Dish #10: French Onion Soup (France)

This is another example of a dish that I wasn’t planning on making for this blog specifically, but since I was making it for dinner anyway and it turned out really good, I thought I should go ahead and share it! Also, I didn’t think it was really from France! I guess I just assumed it was one of those American dishes that was made to sound French and fancy! :0)

There are examples of onion soup dating back many years in history, at least as far back as the Roman times. Onion soup, specifically, was considered “Poor Man’s Food” because of how cheap onions are and how easily they could be grown. The onions were often boiled with water and seasonings and served just like that.

The more modern style of French Onion Soup with the meat-based broth and cheese was created around the 18th century in France. No one seems to know who exactly created the dish. In the 1960s in the U.S., there was a great interest in French Cuisine, causing a resurgence in the popularity of this soup. It is still very common to see on restaurant menus.

I’ve never really been a huge onion fan, but I’ve always liked French Onion Soup. The caramelizing of the onions brings out their natural sweetness and the savory beef broth and worchestershire sauce has such a rich flavor. And of course, who doesn’t love bread and cheese?! This soup is perfect for cold, rainy nights, like we’ve been having the last couple days here in Southern California.

There are about as many recipes out there for this soup as there are chefs making it, but here is my very own:

French Onion Soup

2 medium-sized brown onions, sliced thin
3 T butter
3 whole bay leaves
1 t salt
2 cloves garlic
2 t dried thyme
1 32 oz carton beef broth
2 t worchestershire sauce
loaf of crusty bread
Gruyere cheese

In a heavy-bottom pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onions and stir around, coating in the butter. Add the bay leaves and salt. Cook, covered, until the onions are soft and caramelized, stirring frequently. This should take at least 20-30 minutes. It will seem like a lot of onions at first, but they will cook down.

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(You’ll see a sprig of rosemary here that isn’t in the ingredient list. I tried adding it in, but the aroma was overwhelming so I took it out after a couple minutes. I didn’t want the rosemary to take over the dish).

Once the onions are done, add the thyme and garlic. For the garlic: rub two cloves over a microplane and add to the onions. I like to do it this way because then the garlic is really small and just melts into the onions. You get the flavor without big pieces of garlic. Stir to combine.

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See all those nice brown bits on the bottom of the pan? Those are little bits of heaven that will add a ton of flavor to the soup. Be sure to scrape them up when stirring in your broth.

Add the beef broth and worchestershire sauce and bring to a boil. Stir to combine, making sure to get all the brown bits from the onions. After the soup has been boiling for a minute or so, reduce heat to simmer.

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While the soup is simmering, cut of a few thick pieces of bread and slice the cheese. I used Gruyere this time, which is the traditional cheese to use, but in the past I’ve used mozzarella and provolone and both are delicious.

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Under the broiler, toast up the bread. It is important that you do this because it is going directly in the soup and will absorb all that yummy broth. If it is too soft when you put it in the soup, it will just turn to mush in your bowl. Watch this carefully, though, because the bread can easily go from not ready to burnt before you know it. Don’t ask how I know this.

Once the bread is ready, ladle the soup into oven-safe bowls. Add the toasted bread and top with cheese. Put the bowls on a baking sheet because the cheese will get all melty and drip over the edges of the bowl. This is a good thing, but not if you have to clean it up off the bottom of your oven. Put the baking sheet with the bowls under the broiler until the cheese is ooey and gooey. Mine took about 5 minutes or so, just keep an eye on it.

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That’s it! Be careful because this will be really hot and it is really yummy, so you don’t want to burn your taste buds off!

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Enjoy!!

Dish #9: Coq au Riesling (France)

For some reason, I am intimidated by French cooking. It seems like that is where all the big shot chefs go to learn how to cook. I mean, hello, Julia Child. But still, I think I can handle it.

I’m pretty sure everyone has heard of Coq au Vin. It’s a quintessential French dish. I feel like it is always used on TV shows and Movies whenever someone wants to convey how French some restaurant is. Coq au vin, or a similar dish, can be traced back as far as Julius Caesar, but it wasn’t actually documented until the early 20th century. Julia Child featured the dish in her famous cookbook Mastering The Art of French Cooking in 1961 and often made it on her PBS show, which sort of brought the dish into the limelight, so to speak, in the United States.

Even though “coq au vin” is pretty much just “chicken with wine” it never really occurred to me that you could use many different types of wine. Typically, Burgundy is used, but there are other versions found in the different regions of France using local wines.I’m definitely a white wine kinda girl, so that is why I got so excited/intrigued when I heard there was such thing as Coq au Riesling. I love Riesling! It is my favorite wine.

Riesling is actually a German wine, but a late-ripening Riesling is found in Alsace, a region in France along the German border. The cuisine in this area is highly influenced by Germanic culture and many of the world’s most notable rieslings come from this area.

Due to my fear reluctance to attempt French cooking, I didn’t create this recipe. I did some research and found this recipe for Coq au Riesling that looked both delicious and easy and I was right.

I pretty much followed the recipe to the letter.

Coq au Riesling (from Karen Saretsky at Serious Eats)

Gather your ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 3 thick-cut strips of bacon, cut into lardons (strips of pork fat. For this dish, just use the bacon)
  • 1 chicken, in 10 pieces (2 breasts, cut in half, 2 thighs, 2 drumsticks, 2 wings)
    **I only used 2 skin-on chicken breasts because it was just for me and my husband. I didn’t need that much chicken.
  • Sea salt
  • 1/2 onion, medium diced
  • 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, quartered
  • 1 1/2 cups dry Riesling
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 cup crème fraîche
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

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1. Melt butter in 12-inch, pan over medium high heat. Add bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 8 minutes. Remove pan from heat. Using slotted spoon, transfer cooked bacon to paper-towel lined plate. Reserve fat in pan.

