Winter

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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Caramelized Onion, Apple, Gorgonzola Pizza

applecheese-1

I love making pizza. Summer is my favorite time to make it, when the tomatoes and herbs are fresh, but that doesn’t stop me from making it during the cold months, too. This was, by far, my favorite pizza that I made this past winter. Warning: it’s not your typical pizza.

Begin by caramelizing onions. This is a slow process that takes time. Heat olive oil over medium low heat and slowly sauté one large yellow onion, sliced (for a small pizza) or two large yellow onions, sliced (for a large pizza or multiple pizzas). You don’t want the onions to brown, so keep the heat low. After about 45 minutes to an hour, they should be soft and have a nice caramel color.

Meanwhile, roast some garlic. To do this, break off the cloves (the entire head) but keep the peels on. Place the cloves in foil, drizzle with oil, and fold the foil over the garlic to form a sack. Stick it in a 375 degree oven for at least 30 minutes. Keep checking them, because the time will vary depending on how big the cloves are. Once they’re nice and soft, remove the peels and place the garlic in a food processor and pulse while adding some olive oil. Add just enough olive oil so that you can easily spread the garlic “sauce” over the dough.

Turn the oven up to 475 degrees.

Once the onions are done, it’s time to build the pizza. The layers:

  • Spread the roasted garlic/olive oil mixture over the dough. 
  • Top with the caramelized onions.
  • Next add sliced apples. I used Gold Rush, for they are in abundance in Ohio during the winter. Any winter apple will do.
  • Top with small chunks of gorgonzola cheese. Remember that it’s a strong cheese and that when it melts, it spreads, so you really don’t need that much.
  • Drizzle the top with balsamic vinegar. I used a special Vanilla Fig Balsamic Vinegar that I had one hand. If you can find it, use it!

Put the pizza in the oven, turn the heat down to 460 degrees and bake for about 10-12 minutes (or however long it takes for the dough to brown).

Enjoy!

 

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Pulled Pork Shepherd’s Pie

pie

My version of meat and potatoes. For those of you who think that I don’t eat meat, here ya go. When I do eat meat, I go all the way.

The inspiration for this dish came from one of those shows on the Cooking Channel that features dishes from various restaurants across the nation. I have no idea which restaurant it was that gave me this idea, but I simply had to try it myself. Pulled pork and mashed potatoes are two of my favorite things.

The pork came from Cedar Cress Farm at the Worthington Farmers’ Market. I used pork shoulder (about 3 lbs). I prepared mine in a crock pot because I was going to be in and out of the house during the day. If you can cook it in the oven all day, that’s the best way to do it, but a crock pot works as well.

Once again, this really isn’t an exact recipe but, if you’ve read my previous posts, I suppose you’re used to that by now.

Start by heating olive oil in a saute pan at medium-medium high heat. Smother the pork in salt and pepper and sear it until each side is brown. (Note that if you’re cooking it in the oven, you should sear it in the same pan you’re going to use to roast the pork so that all the flavors can remain in the same pot). Once the pork is seared, move it to the crock pot (if using one). Then pour a few splashes of red wine into the saute pan in order to get all of those good, flavorful brown bits off the bottom of the pan. After cooking for a minute, pour that wine over the pork in the crock pot. Add some water (a couple cups) and then let the pork cook all day. (I started my crock pot on high just to get the heat up and then, after about an hour, turned it down to low.) When it’s done, it’ll be falling apart. Once it’s cool enough to touch, shred it using two forks.

While the pork cools, heat a tablespoon of butter in a saute pan over medium heat. Once melted, add a tablespoon of flour and whisk it together. Now add a few splashes of red wine and about a 1/2 cup of the water/wine mixture that cooked with the pork (this is optional. It’s fatty from cooking with the pork but has wonderful flavor. If you don’t want it, just use all chicken stock). I also added a few ladles of homemade chicken stock (eyeball how much you need, based on how much pork you made). Once the mixture thickens, season it with a little more salt and pepper (taste it first!).  If it doesn’t appear thick enough, whisk in about a teaspoon of arrowroot flour to thicken it even more (this step may not be necessary depending on how much liquid you added in the beginning. Just be sure to use a flour, such as arrowroot, that can easily be whisked into the liquid. It helps to lower the heat and mix the arrowroot flour with a touch of water first before adding it into the hot liquid). Add the shredded pork and stir until well combined. Add more chicken stock if you think it needs more liquid.

(Note that if you cooked the pork in the oven all day, you should do the above step in the same pan you cooked the pork in so that you can get all that good flavor from the bottom of the pan.)

Now the fun part: assembling the pie. Simply pour the pork mixture into a heavy pot or dutch oven and top it with homemade mashed potatoes. Dot the top of the potatoes with tiny cubes of butter and bake it in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes. Once it is bubbly hot, stick it under the broiler to get the top nice and brown. Then enjoy the best meat and potato dish you’ll ever eat.

