Monday, November 29, 2010

French Onion Soup

One of my all time favorite things to order when I go out to eat is French Onion Soup. I mean, what can possibly be better than all of that gooey cheese, toasted bread and rich broth? It's happiness in a bowl to me.
Which is why I am completely perplexed as to why I've never tried to make this on my own.  My only excuse is that sometimes, I think I am convinced that creating something this good has got to be really complicated. Plus I have had some broiler issues in the past (one involving setting scones on fire in the oven by accident) that got in the way of recipes like this.

Whatever it was, I'm glad I got over it. I had had all of the ingredients in the house already and finally decided that a cold November day was the perfect time to get over my french onion soup phobias and have a big bowlful for lunch. The only substitution was using sourdough bread for french bread since that was all I had in the house but it was a delicious sacrifice I had to make.

Definitely would make this again. Thank you, Julia Child, for such a tasty recipe! 

French Onion Soup

Recipe adapted from Julia Child, "The Way to Cook (Food Network)


  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 cups thinly sliced onions (about 2-1/2 pounds)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 8 cups homemade beef stock, or good quality store bought stock
  • 1/4 cup Cognac, or other good brandy
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 8 (1/2-inch) thick slices of French bread, toasted
  • 3/4 pound coarsely grated Gruyere


Heat a heavy saucepan over moderate heat with the butter and oil. When the butter has melted, stir in the onions, cover, and cook slowly until tender and translucent, about 10 minutes. Blend in the salt and sugar, increase the heat to medium high, and let the onions brown, stirring frequently until they are a dark walnut color, 25 to 30 minutes.

Sprinkle the flour and cook slowly, stirring, for another 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat, let cool a moment, then whisk in 2 cups of hot stock. When well blended, bring to the simmer, adding the rest of the stock, Cognac, and wine. Cover loosely, and simmer very slowly 1 1/2 hours, adding a little water if the liquid reduces too much. Taste for seasoning

Divide the soup among 4 ovenproof bowls. Arrange toast on top of soup and sprinkle generously with grated cheese. Place bowls on a cookie sheet and place under a preheated broiler until cheese melts and forms a crust over the tops of the bowls. Serve immediately.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

SMS: Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie

It's been awhile since I've been able to bake along with everyone at Sweet Melissa Sundays. But no matter how busy or chaotic life is, I will never ever be able to pass up the chance to make a pecan pie. There's just something about all that sugary, gooey yummy filling that makes Thanksgiving for me. So many thanks to Jennifer of Oh Sweet Day who picked this pie and will have the recipe on the website today.

Apart from some issues with the pie crust, it was a snap to make. And the pie crust was strictly my own personal issues with it despite it being store bought...which is why you don't really see a crust in the picture. I'd burnt the edges of the crust and ended up cutting a square from the middle so my offering wouldn't look completely mangled in the picture.

Oddly enough, the dessert wasn't as sweet as I've been accustomed to with store bought pecan pies. I liked that the recipe allowed the pecans to really shine through and the aftertaste of chocolate that followed after each bite of the pecan filling. Definitely would make this again.

Please check out everyone's offering over at Sweet Melissa Sundays to see how they fared with this delicious pie!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

TCS: Cinnamon Pudding Cake

A few years back, I was completely gonzo for Haagen-Daz's "Sticky Toffee Pudding" Ice Cream. I think I may have spent a small fortune on it as I picked up a pint every time I was at the store but this was the seriously best ice cream. Ever. And since it was a limited time flavor, there are more than a few of us who still mourn the loss of it.

 However, thanks to Lauren Chattman and the bakers over at The Cake Slice, I can now once again get my Sticky Toffee Pudding fix through this month's cake "Cinnamon Pudding Cake."

In a busting worthy. Delicious. Awesome. The new culinary love of my life. Pick your choice, they all apply.

As appearances go, its looks are deceiving. The cake was a little tricky to photograph and as soon as I cut a slice, the caramel sauce poured across the plate. But I can live with that. This is a great cake. Just a small word of warning: the sauce may be a little on the sweet side for some people (fortunately I am not one of them). But a little does go a long way with the cake...after indulging in a second bowl, I was feeling the effects of all that sugar.

For presentation, I went with serving this in a bowl  to make it a little easier to eat. My only regret is that it's not the type of cake that I can take to work and dump on the coworkers but I'll make the sacrifice and eat it myself if I must.

Definitely a keeper recipe. Please check out the other bakers over at The Cake Slice to read about their experiences and opinions of the cake.

Bon appetit!

November’s Cake: Cinnamon Pudding Cake
(Recipe from Cake Keeper Cakes by Lauren Chattman)

For the Caramel Topping
1 cup plus 2 tbsp packed light brown sugar
¾ cup water
1 tbsp unsalted butter
½ tsp salt

For the Cake
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
2½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Method – Topping
Heat the oven to 350F. Spray the bottom and sides of an 8 inch square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.Combine the brown sugar, water, butter and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, whisking occasionally, then set aside to cool.

Method – Cake
Combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and sakt in a medium mixing bowl.

Combine the butter and granulated sugar in a large mixing bowl and cream with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes.

With the mixer on medium-low speed, add a third of the flour mixture to the bowl. Add half of the milk and the vanilla. Add another third of the flour, followed by the remaining milk and the rest of the flour. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat on medium speed for 30 seconds.

