Saturday, October 30, 2010

French Onion Soup

We just got back to Dallas from a week away on vacation and it is suddenly fall here. The air is cool and crisp and I am so excited for all the yummy wintery food to come. In our house this means a lot of soups, stews and chili.

First up for the fall day, my husband's favorite soup - french onion. The recipe I use is adapted from Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles recipe.

7-8 onion sliced (I use a mix of red and yellow)
2 tablespoons butter
8 cups broth (I use half chicken and half beef)
bouquet garni (sprig of thyme, bay leaf, spring of parsley)
1/4 cup red wine
1.5 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 slices of bread
1 cup gruyere/ emmenthaller

I saute the onion low and slow until they are perfectly brown with just the butter and some salt and pepper. This takes almost an hour, but it is worth it. I always want to turn the heat up about half an hour in and my husband (who has way more patience than me) always stops me. And, he is always right about this. This process just cannot be rushed. I love making this soup on a lazy weekend. Sitting at the table, drinking wine, reading a book and taking turns with husband stirring the onions every 5 minutes or so, afternoon perfection.

Meanwhile, I heat the broth in my big soup pot. This time I had leftover beef broth from making Hachis Parmentier a few weeks ago. So, I defrosted and used that mixed with chicken broth. I let this cook with the bouquet garni for the last 15-20 minutes of the onion cooking time. When the onions turn that perfect shade of brown and are so sweet they can be mistaken for candy, you are ready to deglaze the pan with the wine and balsamic taking care to scrap up all those bits of fabulous. Then I throw the onion mixture in with the broth and let it all meld together for maybe 30 minutes (if we can wait that long).

And then, the best part. The soup gets ladled into the bowls. The slices of bread which have been lightly toasted are set afloat on top of the soup and it all gets covered in a mixture of the cheeses. It takes about 3-5 min under the broiler to get the cheese slightly brown and totally melty. Not much better than this! Except maybe mulligatawny soup- my all time favorite.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Marie Helene's Apple Cake via French Fridays with Dorie

I made this apple cake to follow the Hachis Parmentier when my brother and his family were visiting a couple weeks ago. Is this totally cheating as far as the French Fridays with Dorie group goes? I hope it is not too terrible of a crime that I have committed and that I will not be forcefully ejected from the group-- because I LOVE it. From now on I plan to cook the recipe on the proper week, but it just made sense to make some of these when there were more mouths to feed in the house. Moving on... these are the apples I used (note the hugeness)

My cake did not turn out very pretty. I used a 9 inch spring form pan. I think this makes a big difference. I am also using a new-to-me oven and I think it is actually heating up to a lower than advertised temperature. I need to add a oven thermometer to my grocery list. Also, my apples were huge and I ended up with a lot of barely cover apples once I mixed them with the batter.

I baked it for the suggested amount of time and took it out to cook. It was pretty rare looking- no picture because I was pretty sure it was going in the trash at this point. I stomped around the kitchen and called my mom to complain and to get her advice on how much meat people eat (see previous post). She suggested I put it back in the oven and see what happens. Thank goodness for Mom!

I ended up putting this back in the oven for another 15 minutes. At this point it looked way better- although still nothing like the picture in the book. Mine just seemed to lack the cakey quality. But, it tasted fabulous and I will be making this again. I saw on the P/Q thread people were 1.5-ing the recipe to fill a 9 inch pan and I will probably do that next time and pick more medium sized apples, as well. I served this with Haggen Dazs dulce de leche ice cream and it was a big hit!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Hachis Parmentier

This was delicious! But the journey that got this thing to the table was a little bumpy due to my chronic miscalculations about how much people actually eat. Here is story of that journey.

Day 1/Thursday:
I bought 1 pound of chuck roast as instructed by the recipe. The butcher handed me the package and I immediately thought wow, this is tiny and not going to be nearly enough. I rationalized, "but, maybe with the addition of the sausage it will be enough, the recipe said it would serve 4, I always make too much food, damnit, be reasonable!" I walked out of the store and drove home trying to decide just how much meat each person would eat, what I would feed them as a back up plan when there was not enough Hachis and they were starving to death in my home. I planned to serve this meal the next day to my brother and his wife who were visiting from out of town (and who are totally normal eaters of normal weight and size).

So, I go home and got started by cooking the beef and making the stock as described in the recipe. And when it was done, the meat shrunk! (of course, the meat shrunk, that is what it does when cooked). It was looking piddly to me so, cue stress. I hate the idea of not having enough food- it haunts me whenever I am feeding people. I headed back to the grocery store and bought another 1.5 pounds of meat. I decided since I had a second go at this, I would make more of a stew with the next batch of meat. It seems like that is the real nature of this dish anyways, stretching leftover stew to make something delicious the next day. I cut the chuck into chunks (ha) and browned it and added carrots, onions, a bouquet garni and some wine. I let this cook in the oven for about 2 hours. This was stored alongside attempt number one in the fridge overnight. I now had an appropriately huge amount of meat and was able to sleep easy knowing no one would in fact starve the next day.

Day 2/Friday
Onward into the recipe I went. I chopped the two meats by hand and mixed them together. I added this to the browned pork sausage and tomato paste mixture. I ended up adding probably a cup of the broth to moisten the mixture. I piled this into my casserole, covered it with those delicious mashed potatoes and a healthy sprinkle of comte.

It browned up gorgeously but I have no photo of it in all of it's glory because we dove in before I could remember the camera. Next time I must remember the camera! Guess what? I made way too much. About half of the casserole dish was left when we finished. So, exactly the amount called for in the recipe pretty much. Why do I do this to myself??

