Soupe À L’Oignon (Onion Soup)

DSCN0093Last week was cold. So very cold. Single digits during the day, negatives at night. Every day it was home, work, and back again. No dilly dallying, I even skipped going to the gym. Four layers, including my extra heavy wool sweater. And because of the extra cold temperatures all I could think about was French Onion Soup. If I’m lucky enough to find it on a menu at a restaurant, I almost always order it. A nice warm, crock topped with melted cheese and a bowlful of deep onions in a rich broth is the ultimate comfort  food to me. So I couldn’t wait for the weekend, as I planned on checking out Mastering the Art of French Cooking and seeing what Julia Child’s authentic recipe looked like.

I sat down one evening to watch her cooking show and was thrilled to find they are now repeating “The French Chef,” on a PBS channel. This was Julia Child’s first cooking show from 1963, black and white with the happy little diddy as the theme song. And what was she making that night but French Onion Soup! I saw it as a sign from the cooking gods that it was meant to be!

I figured Julia Child would tell the cook that in order to make it authentic you’d have to make your own beef broth. But she actually calls for canned beef bouillon, so I was saved from the extra effort. I had two cups of leftover beef broth and two cups of broth left over from a pot roast. I bought “Better Than Bouillon” for the other quart. Although, I have an admission; my math was off and I ended up doubling the amount, which lent a saltier than usual flavor. (OK, a really salty soup.) Math was and still is not my strong suit, so another kitchen lesson learned: when multiplying a recipe, always double-check my math–or ask someone else to check it for me!

While the recipe is fairly simple with few pots and pans, it is time consuming; she says to count on 2 ½ hours at the least from start to finish. Definitely a weekend project or one if you have the day off. And have a good book or magazine or plan to organize your shelves as you need to be close to your pot for nearly an hour before you are able to go off and do something else.

This is what two pounds of onions look like sliced!

This is what two pounds of onions look like sliced!

My changes were minimal. Instead of a pound and a half or five cups of sliced onions, I just bought a two-pound bag; there were several small onions in there and figured too many onions won’t ruin the dish. Instead of grated cheese, I bought some nice baby Swiss cheese from the deli and just added pieces to the soup. And, in my opinion, a teaspoon of salt is way too much if you’re using canned broth. I added a little and would suggest adding the rest to taste.

One tip, though, since it is winter and the house is sealed up, remove all coats, sweaters, and any other clothing you don’t want have smell like eau d’oignon; it does have a way of lingering–in the kitchen and on your clothing!

By the time I finished eating this, I was nice and toasty warm. Pure comfort in a bowl. I hope you try making this too and enjoy it as much as I did! 

Soupe À L’Oignon
[Onion Soup]
From Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume I by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, Simon Beck.

For six to eight servings

1 ½ lbs. or about 5 cups of thinly sliced yellow onions
3 Tb butter
1 Tb oil
A heavy-bottomed, 4 quart covered saucepan

Cook the onions slowly with the butter and oil in the covered saucepan for 15 minutes.

1 tsp salt
½ tsp sugar (helps the onions to brown)

Uncover, raise heat to moderate and stir in the salt and sugar. Cook for 30 to 40 minutes stirring frequently, until the onions have turned an even, deep, golden brown.

Golden brown onions.

Golden brown onions.

3 Tb flour

Sprinkle in the flour and stir for 3 minutes

2 quarts boiling brown stock, canned beef bouillon, or 1 quart of boiling water and 1 quart of stock or bouillon
½ cup dry white wine or dry white vermouth
Salt and pepper to taste

Off heat, blend in the boiling liquid. Add the wine, and season to taste. Simmer partially covered for 30 minutes to 40 minutes or more, skimming occasionally. Correct seasoning.

(*) Set aside uncovered until ready to serve. Then reheat to a simmer.

3 Tb cognac
Rounds of hard-toasted French bread (**see instructions)
1 to 2 cups grated Swiss or Parmesan cheese

Just before serving, stir in the cognac. Pour into a soup tureen or soup cups over the rounds of bread, and pass the cheese separately.

