French Onion Soup

With a freezer stocked with chicken and beef stock, the only reasonable thing to do was to make soup. A couple of months ago, I had received an email from America’s Test Kitchen containing a link to a video in which they demonstrated how to make French Onion Soup. Both Claire and I love French Onion Soup, and after watching the video a couple of times to write down the recipe, a free Sunday seemed to be the perfect day to make the soup.

The soup will feed six people, and will take 3-4 hours to make.

Here is what you will need:

  • 4 pounds yellow onions
  • 3 TBSP butter
  • 1 ½ tsp salt, divided
  • 3 cups water, divided
  • ½ cup dry sherry
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Toasted baguette slices
  • Grated Gruyere cheese

Preheat oven to 400° F. Coat a dutch oven pot with cooking spray to prevent onions from sticking (I have a 5 quart and it worked fine). Put the 3 tablespoons of butter in the pot. Slice the four pounds of onion pole to pole ¼” thick (see photograph for illustration) and put all the onions in the pot. This is definitely the worst part of the whole experience, as I found myself tearing up a lot. Power through as the end result is definitely worth the little pain. Top the onions one half teaspoon salt.

Cover the pot and roast for one hour. After the hour, remove the pot from the oven and give the onions a stir, making sure to scrap down the sides.

Roast the onions for another 90 minutes, stirring and scraping after an hour, cracking the lid for the last 30 minutes. (I forgot to cover the onions which resulted in the onions being slightly burnt.)

After 90 minutes, cook the onions on the stove over medium-high heat for 15-20 minutes making sure the onions do not burn and the bottom of the pan does not turn black. The pan will look quite ugly, but the goal is to develop fond, which is good flavor, as long as it is not burnt.

Deglaze the pan with ¼ cup of water, waiting until most of the water has evaporated, about 6-8 minutes. Repeat another 3 times, using a total of one cup of water.

Deglaze the pan with ½ cup dry sherry, again waiting until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes.

Add 4 cups of chicken stock, 2 cups of beef stock and 2 cups of water, or any mixture thereof (more beef stock will result in a richer soup). Add another ½ teaspoon of salt and the bay leaf. Simmer for 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Ladle the soup into oven/broiler safe bowls, top with toasted bread and grated cheese. Bake in oven until the cheese is melted and slightly brown.

The soup turned out quite amazing. It had a rich onion flavor and did not require much cheese. The soup is rich enough to serve as a meal, which would be great accompanied by a side salad. I would definitely recommend making the soup, and it shall make another appearance in the Camp household.

Sunday Dinner: Thai Coconut Chicken Soup

I think I have mentioned this before on this blog, but it is worth restating: I love having Sunday night dinners with my wife. First it is one of the few nights during the week where we are both home for dinner. Second it is usually a day spent around the house, which means I have time to cook. Finally, and most importantly, the time allows us to connect before the craziness of a new week begins.

I had actually been thinking about Sunday night dinner a lot through the week, because the week prior we had Thai Green Curry, which called for lemongrass. I had quite a bit left, so I began looking for a recipe, specifically a coconut, lemongrass soup with chicken. Searching the internet yielded no results that grabbed my attention and whetted my appetite, so I finally turned to my most trustworthy cooking companion: Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. (Again, this also bears worth repeating, this is a must have cookbook/resource for any home cook.)

The soup was easy to prepare yet with flavors that could convince guests you had spent days in the kitchen. The soup was simultaneously sweet, spicy, sour, and savory. It was incredibly rich from the coconut milk. We enjoyed the soup with a fresh baked baguette. A simple salad would also be great with the soup as there are not a lot of vegetables in the soup.

Here is the recipe from How to Cook Everything, found on page 149.

Thai Coconut Soup with Chicken
Makes: 4 servings
Time: 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4 cups coconut milk (I actually used only 3 cups to cut down on the fat)
  • 1 cup chicken stock (I used 2 cups)
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken, breast or thigh, cut into 1-inch strips
  • 3 stalks lemongrass, trimmed, smashed, and cut into 2-inch lengths
  • 10 nickel-sized slices fresh ginger (I used chopped ginger that I keep in the fridge)
  • 2 fresh chiles, preferably Thai, seeded and minced, or hot red pepper flakes, to taste (I used Serrano chiles)
  • 1 cup sliced shiitake mushroom caps or button mushrooms (I bought ½ pound of shiitakes and had more than enough)
  • 3 tablespoons nam pla (Thai fish sauce)
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (from 1 large lime)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Procedure

  1. Combine the coconut milk and stock in a large, deep pot of medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Lower the heat a bit, add the chicken, and simmer until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Remove the chicken with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  2. add the lemongrass, ginger, and chiles; simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the larger pieces of spices (I actually strained the chiles as the broth was getting very spicy). Return the chicken to the pot along with the mushrooms and heat about 3 minutes. At this point, you can let the soup sit for a few hours or refrigerate, covered, for up to a day before reheating and proceeding.
  3. Turn off the heat and stir in the nam pla, lime juice, and sugar. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, taste, and adjust the seasonings, adding more nam pla, lime juice, or sugar. Garnish with the cilantro and serve.