We started the meal off with some cheese:

Then had the Hachis Parmentier with Dorie's Pancetta Green Beans and finished the meal with Marie Helene's Apple Cake (which I almost totally ruined, story to follow next week). It was a fabulous all Around My French Table meal.

Day 3/Saturday (I cheated and made this last week)
Leftovers were fabulous!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Tart! French Fridays with Dorie!

This week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe is Gerard's Mustard Tart. I must admit I was nervous about this recipe. I have never made tart dough before, but the instructions were super easy to follow and, well, I did it! The crust was delicious- so buttery and crisp. I know I will use the Tart Dough recipe a lot in the future. This is one of those things I needed to know how to do and, well, now I sort of know how to do it! This recipe was fun to make, but it takes a good chunk of time between the baking and cooling and freezing and so on.

The mustard-y custard filling was also scrumptious. I went with the tomato variation of the recipe instead of the carrots and leeks. I saw some really pretty tomatoes at the store this week that looked perfect. I was not sure how to arrange them (and the hubs was lurking in the kitchen looking for snacks) so I felt a bit rushed. As you can see below, they are just sort of plunked in there willy-nilly.

Here she is all finished (not too pretty, but yummy):

And here she is after the two us had our way with her:

Mmmm, so much buttery goodness. I am thinking that I will be heading to the kitchen all evening cutting myself little slivers of this (and pretending like I am not eating the whole thing - if it is just slivers, it doesn't count, right?). If it makes it till morning, I think it will be delicious cold for breakfast.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Blondies/ Butterscotch Brownies/ Epic Fail

I don't get it. I have made this recipe many times and it is so easy. I mean, there are 6 ingredients... how did I mess this up? I admit I was very distracted while making these, talking on the phone, cleaning the kitchen, etc. Perhaps I grabbed the half cup instead of the 1 cup for the flour? Not sure, but to say these were gooey when I pulled them out would be an understatement, so back in the oven they went. And then, burned bottoms and still sort of flat and undercooked looking. They did not make an appearance at the party.

So, that was sad. But here is the recipe from How to Cook Everything:

8 tablespoons butter, melted (is this normal?)
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla or 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Pinch salt
1 cup all-purpose flour

-Butter an 8×8 pan

-Mix melted butter with brown sugar and beat until smooth. Then beat in egg and vanilla.

-Add pinch of salt and stir in the flour. Add any extras (chocolate chunks and peanut butter chips for me this time, but last time I did chocolate chunks and dried cherries and it was really good)

-Pour into prepared pan. Bake at 350°F 20-25 minutes.

But, on to the next one, right? Tonight I made a delicious asian-y noodle salad. I guess it is "adapted" from Ina Garten (are we sensing a theme here?), but really it is just her recipe minus the peanut butter and tahini. I do make this sometimes with those ingredients but sometimes I just want a little lighter sauce and a littler simpler prep. I also swap sriracha for the hot chili oil and add some cabbage (regular green tonight, napa is also great), baby spinach and cilantro (which this recipe screams out for but I think I have heard Ina say on her show that she hates it, so that is probably why it is left out). So, maybe this really is pretty different than her recipe. I served it with grilled skin-on bone in chicken breast that I marinated in honey, soy sauce, garlic, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper and a little sesame oil. Not bad.

I also bought the ingredients for the Mustard Tart I have to make this week for French Fridays with Dorie. This recipe is a little scary with the tart shell and the custard, but this is why I signed up for this cooking group. I need a little push out of my comfort zone. I think the problem is that I really really hate to fail when it comes to cooking. All that work and then nothing to eat? Horrifying! Oh well, we will just hope for the best and stock the freezer with emergency frozen pizzas.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Breakfast a la Dexter

How excited am I that Dexter is back? Pretty excited! So excited that I dedicated this Saturday morning breakfast to my favorite serial murderer. And we killed (heh, get it?!) this meal so fast that I have no photos of it. Yes, I am a beginner when it comes to blogging. I will get better, I promise.

We had fried eggs with some hot sauce (should have been Cholula but I cannot seem to find it in Dallas, sad) and pan fried ham steak
s, plus some toast. We did not have blood orange juice because I forgot to buy it. But, I did have a big glass of tomato juice which also seemed appropriate.

Ok, I am going to go make Blondies to bring to a party this afternoon. They are from a How to Cook Everything recipe and they always get really good reviews. And there will be photos and we will focus on the food not the gorgeous blood splatter analyst/my fantasies. Stick with me!

Friday, October 1, 2010

French Fridays with Dorie!

Yes! It is October and it is time for French Fridays with Dorie. I got her new book Around My French Table a few weeks ago and have been reading it like a novel ever since. It is fantastic!

So, here we go! The first recipe we are making is Gougeres. These are already a favorite in our household and I usually use the Julia Child recipe from The Way to Cook (these are fantastic, as well). I am too lazy to pull out Julia's book to compare the recipes but they are very similar for sure. I halved Dorie's recipe which was stupid because I should have just made them all and froze half, but that will be just one of the many many stupid things I do over the course of this little project. Anyways, they were fabulous and you should make them right now.

And here they are:

The rest of the menu was Ina Garten with a little Smitten Kitchen thrown in. Scalloped tomatoes with croutons by Ina via Smitten Kitchen and turkey meatloaf from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. And chocolate pudding pie also from Smitten Kitchen. Yum!

Oh, and Dorie actually picked the recipes we are making for the month of October and one of them is Hachis Parmentier-- which is a meal that Dorie says Daniel Boulud is a fan of! And I am a huge fan of Mr. Boulud! Umm, excited!