Scrape the batter onto the prepared pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Pour the topping over the batter (the pan will be very full). Carefully transfer the pan to the oven and bake until set, 45 to 50 minutes.

Let the cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes, invert it onto a large rimmed serving platter and serve warm.

Let any leftover cake cool completely before storing in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 day or in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Cornmeal Pancakes with Ham

Sunday mornings and pancakes just seem to go together. So when I was flipping through my cookbooks, feeling that I needed to do something creative and get back into some regular cooking, I came across this recipe and the search was over. Granted, I have a known love of ham that pops up on the blog on a regular basis but even without it, I think I would have made this anyway. With the onions, there's a pleasing reminder of potato pancakes, which brings back some happy memories of my best friend and I chowing down on her mom's potato pancakes with apple sauce and syrup.

I had some issues with getting the consistency that the recipe called for but it might have had more to do with the water not being at a full boil when I added it to the cornmeal. And I also had issues with grating the onions, so I made do with chopping them and adding them to the mix. But considering I've never been a fan of polenta, which I always associate cornmeal with, the texture of this was surprisingly good and tender. This would be a great dish for a company brunch if I ever do one. But I would definitely make this again for myself!

From Williams Sonoma Essentials of Breakfast and Brunch

1 1/2 cups fine grind white or yellow cornmeal
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1 small yellow onion grated
1/4 to 1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup finely chopped cooked ham
Freshly ground pepper
2-3 tbsp melted butter
Sour Cream for garnish

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Whisk cornmeal, sugar and salt in large bowl. Add boiling water slowly and whisk until smooth and batter is very stiff. Let batter stand for 10 minutes. Stir in onion. Stir in just enough milk to make a batter with a porridge like consistency. Stir in ham and season with pepper.

Place large griddle or frying pan over medium heat until pan is hot enough for a drop of water to sizzle and evaporate. Brush with melted butter. Ladle 1/4 cup batter for each pancake onto pan and flatten cake with spatula. Cook until browned and crisp, approximately 5-7 minutes. Carefully flip pancakes and cook other side for 5-7 minutes. Transfer to platter in oven to keep warm - do not cover or pancakes with get soggy. Repeat with remaining batter and butter.

Serve with dollop of sour cream or drizzle of warm maple syrup (or both if you're anything like me!).

Sunday, November 14, 2010

CI:Mushroom Sauce with Ham and Tomato

Oh so close and yet so far. On my way to cooking one of the November recipes for my blogging friends over at Cooking Italy, I got waylaid by this delectable recipe right before it. At least my heart was in the right culinary direction.

Now despite the fact that I love mushrooms in most dishes, I was a little worried about the amount of mushrooms called for in the recipe and the secondary nature of the tomatoes in this dish. But to be fair to Marcella, my experience throughout my childhood with Italian cooking was entirely limited to the American Italian restaurants my family went to where there was not much variations with sauces or noodles or flavorings. Pizzas, raviolis and spaghettis with basic tomato sauces ruled and mushrooms, ham and tomato sauces were nowhere to be found back then.

Oh, the deprived culinary life I lived then. This sauce was great. 

Even better, for once, I actually followed the directions exactly, despite some misgivings about how the amount of mushroom water was supposed to evaporate during cooking (it did) and trying to figure out exactly what Marcella meant by a "lively heat". And I'm glad I did because this dish was, for me, a great flavor eye opener. It's one of those dishes where the attention to detail goes a long way. And it's a hearty dish perfect for a November evening.

Due to a few factors such as reconstituting the mushrooms and then cooking the mushroom water down, the cooking time was a little longer than I had expected but still from start to finish, I would estimate it was maybe a little longer than an hour.

Definitely would make this again. Now I need to go find the eggplant at the store to try the other recipe that looks just as intriguingly tasty.

from "Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking" by Marcella Hazan

3/4 cup fresh white mushrooms
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly mashed
1/3 cup boiled unsmoked ham cut into julienned strips of 1/8 inch wide or less
1 oz dried porcini mushrooms
Filtered water from mushroom soak
2 tbsp chopped parsley
Black pepper freshly ground
1 cup canned italian plum tomatos chopped fine with juice
1 pound fusilli pasta

Soak porcini mushrooms for 30 minutes. Drain mushrooms through strainer and set liquid aside.

Wash white mushrooms under cool water. Slice and set aside.

Place oil and mashed garlic clove into sautee pan. Turn heat to medium high. Cook until garlic is colored a light nut brown and remove it immediately.

Add ham strips (be care as the oil will splatter up at this point) and stir for a few seconds. Add porcini mushrooms and filtered water. Marcella recommends cooking at a lively heat which on my stove translated to medium high heat. Continue cooking until all mushroom liquid has evaporated - towards the end, stir mushrooms lightly to prevent them from sticking to the pan.

Add fresh mushroom, parsley, salt, and several pepper grindings. Stir for 30 seconds before adding tomatoes and juices, stirring until all ingredients are coated. Turn heat down until sauce bubbles steadily - for my stove this was a high low/low medium temperature. Cook for 25 minutes or until oil begins to separate from sauce.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Wordless Thursday

Katie holding down the fort while mom is busy...more baking coming soon though!