2. Pat chicken pieces dry with paper towel. Season with salt. Return sauté pan to medium high heat until lightly smoking. Add chicken pieces skin side down. Cook until golden brown on both sides, turning once, about 8 minutes total. Remove pan from heat and transfer chicken to large plate.

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3.Remove all but 2 tablespoons of fat from pan (I didn’t need to remove anything). Add onions and mushrooms and cook on low heat until most of the liquid has evaporated and onions have started to soften and caramelize a bit, about 3 minutes. Season lightly with salt.

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4. Add the Riesling, increase heat to high, and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Return chicken to pan and cover. I added the chicken skin-side down because that is where all the meat is (you can see in the picture) and I wanted to make sure it cooked through. Lower the heat to low, and simmer for 40 minutes. Add bacon back to the pan, and season with black pepper. Simmer uncovered an additional 15 minutes until chicken is done.

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Yes, that is Barefoot wine you see! $5.99 a bottle and it’s delicious! I pretty much always have a bottle, or two, in my house.

5. Using tongs, transfer chicken to large serving platter. Raise heat to medium-high, and reduce to thicken, about 2 minutes. Stir in the crème fraîche and parsley, and pour over the chicken. Serve immediately, family-style, with warm, crusty, rustic bread or buttered wide egg noodles tossed with freshly chopped parsley.

I served mine with crusty bread and it was perfect for soaking up the yummy sauce. The chicken was cooked perfectly. The braising really helped lock in the juices. The sauce was light but still filling and comforting. You could really taste the bacon flavor and the slight sweet from the wine. No single flavor over-powered any other one. And it made me feel all fancy and Frenchy! This would be a great date-night meal or to pull out whenever you need to impress someone!

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Sorry, I’m still getting the hang of taking blog pictures that show just how yummy my dishes are. I guess this one is fine, but the coq au riesling was soooo yummy!

Enjoy!!

Quiche (France)

I wasn’t going to turn this into a blog, but then I figured “Why not!?” I’m making them anyway, might as well share.

I love quiche and I don’t make it nearly as often as I should, especially since it is made up of items I almost always have in my cupboard/fridge. The two quiches featured here I made for a brunch we had for my mom’s birthday, but you can put just about anything you want in a quiche. I’ve also been known to make one for dinner because it’s easy and come on now, we all know that breakfast for dinner is the best.

Quiche—basically a pastry crust with an egg mixture that is baked—is known as a French dish, though it actually originated in Germany and is popular in many countries.

There are a ton of varieties of quiche, like quiche Lorraine (bacon), quiche au fromage (cheese), quiche aux champignons (mushrooms), Florentine (spinach), or provençale (tomatoes). Really, though, you can put anything you want in a quiche. Choose a meat, choose a veggie, choose a cheese. It’s entirely up to you.

Start with a basic pastry crust. You can buy one if you want, the store-bought varieties aren’t bad, but there is something so much better about homemade. Plus, it’s actually really easy.

½ cup of cold shortening (I use the Crisco sticks because it makes it much easier to measure)
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
5ish tablespooons cold water

Using a pastry cutter (or a couple of butter knifes, if you don’t have one), cut the cold shortening into the flour and salt until it comes together in small pea size clumps. IMG_1648-0.JPG

Add the water 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing with a fork, until it forms a ball of dough. Cover with plastic and put in the fridge for a least 30 minutes.

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Tip: Cold is key to a flaky crust: Cold shortening, cold water, cold dough.
Tip 2: If you are worried about the crust edges not looking perfect, don’t be. I’m not good at it at all. Just call it “Rustic” and everyone will think it’s great!

While the dough is chilling, make your filling. I promise I did not mean to rhyme that, but I’m a nerd, so I’m not changing it. :0)

Like I said, you can put whatever fillings you want in quiche, but I’m going to give you the recipe for the two I made.

10 eggs (5 for each quiche)
2 cups milk (1 for each quiche; you can use whole, low fat, nonfat, heavy cream, half-n-half, whatever floats your boat)
salt and pepper to taste

For one quiche, I crisped up some chopped bacon and grated some cheddar cheese. Normally I would have put in some sautéed leeks as well, but one of the guests isn’t a fan, so I left them out of this one. I put in a dash (literally, just a dash) of nutmeg to the egg mixture.

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For the 2nd quiche, I browned up some breakfast sausage in a skillet. After I removed the sausage, I left the rendered fat and caramelized some diced purple onions and some diced sweet peppers. Add about 1 teaspoon of dried oregano to the egg mix. For this one, I used a mozzarella/provolone cheese mix.

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Tip: mix a small amount of flour in with the cheese. It will help thicken up the egg mixture when it cooks and it keeps the cheese from falling to the bottom.

Mix your fill-ins to your egg mix and set aside.

Roll out your crusts and put in a pie pan. Poke the bottom with a fork and bake at 450 degrees F for about 8 minutes.

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Add the filling to the parbaked crusts. At this point, I covered mine in plastic wrap and put them in the fridge because I made them the night before. Normally, though, you would turn down the oven to 375 degrees F and bake them for 50 minutes to an hour. They are done when a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Perfect for breakfast, lunch, or dinner!

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Let me know what your favorite quiche fillings are. I’m always looking to try new flavor combinations!!