fennel bulb, halved, cored and diced
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 1 cup long-grain rice
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 T. finely chopped dill leaves
  • 1 T. finely chopped mint (or 1 t. dried)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 jar grape leaves, rinsed and drained – the big jar
  • 2 lemons, juiced

Directions

To make the filling, coat a large saute pan with 1/4 cup of the oil and place over medium heat. Add the onion, fennel and lemon zest and stir until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the pine nuts and rice, saute for 2 minutes, stirring to coat. Pour in just 1/2 cup of the chicken stock and lower the heat. Simmer until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente, about 10 minutes. Scrape the parboiled rice mixture into a bowl and add the dill, mint and parsley; season with salt and pepper. Allow to cool.

Bring a big pot of water to a simmer. Blanch the grape leaves in the hot water for 5 minutes until pliable. Drain then trim the stems and any hard veins from the leaves. Pat dry with paper towels.  The leaves are all really packed tight in the jar.  I found it easiest to separate them by submerging them in water.

To assemble the dolmades, lay a grape leaf on a work surface, shiny-side down. Put 2 tablespoons of the rice filling near the stem end of the leaf. Fold the stem end over the filling, then fold both sides toward the middle, and roll up into a cigar – it should be snug but not overly tight because the rice will swell once it is fully cooked. Squeeze lightly in the palm of your hand to secure the roll. Repeat with remaining grape leaves and filling.

Place the dolmades in a large Dutch oven or wide deep skillet, seam-side down in a single layer. Pour the remaining cup of broth, remaining olive oil, and the lemon juice over the dolmades, the liquid should reach halfway up the rolls, add some water if necessary. Cover the pan and simmer over low heat for 30 to 40 minutes, until the dolmades are tender when pierced with a fork. Serve warm, at room temperature or cool.

Roasted Root Vegetable Soup

Mary Jo Boyd

In roasting pan, place:

  • 2 butternut squash, split, seeded, cavity-side up
  • 1 acorn squash, split, seeded, cavity side up
  • 2 sweet potatoes, halved, upside down
  • 2 leeks, halved lengthwise
  • 1 huge onion, in chunks
  • 4-6 shallots
  • 4-6 large carrots
  • 1 T butter, divided among squash halves
  • 1 T brown sugar, sprinkled on butter
  • 1-2 cups chicken broth

Cover tightly with foil, and bake for 2 – 2.5 hours at 325-350.

In stock pot, place

  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 T butter
  • 4 – 6 large celery stalks, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped

Braise slowly, stirring often for 15-20 minutes.

Cool roasted vegetables slightly, scoop from their shells and add to pot along with cooking liquid, leeks, etc.  Add about 10 cups of chicken broth, 1+ cups of white wine, ginger and pepper and cumin to taste.  Cook slowly for 30-45 minutes to blend flavors.  Puree in batches and add

French Onion Soup

We have tried different versions throughout the years and this one is good.  The Campbell’s condensed beef broth is good.  If you are feeling flush use gruyere cheese instead of swiss – it makes a big difference.

  • 4 medium onions, sliced
  • 2 T. margarine or butter
  • 2 cans CONDENSED beef broth
  • 1 ½ cup water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/8 t. pepper
  • 1/8 t. thyme
  • 4 slices French bread, ¾ – 1 inch thick
  • 1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese

Cover and cook onion in margarine in 3 quart saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, 20 – 30 minutes or longer until brown and cooked way way down.  Add beef broth, water, bay leaf, thyme and pepper.  Heat to boiling.  Reduce heat.  Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.  Set oven to broil.  Place bread slices on cookie sheet and broil until golden brown.  Repeat for other side.  Place bread in oven proof bowls.  Add broth; top with Swiss cheese, sprinkle with parmesan.  Place bowls on cookie sheet.  Broil w/cheese 5 inches from heat until golden brown. 1-2 minutes