French

Warm Potato Salad with Mustard and Dill

I love potato salad in all of its glorious forms. I grew up eating two different kinds of potato salads: the typical midwest version that’s covered in mayo and has hard boiled eggs mixed in (and sometimes bacon), and also my great-grandmother’s Italian version, which has an olive oil-based dressing, bacon, and chives. ¬†Though I love both, in recent years, I discovered another one that I love just as well. The one I will describe below I consider to be more of a French-style potato salad. It’s wonderful warm but can be served chilled as well. And the farmers’ market has wonderful red-skinned potatoes right now, so it’s a perfect time to make this salad.

Potato

Start by boiling:

1 pound of red skinned potatoes, scrubbed clean and quartered

Boil them in enough water so that they’re covered by about an inch of water. Don’t boil them in too much water, for they’ll loose their flavor. And don’t forget to salt the water.

In the meantime, select a bowl large enough to not only hold all of the potatoes, but also one that has room enough for you to stir the potatoes without making a mess all over the counter. In the bottom of the bowl, whisk together:

1 heaping tablespoon of Dijon mustard
about 3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
a handful of fresh dill, chopped*
a dash of paprika
salt and pepper

Once the potatoes are fork tender, drain them and then add them directly to the bowl with the mustard dressing. Toss the potatoes with the dressing. Since they are steaming hot, the potatoes will absorb the mustard and create a wonderful fragrance. While they are still steaming hot, add:

a few splashes of vinegar (champagne, red-wine, and apple cider all work well)

Also add more olive oil, if need be, and taste to see if they need more salt, pepper or mustard.

Serve while it’s still warm.

*The dill in the above photo is from my little apartment balcony herb garden. That’s the wonderful thing about herbs. You don’t need a lot of space to grow them, and one plant will give you wonderful herbs all summer.

 

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Classic French Onion Soup. a.k.a The Soup that Requires a Box of Tissues to Make.

A fair warning. This recipe has a lot of steps. East steps, yes, but there’s a lot of them. See, I’m in my late twenties, I don’t have a family of my own yet, so on my day off, if I want to spend over four hours in the kitchen making soup, I can do it. In fact, when I saw this French onion soup recipe, its main appeal was how long it would take.

What can I say? I’m a sucker for old classic recipes that take hours to make.

The recipe is from Cook’s Illustrated¬†Soups, Stews and Chilis.¬†I’ve been searching for a good soup cookbook for years and can now say that this is the one I’ve been searching for. It’s perfect. So all credit goes to the wonderful editors of Cook’s Illustrated.

To begin the recipe you:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cut 4 lbs of yellow onions into slices (cut with the grain). Spray a dutch oven with cooking spray, put the onions into the dutch oven, mix with 1 teaspoon of salt and 3 tablespoons of butter (cut into 3 pieces). Cover it and bake it for one hour.

Sounds simple, right? Except they forget to mention one minor detail in the recipe. You’re going to need an entire box of tissues to cut 4 lbs of onions. My eyes have always been sensitive to onions. They started watering after slicing 1/2 an onion. I still had 3 1/2 onions to go, so I knew I was in trouble. The process, for me, went like this: Cut an onion. Run to the bathroom and wipe eyes. Give eyes a minute to stop burning. Go back to the kitchen. Cut another onion. Try not to cut finger off while eyes are on fire and tears are blinding vision. Run back to the bathroom again.

By the time I was done, onions and tissues were all over the floor. I didn’t feel very French at this point.

This is what 4 lbs of onions looks like:

onionscutting-1

And this is what the onions look like after baking for an hour:

onions1-1

 

Next: stir the onions and scarp the sides of the pot. Put the onions back in the oven, covered partially this time (leave about an inch open) and cook for another 1 1/2 hours to 1 3/4 hours. When you take them out of the oven, they look like this:

onions2-1

 

This time, after you pull them out of the oven, you put them on the stove and cook them over medium high heat for about 20-25 minutes. Stir and scrap the pot until the liquid evaporates and there’s a brown coating on the bottom. They will look like this:

onions3-1

 

Add 1/4 cup of water and scrap up the brown parts from the bottom of the pan. Cook until the water evaporates (about 6-8 minutes this time). Repeat this process 2 or 3 times. By the end, the onions will look like this:

onions4-1

 

See how much darker they are? And to think it’s just water, onions, and butter! Anyway, stir in 1/2 cup of dry sherry and let cook for about 5 minutes. At this point I added 4 cups of chicken broth and 2 cups of water (the recipe called for beef stock instead of water, but I obviously skipped the beef). Also add thyme, a bay leaf, and salt. Scrap the brown bits and let the soup simmer for 30 minutes.

Finish it off by topping each broiler proof bowl of soup with a piece of toasted bread and a handful of Gruyere cheese. Put under the broiler until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

onionsdone-1

 

So the verdict? This soup is amazing! The flavor is worth every single step. With that said, this is not a soup I will be doing more than once or twice a year.

And also: buy this cookbook or get it from the library. It is an excellent soup book to have on hand. I will be definitely trying more recipes soon (just maybe ones that don’t take 4 hours to make.)

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