**12-16 slices of French bread cut ¾ to 1 inch thick. Place the bread in one layer in a roasting pan and bake in a preheated 325-degree oven for about half an hour, until it is thoroughly dried out and lightly browned.

The finished product.

The finished product.

Lemon-Oregano Chicken Roasted with Onion and Carrot

The days and nights may be long and cold in January, but I am treated many mornings to the most gorgeous sunrises! Each one is better than the last!

The days and nights may be long and cold in January, but I am treated many mornings to the most gorgeous sunrises, each one is better than the last!

Is there anything simpler to make on a Sunday evening than roasted chicken? Sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper, and pop it in the oven until it’s done? In my opinion, no! Sundays usually are roast days–pork, sometimes pot roast or a full chicken. Chicken tends to be the most popular, as it is relatively inexpensive and makes several meals, plus I boil the carcass for chicken broth. And this time of year, it’s wonderful to heat the house with the wonderful smells of something delicious in the oven. Sometimes I get the urge for chicken thighs, which are flavorful and cook quicker than a whole bird.

This recipe is from Lynn Rosetto Kasper and Sally Swift’s wonderful cookbook, The Splendid Table’s How to Eat Supper. I received it as a Christmas present a few years back and everything I’ve tried in here has been a success (see this recipe)–and I’ve made several things twice, a sure sign of a real success! This recipe is super easy, spread the chicken on a foil-lined cookie sheet, add the carrot and onion, oregano and lemon juice, and roast until done. The prep is so easy, you could even make this on a week night! A fancy meal with very little work–that’s my kind of supper!

Before.

Before.

After.

After.

Lemon-Oregano Chicken Roasted with Onion and Carrot

From The Splendid Table’s How to Eat Supper by Lynn Rosetto Kasper and Sally Swift

2 ½ to 3 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (8 thighs; organic if possible)
2 thin-sliced medium carrots
1 coarse-chopped onion
1 thin-sliced small lemon
4 crushed garlic cloves

1. Turn the oven to 400° F. Arrange the chicken on a large, shallow roasting pan (a half-sheet pan is deal), and scatter all the ingredients over the chicken.

2. Sprinkle everything generously with olive oil, lemon juice, fresh oregano, salt, and fresh-ground black pepper.

3. Roast the chicken for 30 minutes. Baste with the pan juices, turn the chicken pieces over, and continue roasting for another 10 to 15 minutes, basing and turning occasionally. When the chicken reaches 170° F on an instant-reading thermometer, it is done. If you’d like, brown the chicken under the broiler.

4. Turn the contents of the pan into a big bowl. Adjust the seasonings. Serve hot.

Cook’s Note:
• The authors don’t note how much olive oil and oregano to use. I just estimate, a little drizzle of oil and some oregano. Note, I used dried and it was delicious, but fresh oregano would make it extra special.

“Mad Men” Caesar Salad and a Manhattan Cocktail

Just a regular evening for me after a day at the office!

Just a regular evening for me after a day at the office!

One of my favorite shows is “Mad Men.” This month I’ve been rapidly re-watching Season 4 so I can catch up with Season 5. While I love the psychological and interpersonal parts of the show, I really enjoy looking for vintage cookery items. Betty Crocker’s Hostess Cookbook that Betty had displayed on her kitchen counter (I have a copy!), the vintage barware and cocktail glasses that everyone drinks out of at work (I’ve searched high and low on eBay!), and the visits to restaurants.

In Season 1, I remember watching a restaurant dinner scene where a Caesar salad was made and served table-side. Ah, how romantic! Wouldn’t it be lovely to have a Caesar salad made just for you, while you watched the waiter gently take the lettuce, add egg and lemon, toss, and serve?

Last year, The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook by Judy Gelman and Peter Zheutlin was published. I’ve never been one for cookbooks based on television shows, but I was able to get a sneak peek of some of the recipes online. The salad dressing recipe struck my fancy, because if this was “Mad Men,” I imagined it would be an authentic Caesar dressing I could make at home.

