Tuesday, December 11, 2007

j'aime le potage

I’ve always loved French Onion Soup….there’s not much I can say about this because it is so perfect in its simplicity….fitting, since I found and modified this from the French onion soup I found on simply recipes…one of my favorite food blogs…these pictures are also some of my favorite food pictures, so I will let them do all the talking. There’s no language sweeter than that of cheese…..

French Onion Soup

6-8 large yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced.
Olive oil
pinch of sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 cups of beef stock (approximately)
1/2 cup of whatever dry white wine you happen to be drinking while you are cooking…what? You don’t drink when you cook? We can no longer be friends.
1/4 teaspoon of dry thyme
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper
a bunch of slices of toasted French bread
sliced swiss or gruyere cheese

If you’re naughty like me, “toasting” the French bread = slicing an entire baguette, brushing it with olive oil and sprinkling it with a little garlic powder and some salt and pepper and then toasting the slices on a cookie sheet in the oven on about 350 for 15 minutes or so…..so do that and while that is happening, start your soup. Then the oven will be nice and warm for your soup when you’re ready….

1. now take ALL of your onions….you will be crying and it will seem like “oh my god, this is way too many onions!” but it’s not…..put them in a large soup pot or dutch oven over medium high heat with about 2-3T of olive oil in the bottom and just let them cook and cook, stirring occasionally. After about 15 minutes, sprinkle about ½ teaspoon of sugar on them…..this should take about a good 30 minutes or more. You should know when they are ready…they’ll be all dark brown and soft and gorgeous!
2. add the garlic, sauté for about 3 minutes (there is no better smell in the world!)
3. add the wine and scrape up the little bits from the bottom of the pan with a whsk.
4. add the bay leaves, beef stock and thyme and bring it to a heavy simmer. Let that just go happily simmering for awhile….as long as you want, really, but no less than 30 minutes.

5. discard bay leaf and season with salt and pepper
6. ladle the soup into oven safe crocks and top with enough French bread to cover the top of the soup. Most recipes say to just use a slice, but my baguette was small, so I used three.

7. top the toasts with slices of swiss or gruyere. You can use shredded too, and a little parmesan if you want, but I prefer slices. Let a little hang over the side because everyone knows that the cheese that gets crusty and sticks to the side of the bowl is the best part.
8. stick the crocks on a baking sheet and put them in a 350 oven for 10 minutes or so until the cheese is browned and bubbly on top. You can use the broiler for a minute to help it out of you want.

9. I served mine with the best salad ever……this soup is amazing!! Enjoy!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

getting the hang of this pie thing...

I’ve always loved chicken pot pie. When I was little, we used to have the swanson frozen ones and it used to frustrate the hell out of me that it took 57 minutes for them to cook in the oven. The idea of making one from scratch never occurred to me until just recently and at that point, it became more of an obsession than an idea, but that’s just how I roll.

When I saw this gorgeous thing on Confections of a Foodie Bride I knew I had to make it immediately…as usual, I changed it up a bit and omitted a few things and added a few others, but the crust is the star of this show…..i am SO disappointed that I had my camera set to the wrong resolution because the flaky layers are not done justice in these grainy photographs. This, my friends, is comfort food at its finest….with my newly acquired expertise in all things pastry dough (ha!) and at just over an hour from start to finish if you prep your chicken beforehand, swanson can eat their heart out….it’s like the difference between a gorton’s fish stick and dayboat, cedar planked, maple glazed wild Alaskan salmon.

mmmmm…..now I want salmon…..

Chicken Pot Pie

For the filling:
About 3 T butter, or EVOO or a combo. I used butter.
1/2 – 1 whole medium yellow onion, chopped
1 shallot, chopped
1 stick of celery, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 russet potato, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
About ¾ cup sliced baby portobella or white mushrooms
Approx 1 tsp. dried sage
Approx ½ tsp crushed red pepper flake
Some frozen peas (1 cup? Half a cup? Whatever)
Some frozen corn
1 whole cooked rotisserie chicken or 4-6 cooked breasts, meat shredded or chopped.
Salt and pepper

For the cream sauce:
1 stick of butter (yikes)
1 cup flour
2 ½ cups of chicken broth
½ cup light cream (or whole milk)
A few shakes of franks red hot (I was out of Tabasco)
Salt and pepper

For the crust
( I made half a batch, but this is the full recipe)
2 sticks of cold butter cut into pieces
3 cups of flour
10 oz. chilled cream cheese, cut into pieces
Ice water (6-8 TBS)
1 egg, beaten

1. get the chicken cooked and shredded way ahead of time. I bought a rotisserie chicken at the market, shredded it and left it in the fridge until yesterday. It made my life infinitely easier.
2. in a really big sauté pan, melt the butter for the filling and sauté the onions, celery, shallot and carrot over medium heat until they’re softened. About 4 minutes.
3. add chopped potato, garlic and mushrooms and continue to sauté for at least 15 minutes. You don’t have to babysit it, just remember to stir it around every minute or so.
4. once the 15 minutes have passed, add your thyme, crushed red pepper, salt, pepper, corn, peas and chicken and turn the heat down to low. Stir it all around for a minute or two to combine everything and heat the chicken through. Now taste it to make sure it’s yummy and set it on the back burner until you’re done with the sauce.
5. Meanwhile, get out your sauce pot and get the stuff ready for your cream sauce. The sauce needs constant attention so if you’re not adept at doing two things at once, you might want to finish the filling part first and then focus all of your attention on the sauce.
6. melt the stick (or sticks if you are doing the whole recipe) of butter in the saucepan and, with your whisk in one hand ready to go, add the flour to the butter. It is going to gob up and clump together so make sure your heat is not up too high. Medium low for right now should be fine. You don’t want the flour to burn. Keep stirring it with the whish and getting the globs out and mashing them around for about a minute or two. Then add the chicken broth and milk or cream and whisk whisk whisk. Turn the heat up to medium. This will start to thicken pretty quickly, just keep whisking. Add the hot sauce, salt and pepper and taste it to make sure it’s right. You want the consistency to be thicker than chowder, but not as thick as a cheese sauce. Maybe 4 minutes?
7. Add the cream sauce to the chicken veggie filling. I told you you would need a big pan. Stir it all together.
8. Preheat oven to 375.
9. Now for the crust. Put the flour and butter in a food processor and pulse until it is crumbly. Maybe 20-25 1 second long pulses. Then add the cream cheese and pulse some more till that is crumbly. Add a little salt and pepper when you add the cream cheese. Now, through the feed tube at the top, add ice water about 2 TBS at a time and pulse. After about the 4th or 5th addition, it will start to glob together and make a ball. You don’t want it too wet, so when it just starts to stick together, take the lid off and form it into a ball. I would recommend actually preparing the crust a few hours ahead and letting it chill like this because it was a little sticky to roll out…
10. Take your ball and plop it on a floured surface. Flour your rolling pin and roll the crust out into a big circle. If you are using individual bowls, invert one of them in the dough and cut around it, making the circle about a ½ - 1’’ bigger than the bowl. Do this for however many you are making. If you are using a casserole dish, do the same thing.
11. Fill your dishes or casserole with the creamy chicken filling and then carefully lay the dough circles on top, letting the edges flop over the dish and pushing them against the outside to keep the filling all snuggly inside. Brush the tops with the beaten egg and put the dishes on a cookie sheet.
12. Put the cookie sheet in the oven and bake for 25 minutes until the crust is the most gorgeous golden brown color you have ever seen.
13. Die happy.

by the way...this really creates a hell of a lot of dishes...