French onion soup is one of my favorite comfort foods. As a child I remember having it at home or ordering it from my local diner and loving every last drop. This version is all grown-up and a bit fancier: the broth is seasoned with herbs and splashes of alcohol, the cheese imported, and the bread fresh from a local bakery. My favorite part however has stayed the same: it's still the yummy bits of cheese that get crispy on the outside of the crock.
What do you think? As an adult do you ever revisit classic foods from your childhood?
2 lb medium onions, thinly sliced lengthwise
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons of Sherry or Marsala
4 cups reduced-sodium beef broth
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
6 (1/2-inch-thick) diagonal slices of baguette
1 1/2-lb piece Gruyère, Comte, or Emmental
2 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1. Cook onions, thyme, bay leaves, and salt in oil in a heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring frequently until onions are soft and deep golden brown (about 45 minutes).
2. Add flour and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in wine and sherry and cook 2 minutes. Add broth, water, and pepper and simmer, uncovered, 30 minutes.
3. Preheat oven to 350°F. Arrange bread on a large baking sheet and toast until very dry, turning over once (about 15 minutes). Remove croûtes from oven and preheat broiler.
4. Put crocks in a shallow baking pan. Discard bay leaves and thyme. Divide soup among crocks, floating a croûte in each. Slice enough cheese to cover tops of crocks, allowing ends to hang over rims. Sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano.
5. Broil about 5 inches from heat until cheese is melted and bubbly (about 3 minutes). Serve hot.
I spent yesterday making a batch of skolebrød–Norwegian for "school bread"–in honor of today's Fat Tuesday celebrations. Sure, these treats aren't normally associated with Mardi Gras, but the confections are so rich and dounut-like that I thought they suited the holiday's themes of splurging just fine. A "school bread" actually isn't thought to be a dessert in Norway and is normally eaten in the morning on one's way to school–hence its descriptive name. For me, they are a decadent indulgence but without all of the guilt: unlike most Carnivale specialites they're not fried. Memories of their toasted coconut, creamy custard filling, sugary-sweet icing and cardamom-laced dough will last through the Lenten season for sure.
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm milk (between 95-110 degrees)
1/4 cup canola oil
4 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 cups sifted powdered sugar
2-4 tablespoons milk or water (or more as needed to thicken)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
toasted coconut, to cover
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warmed milk. Add oil, 2 cups of flour, 1/2 cup sugar and cardamom. Stir in the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well after each addition.
2. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until shiny and pliable. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough inside and turn to coat. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
3. Divide the dough into eight equal pieces and form into rounds. Place onto lightly greased baking sheets and cover with a damp cloth. Let rise until doubled in volume, about 20 minutes.
4. Preheat oven to 475 degrees F. Brush risen rolls with a beaten egg. Bake in preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes until browned with pale sides.
5. Cool completely on wire racks. Push center of roll with finger and create a hole for the filling. Spread glaze across top and then dip in coconut.
To make pastry cream:
1. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, and cornstarch until well combined.
2. Whisk in 2 tablespoons of milk. Place the remaining milk and the vanilla in a medium saucepan.
3. Bring the milk to a boil and whisk it into the yolk mixture.
4. Pour the mixture into the saucepan and bring it to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly.
5. Line a baking sheet with plastic wrap and spread the pastry cream over the plastic to cool it as quickly as possible. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold. Place the cooled pastry cream into a pastry bag and fill the buns with cream.
If I actually kept a list of foods that I wanted to make at least once in my lifetime, coq au vin (literally "rooster in wine," made most usually with chicken) would have been pretty high on it. I always thought of it as one of those intimidating French dishes that would require special tools, skills, and ingredients to bring to the table, let alone perfect. Then I found a recipe entitled “Quick Coq au Vin” and decided to give it a try with some minor additions (tomato paste, garlic, parsley) and trimming of fat (I remove the chicken skin and swapped out the pork bacon with turkey bacon). One bite of the finished product and I forgot all about my previous assumptions. Savory and filling yet surprisingly light, the whole thing can be made on your stovetop in one or two pots. I like it best with plain boiled potatoes, but I think it would also taste great over soft polenta, rice or mashed potatoes—anything that can be used to sop up the gravy.
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 slices bacon, roughly chopped (turkey or pork)
1 (4-pound) chicken, cut into pieces (skin may be removed)
1 handful flour (or as needed), seasoned with salt and pepper to taste
10 ounces button or cremini mushrooms, rinsed and halved
20 whole baby carrots, cut in half
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2 large sweet onions, chopped, or 2 cups pearl onions
3 tablespoons of tomato paste
1 bottle (about 4 cups) red wine
1 cup chicken broth
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs thyme
Parsley for garnish
1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp. Transfer to a large plate. Drain excess fat.
2. Coat the chicken pieces with the seasoned flour.
3. Brown the chicken in the pot, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to the plate with the bacon.
4. Sauté the mushrooms, carrots, garlic, and onions in the pot until they just begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook until thickened, being careful not to burn the mixture.
5. Pour half the wine into the pan and cook over high heat for about 8 minutes.
6. Add the broth and the remaining wine. Bring to a boil and add the chicken, bacon, and herbs.
7. Return to a boil, then cover and simmer for at least 45 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with parsley. Remove the bay leaf and thyme sprigs and serve.