One thing, this made more than 2 cups of salad dressing, way more than I could use up for one dinner (or even two). It also has a raw egg, so I questioned how long it could last in the fridge. (I used it a couple of weeks later and have lived, but that’s about as far as I would push it.) So if you cook for a small family, you might want to set this recipe aside the next time you have a dinner party. While the ingredient list is long, it’s just the blender and pulsing, so not a lot of work went into making this.

A Manhattan is one of my favorites wintertime cocktails. Dark and brooding, one sip and you can imagine yourself sitting right next to Don Draper in a lounge! This recipe is the way my uncle makes Manhattans and I love the added flavor of the Southern Comfort, but you can always use the traditional sweet vermouth if you prefer.

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Caesar Salad
From The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook by Judy Gelman and Peter Zheutlin

Courtesy of Executive Chef Bill Rodgers, Keens’ Steakhouse, New York, New York
Note: At Keens the waiters dress the salad and add the garnishes tableside.

The recipe makes one large salad portion. You’ll have leftover dressing and croutons. Executive Chef Bill Rodgers also recommends using this delicious salad dressing for marinating grilled chicken.

For the salad
3 1/2 cups clean, cut romaine lettuce
2 ounces Caesar Dressing (see recipe below)

For the topping
1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

For the garnish
Raw egg yolk
4 thin slices pimiento
2 anchovy filets, cut in half (4 pieces)
Caesar Croutons (see recipe below)

1. Make the salad: Place lettuce in a serving bowl. Toss with dressing.

2. Sprinkle Parmigiano-Reggiano on top, garnish with egg yolk, pimento, anchovy filets, and croutons and toss well.

Yield: 1 large salad (serves 1–2)

Caesar Dressing
1 1/2 ounces water
1 ounce lemon juice
3/4 cup canola oil
3/4 cup pure olive oil
1 1/2 ounces red wine vinegar
1 egg yolk
6 peeled garlic cloves
10 Italian anchovy filets
2 2/3 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoons light brown sugar
3/4 tablespoon dry mustard
3/4 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1. Make the dressing: Combine the water and lemon juice in a measuring cup and set aside.

2. Combine canola and olive oils in a measuring cup and set aside.

3. In the blender, combine the remaining ingredients and mix for 10 seconds. With the blender running, slowly begin to add the combined oils in a slow and steady stream. As you continue to add the oil, the mixture will begin to thicken. When the mixture thickens, thin it out with 1/3 of the water/lemon juice mixture. Repeat this process until all the oil has been incorporated.

4. Chill dressing until cold.

Yield: 2 1/2 cups dressing

Caesar Croutons

Note: Place the bread in the freezer for 10-15 minutes before slicing to make it easier to cut even squares.

Whole melted butter can be substituted for the clarified butter, but will brown the croutons faster. To make clarified butter, melt 4 tablespoons of butter slowly in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and allow to cool a bit until it separates. Skim off the foam that rises to the top, and gently pour the butter off of the milk solids, which will have settled to the bottom.

6 slices white bread, crusts removed and cut into 1/4-inch squares (see note above)
2 tablespoons clarified butter, melted (see note above)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh herbs (rosemary, parsley and thyme)
1/8 teaspoon Kosher salt

1. Pre-heat the oven to 350°F. Toss bread cubes in a bowl with the remaining ingredients.

2. Transfer to a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes or just until slightly browned and crisp. Let cool at room temperature before serving. Store covered in an airtight container.

Yield: Croutons for 6 large Caesar salads

Cook’s Notes:
• You’ll notice I did very little in the way of accompaniments with my salad. I like it almost unadorned, hence why I didn’t include the various salad garnishes.

• I also didn’t make the croutons as described here; I made my usual. Stale Italian bread, cubed, tossed with a little olive oil and salt and pepper, bake at 350 degrees until brown. A lot quicker and simpler than their croutons, although they sound delicious!

