Archive for August, 2012

August 15, 2012

French Onion Soup a la Julia

Happy 100th Birthday Julia!

Last summer we visited The National Museum of American History in Washington, DC.  I was thrilled to find they have a permanent exhibit of Julia Child’s kitchen. Donated by Julia herself in 2001, the exhibit features her actual kitchen including her six-burner Garland range, a wall of her copper cookware, even her kitchen table.  It brought back so many memories of watching her show with my parents. Julia was the quintessential culinary goddess. Never will we have a chef with such unparalleled enthusiasm in the kitchen. To quote, “The best way to execute French cooking is to get good and loaded and whack the hell out of a chicken. Bon appétit.” I wonder if food TV would be the same today if there wasn’t a Julia…

Julia’s Kitchen at The National Museum of American History

If there was one recipe that compelled me to buy my own copy of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, it would be her French Onion Soup. I could have borrowed my mother’s worn copy with all of my childhood crayon scribbles, drip marks and stains but I needed my own copy. I remember sitting with my mother while she cooked when I was very little. She’d ask me if I wanted to help her in the kitchen – I’d say yes and then proceed to color in her cookbooks. Mastering was the book she was always using, so alas, it got the most abuse from me. I’ve adapted this recipe from the Master herself.

French Onion Soup à la Julia

If you have ever carmelized onions, you know that to do it right takes at least 30-45 minutes. I hate to see a recipe that says carmelizing onions takes only 15 minutes. It’s not possible! To make this soup, you’ll need patience and at least two hours to reach full deliciousness.

INGREDIENTS (Makes a lot of soup, I guess 6-8 servings)

  • 7 medium/large yellow onions, halved and sliced (not too thin) into 1/2 moons (about 12 cups)
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 4 tbsp flour
  • 10 cups beef stock
  • 3/4 cup white wine
  • 4 tbsp cognac
  • 2 cups shredded swiss cheese (who knew you were suppose to use Swiss?)
  • Parmesan for sprinkling
  • Garlic croutes

Heat a large dutch oven over medium heat and add the butter and oil. Once the butter is melted, add the onions and cook, covered over medium-low heat for 15 minutes, stirring periodically. I know it seems like a lot of onions, but they shrink down to nothing.

Uncover and sprinkle with the sugar and salt. Raise heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently for about 30-40 minutes until evenly golden. You don’t want the onions to burn, so watch your heat.

Sprinkle with the flour and stir continuously for a couple of minutes. Pour in the stock and wine. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, partially covered for 30 minutes longer. You can skim off any foam that forms on the top of the soup as you go. Add the cognac, stir and taste for reseasoning – viola! It’s done!

Garlic Croutes

HOW TO MAKE GARLIC CROUTES

  • 1 baguette, hearty slices
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and halved
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • Kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Lay slices of baguette in a single layer on a sheet pan. Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until crisp. Remove from the oven and rub each slice lightly with the halved garlic clove, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt.

PUT IT ALL TOGETHER

Ladle the soup into oven safe bowls. Float a croute in each bowl, top with shredded swiss cheese and sprinkle with parmesan. Place bowls under the broiler (watching carefully) for a quick minute or two until the cheese becomes bubbly. Enjoy!

BEYOND AMAZING FRENCH ONION SOUP!

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August 14, 2012

Indian Style Chicken & Peas

My first Indian meal was in London about twenty years ago. They brought a tower of sauces and dips to the table with naan. It all looked so exotic and exciting. Unfortunately, my only memory of that meal is my mouth was on fire. Everything was intensely spicy. The kind of unpleasant heat that covers up any flavor the food might have had. It was not an enjoyable dinner.

I steered clear of Indian food for many years, until I was taken for an Indian dinner in Los Angeles. I entrusted my husband to order, promising me a delicious dinner. All I was hoping for was lots of naan and a cold beer to cool the impending fire. We were still in the dating phase and I wanted to seem worldly and cool. Inside I was thinking, “there’s an In and Out around the corner… a cheeseburger would be just fine.” I’m so glad I kept my mouth shut and went along with the plan – dinner was awesome. No fire, just a festival of amazing spices and flavors. I don’t know what we had, I just remember I loved it.

Fast forward and we finally have a couple of good Indian restaurants in our area. Indian has become a part of our regular out-to-dinner-rotation. It’s a favorite with the kids, too. Determined to figure out how to prepare Indian here at home, I’ve built up my spice collection to include just about everything I need to whip up an Indian style meal. Emphasis on the word “style.” By no means am I saying I can make traditional Indian fare, but this chicken dish got raves reviews from my family. One last note, Indian food can be heavy. Making this at home allowed me to control the oil and calories – a good reason to give Indian cooking a try.

INGREDIENTS (Serves 4-6)

  • 2 tbsp grapeseed oil
  • 1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced in half-moons
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 1/2 tbsp garam masala
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom seeds
  • 1 1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • Pinch hot chili powder
  • Kosher salt & pepper
  • 1.5 pounds ground chicken
  • Juice 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 10oz frozen green peas
  • Lemon wedges, for serving
  • Sliced hot green chilies, for serving (I used fresh jalapeño)
  • 2 scallions, light green and dark green parts only sliced

Add the grapeseed oil to a large sauté pan on medium-high heat. Saute the onions until they begin to turn golden in color. Add the garlic and ginger, stirring for about a minute. Add the spices and stir until everything is coated and the spices cook in the pan for about a minute. Add the ground chicken, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, stirring the mixture around until the chicken is cooked through and properly combined. Season with salt and pepper. Pour in the chicken stock and lemon juice, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add in the peas and stir, allow to simmer for a couple of minutes. Reseason with additional salt if needed.

Serve with basmati rice, lemon wedges, chopped scallions and sliced chilies. I like to place each garnish in a little bowl on the table so everyone can help themselves.

* Remove the seeds from the chilies to reduce the heat or omit the chilies altogether if you don’t want it spicy.

** I always add a smashed clove of garlic and a piece of fresh ginger to my basmati rice as it cooks. It adds such nice flavor. Just remember to remove them before serving.

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