 

 

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Kale Pesto

kale pesto pasta

I love basil pesto during the summer but never, until recently, thought of trying other types of pestos during the winter. This recipe is based off one I found in Andrew Weil’s cookbook, True Food (which, if you haven’t seen yet, I highly recommend). I made some modifications. He uses pine nuts, which is traditional in pesto but expensive. Instead I used cashews. He also uses black kale, which I didn’t have. Instead I did a mixture of green kale and spinach, both of which I had on hand and needed to use. My modified recipe looked something like this:

4-5 cups of kale and spinach (though simply kale would be wonderful as well)

1/2 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1/4-1/2 cup of extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup of cashews

1 clove of garlic, chopped

salt and pepper, to taste

red pepper flakes, to taste

Andrew Weil boils the kale for 3 minutes and then transfers it to an ice bath for an additional 3 minutes before draining it and squeezing out the water. I did this as well, though I suppose if you wanted to use raw kale, it would work. Otherwise, it’s a simple matter of putting all of the above ingredients in a food processor and pureeing until smooth.

Though this pesto could be used for so many things, my favorite way to eat pesto is on pasta. In the above photo you can see that I used pappardelle noodles, which are one of my favorites. No, in this case they are not homemade (though I love making pappardelle).  These noodles I bought frozen at Carfagna’s store. And if you live in Central Ohio and have never been to Carfagna’s then, well, you’re really missing out. Even I can’t make my own ravioli and pasta all the time, so Carfagna’s is my go to for frozen pasta.

To make the dish complete, toss the pasta and pesto with any seasonal sauteed or roasted vegetable(s) you have on hand. Eat. Savor. Enjoy.

 

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Sweet Potato Wedges

Sweetpotatoes

I’m obsessed with sweet potatoes during the winter and fall months, and this is, by far, my favorite way to eat them. And sweet potatoes are so good for you! I would live off of them if I could.

I’ve tried many different spice mixes on sweet potato wedges, and I have two favorites.

My first favorite spice mix:

  • ground turmeric
  • garlic powder
  • cayenne pepper (not too much! it’s strong.)
  • paprika 
  • cinnamon (just a little)
  • salt and pepper

Turmeric is believed to have cancer fighting properties, and, well, it tastes quite good in this mix. A fair warning, though. It will turn your hands and cookie sheet yellow (as seen in the above photo). To save time, I use an empty spice jar and mix all of this spices together in the jar. Then I don’t have to dig out all of the spices every time I want some wedges (which is often). They’re all ready to go in one jar.

My second favorite spice mix:

  • Fresh rosemary, chopped
  • garlic powder
  • paprika
  • cayenne pepper 
  • salt and pepper

As for the sweet potato wedges, they are fairly simple to cook. Take one or two large sweet potatoes (keep the skins on) and cut them lengthwise into fat wedges. You should be able to get 8 to 10 wedges per potato. Sprinkle the wedges with a spice mix of your choosing (don’t forget the salt!), drizzle with olive oil and toss with your hands so that each wedge is equally covered with spice and oil. Spread them out on a cookie sheet in a single layer and bake in a 425 degree oven for about 30 minutes (flip half way through). Try not to eat them all as soon as they come out of the oven.

And if you really want to have a feast, mix 1 cup of Greek Yogurt with 1 teaspoon of mayonnaise, 1 small fresh garlic clove (finely chopped or grated), and salt and pepper, and you have a wonderful garlicky dip for your wedges. But really, they are quite good on their own.

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Broccoli Kale Salad

broccoli kale

I love salads, but I sometimes get bored with the average romaine lettuce salad. My solution: remove the lettuce and focus on other vegetables. This particular salad is nice for the winter months when fresh, local lettuce is not available. The main focus is the broccoli, which is a winter vegetable.  And a warning to all: I mentioned once before that I don’t always measure. Well, I never measure when making a salad. So here are the ingredients I used:

Broccoli, chopped in small pieces

Carrots, shredded

Kale (any kind), finely chopped in a food processor until it looks like small pieces of parsley

Red Onion, diced

Walnuts, chopped in small pieces

How much of each one is really a personal preference. The bulk of the salad should be the broccoli. Raw kale can be tough and hard to chew, so finely chopping it in a food processor is key.

As for the dressing, if you want to make this vegan, just add some olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Sometimes I want a creamy dressing, so I make a Greek yogurt dressing:

about 1/2 cup of Greek Yogurt

1 teaspoon Stone Ground Mustard (read the label! Not all stone ground mustards are equal. Look for one that doesn’t have artificial flavors. It should simply be distilled vinegar, water, mustard seed, salt and spices (or something similar)).

1 teaspoon Mayonnaise (optional. Make sure it’s good quality.)

a couple splashes of Apple Cider Vinegar (add a little bit at a time and keep tasting until the acidity level is where you want it to be)

And then, to taste:

Garlic Powder 

Celery Seed

Salt and Pepper

Paprika

And there ya go! A hearty, wonderful salad to help you get through the day. Experiment, make it your own. Enjoy.

 

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