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Manhattan Cocktail

Two parts bourbon
One part Southern Comfort
One maraschino cherry

Blend the two ingredients together in a cocktail shaker, stir, and serve up in a martini glass. Add cherry and a drop of cherry juice, if you like.

Variation
If you don’t have Southern Comfort, you can easily make this with three parts bourbon and a small splash of sweet vermouth.

Sweet-Spicy Chicken and Vegetable Stir-Fry

Ah, such is the month of January, when the holiday decadence is over and we look toward exercise and healthy eating once again!

A few evenings after work I go to the gym, which is good and bad; good because I’m getting exercise, but bad because when I get home all I want to do is EAT! This recipe from the September Cooking Light magazine is a frequent supper on those nights; if you prep everything the night or morning before, all you have to do is toss it in the skillet and dinner is ready quicker than if you called out for Chinese! It’s also a healthy option that you make at home with good protein and vegetables.

I hope you’re not put off by the Chinese ingredient list; many supermarkets now sell items such as sambal oelek and fish sauce. Gone are the days of having to go to the specialty Asian markets for such exotic ingredients. And they last forever in the refrigerator, and when I say last forever, I mean years!

The original recipe called to be served over sesame rice; this is how I make it. Add 1 cup of brown rice or 1 ½ cups of boiling water. Turn to low, stir, and when it is done cooking, add some sesame seeds and a little drizzle of sesame oil. I like the hot kind.

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Sweet-Spicy Chicken and Vegetable Stir-Fry
From the September 2012 issue of Cooking Light magazine

3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sambal oelek
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
8 ounces sugar snap peas
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1/2 medium red onion, cut into thin wedges
1/4 cup sliced green onions
1/4 cup unsalted dry-roasted peanuts (These are optional for me)

1. Combine the first 7 ingredients, stirring well; set aside.
2. Heat a large wok or large heavy skillet over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon canola oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add chicken; stir-fry 4 minutes or until browned and done. Remove chicken from wok. Add remaining 1 tablespoon canola oil to wok; swirl to coat. Add sugar snap peas, bell pepper, and red onion; stir-fry 3 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender. Stir in brown sugar mixture; cook 1 minute or until thickened. Stir in chicken; toss to coat. Sprinkle with green onions and peanuts.

Cook’s Notes:
• I frequently can’t find fresh snap peas in the supermarket, so I substitute shelled frozen edamame, green beans, or peas, or you can just add more peppers if you prefer.
For a vegetarian version, you can bump up the veggies and add some tofu. Or just all veggies. The secret is in the sauce!

Good Luck for the Coming Year!

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I hope everyone had a lovely New Year’s Eve with lots of merriment and good food! A quick stop for cocktails at our local pub ended up being dinner instead of appetizers, but I was in bed by 11:30 and I couldn’t keep my eyes open for midnight, so the new year was rung in without my cheering. But that’s OK, I was just as glad to say goodbye to 2012 and wake to a new year full of possibilities!

Since I tend to be of the superstitious type, New Year’s Day doesn’t go by without eating some black-eyed peas for good luck! I whipped this dish up after a short hike in the afternoon and the aroma coming out of the pan was mouth-watering. Collard greens are my new favorite go-to winter greens. Less bitter than kale, but sweeter and heartier than Swiss chard or spinach, they add delicious flavor and great nutrients to any dish. Before chopping, treat them like kale, pulling them off of their firm stems.

No matter that it’s January 2nd, I think you’ll feel your luck turning after a nice warm bowl of these peas! It also takes about 30-40 minutes from start to eating!

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Good Luck Peas
Just omit the ham for a vegetarian version. It will taste just as good!

2 teaspoons olive oil
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
½ medium onion, finely diced
3 cups of collard greens, chopped
1 14 oz. can black-eyed peas
1 ¼ cup chopped ham (optional and gluten-free)
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Warm the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the garlic and onion and saute until soft.

2. Add the collard greens and sauté until they are wilted.

3. Add the peas and ham, if using. Stir and turn heat to low. Add salt and pepper and serve!