I also put out lime wedges. I also think that some sliced red onion would be a nice garnish for flavor, color and a slight textural change.

Bon appétit!

Sunday Night Dinner: Risotto with Butternut Squash and Blue Cheese

Because of both Claire and my schedule, being able to sit down and enjoy dinner together does not happen too often. Whether it is because of Claire’s classes or me working evenings, both of us at home around dinner time is rare, not to mention one of us actually having time to make dinner.

However, Sundays have become our days. I have asked not to work Sundays because I knew that we could both be off on Sunday to spend the day together going to church, studying, and simply enjoying each other’s company. And with Claire needing to study on Sunday afternoons, I have ample time to cook dinner for us.

At work on Friday, we had some extra butternut squash that was not going to be used, so I took it home with the idea of using it for Sunday night. I was originally going to make soup, but then I remembered that I had always wanted to try the Butternut Squash Risotto with Gorgonzola Cheese recipe from Perfect Pairings: A Master Sommelier’s Practical Advice for Partnering Wine with Food by Evan Goldstein with recipes by Joyce Goldstein.

If you are already familiar with making risotto, then this recipe is fairly easy. After you sweat the onions, add the butternut squash and cook for one minute, then add your rice and proceed as normal. At the end add the blue cheese as you add the parmesan cheese. Season after you add the cheese since the cheeses will add some saltiness to the dish.

My risotto did not turn out as creamy as I had hoped, and both Claire noted that I slightly undercooked the rice to which I agreed. (Can I just say that I love that my wife can tell that risotto is undercooked?) The butternut squash added a little sweetness to the dish while the blue cheese was subtle enough not to overpower the dish but added a great savory/salty component to the dish.

Considering the recipe came from a book on wine and food pairings, you are probably curious as to what we drank. Mr. Goldstein suggests a Pinot Gris for this recipe. In the book he writes:

There are so many directions to go when pairing this flexible white with food. Here the wine’s balanced acidity is put into play in several ways. First, it will indeed cut through the richness of this dish and refresh the palate between bits. Second, the bright acidity frames the sweet, rich squash and cheese, and, third, any excessive saltiness from the Gorgonzola will be effectively neutralized (p. 98).

We had spent the morning up in Lake Arrowhead, and found a little wine shop called Vino100 and bought a Pinot Gris from Punt Road in Australia. Both Claire and I found the wine to do just what Mr. Goldstein had written about.

With the weather finally starting to cool off and butternut squashes coming into season, I would definitely recommend this dish for a fall evening at home.

Tomato Soup

Claire and I have just finished dinner…dishes are done and I am working on my blog while Claire is continuing to study (she is currently pursuing her doctorate in clinical psychology at Azusa Pacific University).

The tomato soup turned out fantastic! I used a recipe from Alice Water’s book The Art of Simple Food. The soup came together in no time and was amazing which again has to do with the fact that we started with great tomatoes.

Here is the recipe from the book (my own comments are in italics):

Tomato Soup
Makes about 4 servings

Warm a heavy-bottomed pan (I used a 5 qt enamel Dutch oven). Add:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium onion, sliced/chopped
1 small leek, white and light green parts, sliced (I omitted this)
A pinch of salt

Cover and cook until soft but not brown. Add water to keep from browning if necessary. Add:
2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced

Cook for about 2 minutes, then add:
2 pounds ripe tomatoes washed, cored and sliced
1 scant tablespoon white rice
(helps to thicken the soup)
A large pinch of salt
½ bay leaf
1 small sprig of savory, thyme, or basil
(I actually used dry herbs only because that is what we had)

Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes fall apart. Add:
1 cup water (I used chicken stock)
1 tablespoon butter

Continue cooking for another 10 minutes, until the rice is tender. Remove the herb sprig. Carefully ladle the soup into a blender not more than one-third full. Blend until smooth, about 1 minute. Pass the pureed soup through a medium strainer to remove the skins and seeds. Taste for salt. Add more water if the soup is too thick. (I actually used an immersion blender and just blended the soup in the pot and did not strain it. Claire and I prefer the slight chunks as the soup is heartier and has a more rustic feeling. I also added ½ cup of heavy cream).

We enjoyed the soup with some bread that Claire had made earlier in the week. It did feel a little weird to be eating soup on a warm summer day, as tomato soup is a staple of cold wintery days, but sadly tomato season is during the summer. However, Claire did mention how much she enjoys eating fruits and vegetables that are at the peak of their season, to which I heartily agree.

She remarked that eating local, in season food connects us to the creation and the seasons which God created. In a day where we can go to the supermarket and get practically any vegetable or fruit that we want (however bland and tasteless it may be), there is something very enjoyable and grounding about eating the fruits in their due season. Not to mention they taste so much incredibly better as God created them to be enjoyed.

So if you have the chance, enjoy a bowl of tomato soup even if it is 100 degrees out. Trust me, you won’t regret it.