Monday, January 2, 2012

Warming a Chill with Food & Friends

Changes. A new home. A new kitchen. Old and new friends to lend support and help amidst those changes that I am forever indebted. I must apologize for not posting to the faithful that have been reading my little blog about food and what it has meant to me and what it means to me. I'm getting used to a new kitchen and unpacking old friends who are ready to lend forth their magic with a little help from me.
We've been fortunate with a mild Winter, here in the Northeast. Today was a "balmy" 50, but the next two days we're to receive a reminder of what season we're in with a blast from the frozen north. So, with that in mind I've summoned together what onion varieties I have and made a nice pot of Onion Soup to serve to friends, warm the house and feed my soul.
Cooking has a way of making everything alright with me. It allows me to concentrate and forget the outside world for a little while and bring everything back to order. Here's wishing you all a year filled with dreams that come true, the best in health, happiness, love and of course success with everything that comes out of your kitchen.

French Onion Soup

2 Tbl. Butter, unsalted
5 Yellow Onions, large; ¼” sliced
2 Large Red Onions, ¼” sliced
3 tsp. All Purpose Flour
¼ tsp. Sugar (optional)
4 Leeks, white and tender light green portions,
   ¼ sliced
2 Garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced
1 Bay leaf
3 - 4” Thyme sprigs, fresh; leaves removed
½ Cup Dry Sherry*
8 Cups Beef stock
Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper, to taste
12 baguette slices, each sliced ½thick
¼ Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil, for brushing
1 Garlic clove, peeled
1½ Cup Gruyère, Jarlsberg or Swiss cheese (or combination)**, shredded

In a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot or Dutch oven over medium low heat, melt the butter until it foams. Add the onions and leeks, a pinch of salt, sprinkle in the flour and sauté, stirring occasionally, until wilted, about 15 minutes. Add the garlic, bay leaf, thyme, and sugar (if using) and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until richly colored and caramelized, 45 minutes to 1 hour. (You may need to increase the heat to medium to add some color at the end.) If the onions begin to “stick” to the bottom, simply deglaze with ¼ cup of water and scrape the bottom clean with a wooden spoon.
Wilting the onions and leeks

Once you’ve reached a rich, caramel color, add the sherry and stock. Cover partially and simmer until the flavors are well blended, about 30 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove and discard the bay leaf.
Richly caramelized. Perfect also for a steak or hamburger!

Preheat oven to 400°F. Place the baguette slices on a cookie sheet, brush lightly with olive oil and toast in the oven for 5-7 minutes or until golden and lightly toasted. Rub each slice lightly with the raw garlic clove. Set aside.
A few choice cheeses to melt and anoint over the croutons.

To serve, preheat the broiler. Ladle the soup into individual oven-proof soup bowls. Place 2 or 3 slices of bread on top of each bowl and mound with cheese. Slide under the broiler about 6” from the element. Broil until the cheese is bubbly and lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Serve immediately. Serves 4 to 6.
An abundance of warm and comforting richness.

*May use a dry white or red wine.
**For a change I like to mix in Stilton, Gorgonzola, Pecorino Romano or a French Bleu, whatever is in the refrigerator.