Thursday, January 27, 2011

Onion Soup--Finally

Preface: These pictures were all taken on a cell phone.

As I've mentioned, the onion soup was delicious and P and I enjoyed it very much. We ate it out of coffee mugs, since I have no oven-safe soup bowls and with shredded mozzerella instead of gruyere, since I bought the goat's milk brie and didn't want to buy a second gourmet cheese. So, as promised, here is the recipe + photos.

6-7 onions, cut in half and sliced
2 tbsp butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1-2 cups of red wine
2 quarts of beef stock
1 tbsb dried thyme [or bouquet garni]
salt & pepper

Grated cheese, such as Gruyere or Mozzerella
Baguette or some crusty bread

YIELD: 6-8 servings in coffee mugs

Since the grocery's stock of larger onions for choosing looked sad and desolate, I ended up buying packaged Spanish onions. The package's onions were significantly smaller than what I'm used to, which is why I needed 6-7 onions. If your onions are large, you can probably get away with 4-5.

They should about fill a 2-quart bowl. I realize that this is a sort of vague measurement, but when you have a mountain of onions, you'll know that it's enough.

Melt the butter in the bottom of a stockpot at medium heat and add the onions. Stir while they sweat. Once they're sweating, you can let them sit for a bit while you mince the garlic. Stir occasionally. If it looks like they're burning or starting to burn, just stir/turn the heat down. The heat should never be much above medium. Cook them until they're mushy and start to lose their shape. They will also be sort of beer colored. This should take about 45 minutes to an hour, so if it's looking like nothing's happening, don't worry--it will. Add the garlic in as they are finishing off.

When the onions are caramelized and mushy, it's time to add the wine. I say 1 or 2 cups because it's not a specific measurement--just add enough wine to cover the onions. It will look a little bit like oniony-vomit.

Cook this down until most of the wine has evaporated and it's sort of wine-syrupy. Add the beef stock and stir. Add the thyme. Bring to a boil and cover. Let it simmer for 15-20 minutes, or longer. The longer it simmers, the better it will be. But I probably wouldn't let it go for more than an hour.

Since we had to eat it out of coffee mugs, there was no room for the crusty white bread that you might normally find in an onion soup. Therefore, we used leftover baguette from the grocery, which is significantly skinnier than most breads. I sliced it thinly and then baked it into croutons [350 degrees for about five to seven minutes]. When I served the soup, I put a crouton and a half into the mug and sprinkled a heap of mozzerella on top. The mugs went on a cookie sheet and under the broiler for two or three minutes.

Obviously, the mug in the right corner is the soup. The burnt looking slabs are the monte cristo/croque monsieurs. They were very simple, though I don't think I've quite mastered French toast yet, so they weren't perfect for me. 

RECIPE (sort of):
4 slices white bread
Two slices cheese
One egg
1/4 cup milk
Oil or butter, for the pan

YIELD: two servings

I say 'lunchmeat' with nothing more specific, because both a croque monsieur and a monte cristo are supposed to use ham, but ham's not my favorite and I reeeally hate lunchmeat ham. There's one option, and then I was going to use turkey, so that's another option. But then I ended up using chicken, so that's another. I'm sure roast beef would also be tasty. For cheese, I used provolone. I don't know what would be traditional, but probably swiss or something.

First, cut the crusts of the bread. Spread mayo or something on, if you want, but I didn't. Layer it with the meat and cheese and cover with the other bread. There should be two sandwiches. Cut them in half so that you have four smallish rectangles. In a bowl, whisk together the milk and egg. Heat butter or oil in a pan at medium/medium-high heat. Dip the sandwiches into the egg mixture on both sides. Let drip for a second and then throw onto the pan. Fry until golden. Serve.

I have also been told that dipping the sandwiches in eggnog and then deep frying is a good idea, but as I have not tested this myself, I cannot vouch for it.

Tomorrow: Chocolate meringue cupcakes. Yummm.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

This is Not About Being on Fire.

So, the other day, we thought it would be a good idea to buy a cactus pear:

They were an ingredient on Chopped, in the dessert basket, and everyone seemed to enjoy the desserts prepared. Also, on one of those nights where P and I found ourselves watching infomercials, there was one for some health drink that relieves joint pain because of the Power of Cactus Pear Juice. Also also, it was only 70 cents. So we figured 'why not?'

I had bought one previously and it was still rotting in my fridge, so I decided to cut this one instantly. I took the skin off and sliced it up, figuring that the seeds were edible since they took up about 95% of the fruit itself, as you can see from the above picture. It's also a very pretty color and looks very juicy, so I was expecting to have a delightful, star fruit-esque experience and thus be able to purchase cheap cactus pears forever and be super healthy because of it.

Buuut no. That is never the case. Instead of tasting delicious, the cactus pear was like a non-juicy, much less flavorful watermelon. The 'pit,' which is edible but surrounded by a membrane, was filled with tiny, hard, unchewable seeds and had even less flavor/juice than the outer fruity/melony layer [which was only about 1 millimeter thick].

So I decided to fix it by sauteeing the pear slices in butter and sugar. I thought that was what they had done on Chopped and that it might help it. It looked promising--the pear was getting redder and juicier, which is usually a good sign. Unfortunately, the finished product was no tastier than the first. I think it was even less sweet, somehow, despite the fact that it was half sugar by then. It also tasted like zucchini and now, after all of them had been cooked, the seeds were even harder to chew. Needless to say, we threw it out.

Moral of story: Don't buy a cactus pear. Ever.

No title.

The onion soup was delicious, the croque monsieurs so-so. Pictures/recipes/everything once I get all of the pictures loaded.

As for other news: Today, I set myself on fire and ruined my favorite sweatshirt cooking dinner. Excellent.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Cheese shopping + Recipe hunting

Because the Rabbi at the temple for which I work told us to, E and I went shopping at Earth Fare. I was expecting a cute little market, which it sort of was, but it was actually MUCH MORE AMAZING than that. I recommend going, if at all possible, because it was an adorable version of Whole Foods [although, apparently, they are in competition and so I shouldn't say that]. One thing I will say for it is that there were SO MANY SAMPLES, E and I thought we would die of joy. There was even a basket of free bits of bar soap that smelled like spearmint.

But the best part, aside from the various samples around the store, was the giant cheese section. And not only was it a giant cheese section with a sample of delicious port wine cheese from Ireland, but anyone can sample any cheese they want FOR FREE. E and I tasted a goat's milk brie, which I ended up buying because I think it was the best brie I've ever had. She also sampled a bleu cheese, but I'm not a fan. She seemed to enjoy it, though.

And on the note of me actually cooking, I'm making French onion soup + Croque Monsieurs [possibly Monte Cristos] tonight. Pictures + recipes to follow. Only pictures if it turns out disasterous, though.