Sauerbraten

A dinner centered on a Sauerbraten makes one think about a grandma toiling away in the kitchen from the early morning hours until evening. Remember those days? When cooking was done in pots and delectable delights cooked slowly for hours. If you’re going to make a Sauerbraten, then get ready for an entrée that takes three days to prepare. Of course, your patience and palette will be richly rewarded.

Sauerbraten for a 3 – 3 ½ pound rump roast.

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2 Onions

1 Cup Red Wine Vinegar

1 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar

1 Tablespoon Salt

½ Tablespoon Black Pepper

1 Tablespoon Ground Mustard

1 Tablespoon of Sugar

12 Whole Cloves

2 Bay Leaves

12 Juniper Berries*

3 – 4 ounces of crushed ginger snaps** (Final ingredient for sauce. NOT part of the marinade)

*I couldn’t get any juniper berries this time around. I’ve made Sauerbraten with and without them. Skipping the berries will not destroy the Sauerbraten and make it inedible. You’ll be fine.

**Find dark gourmet ginger snaps, those blonde ones won’t cut it.

Step 1: Dice the onions, combine all of the marinade ingredients and bring to a boil. Then remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

Step2: Get a frying pan (preferably cast iron) fired up. Rub the rump roast down with 2 Tablespoons of vegetable oil. Next, sear the roast for two to three minutes on every surface. Remember, color equals flavor.

Step 3: When the meat and the marinade have cooled, put both into a glass bowl and cover. Avoid aluminum foil or bowls. The acid in the vinegar will react with aluminum and other metals, because the combination of the two is a battery.

Marinate the Sauerbraten for three days. If the marinade covers the meat then just leave it alone. If not, then turn the roast every day or every twelve hours.

Step 4: Place the meat and marinade into a covered vessel. I use enameled cast iron by Le Creuset. It is perfect for this type of cooking. Cook at 325° for 4 hours.

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A Le Creuset Dutch Oven

Step 5: Remove Sauerbraten roast. Place it on a cooling rack. Use a wire mesh strainer and filter all of the liquid into a sauce pan. Add 3 oz. of crushed Ginger snaps. If your sauce isn’t thick enough, then continue adding ½ oz. increments. 

Step 6: Eat! Mangia! I really enjoy a sweet white zinfandel to offset the sour part of Sauerbraten. However, there’s nothing wrong with a high quality “brewskie” either.

I served this Sauerbraten up with spaetzl (German pasta) boiled, then sautéed in butter and cream, Rotkohl (sweet n’ sour red cabbage), and Kartoffelklöesse (Potato Dumplings).

If you make this Sauerbraten recipe or are planning an honest attempt, I’d love to hear from you.

DON’T GO – COMMENT BELOW!

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Buttermilk Blueberry Pancakes

Does anyone ever scoff at the idea of a Buttermilk Blueberry Pancake? Well, I’ve never met a person who resisted such a mouthwatering temptation. In fact, I do not think any other food can top these flat bundles of joy when it comes down to a comfort food contest. Let’s face it, if Buttermilk Blueberry Pancakes with maple syrup and softened butter are on the menu, you do not need anything else, except for a properly brewed cup of coffee to wash them down.

*Please note that I generally abhor manufactured food. Also, I am not working in an industrial kitchen with all sorts of expensive specialized equipment. Even my photo equipment could use a few upgrades. Therefore, you can easily replicate any of my recipes in order to cook from scratch.

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Ingredients

2 Cups of All Purpose Flour

2 teaspoons of Baking Powder

1 teaspoon of Baking Soda

½ teaspoon Salt

3 Tablespoons of Sugar

2 Eggs

2 Cups of Buttermilk + 1 Cup of Milk

4 Tablespoons of melted butter

Frozen or Fresh Blueberries (I use 4 blueberries per pancake) * Do not place in batter.

*** Yield 10 Buttermilk Blueberry Pancakes *** I used a standard ladle to deliver the batter.

Notice: the first 5 items are dry and the rest are wet.

Combine your wet and dry ingredients in separate bowls, and then add the wet mixture to the dry. Yeppers, it’s just that easy. And think about the money you’re saving and the health benefits. When you cook in this fashion, you know what’s in your food.

Things to remember: 1) beat the eggs before combining, 2) shake your buttermilk, 3) do not over mix. I know many pancake aficionados out there swear by blending the batter with a fork. However, I find that forks do not scrape in flour that lingers in a bowl. It’s just easier and more efficient to fold with a spatula. Just remember not over mix. Simply fold until the flour disappears. Lumps and clumps are good things in a pancake batter. 4) If you’re using frozen blueberries. Place some in a sealable plastic bag and soak in warm water. Then start working on the batter. The blueberries will be thawed by the time you’re ready to use them.

Get your favorite pan or griddle ready and preheat your oven to 180 degrees. Lightly grease your pan with some butter wiped on with a paper towel. Put some batter in the pan and let them cook on one side. Drop some blueberries on top before flipping.

Place cooked Buttermilk Blueberry Pancakes on a plate and keep in the oven while you finish off the rest. Not only are these jewels a tasty experience, but also a very satisfying cooking experience.

Are you going to try out this recipe? How did they turn out for you?

The Tomato: Fruit or Vegetable?

The glorious tomato is a bright star in the culinary universe. Think about all of the different possibilities that can be done with this versatile ingredient. From cream of tomato soup, an Italian sauce, salsa from south of the border, an essential element of a BLT, to part of a salad…the list of versatility can go on forever.

However, the tomato conjures up one of the most perplexing conundrums, is it a fruit or a vegetable?

Surprisingly the tomato is both; it just depends upon who is going to answer the question.

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Public Domain Image courtesy of Pixabay

 

From the legal viewpoint: The tomato is a vegetable. The Supreme Court of the U.S. declared it to be a vegetable on May 10, 1893. A decision was necessary because of U.S. tariff laws.

From a Scientific viewpoint: The tomato is a fruit. Botanists consider all plant life to be “vegetation.” However, they classify fruit as the edible ovaries of a plant. Certainly our friend the tomato clearly fits into their fruit definition.

From a culinary viewpoint: The tomato is a vegetable. It can be part of an appetizer, a soup, a side dish, or an entrée unto itself. However, a vegetable can never, ever be part of a dessert.

Is it any wonder that I despise the very existence of Carrot cake?

The final definition was the determining factor of the tomato’s legal status. Although scientifically a fruit, the government classified it as a vegetable because it was used and treated like one. So go ahead and enjoy your fresh, sweet tomatoes. Just don’t try to make tomato pudding and garnish it with chocolate syrup and whipped cream.

What’s your favorite way to enjoy a tomato?

DON’T GO – COMMENT BELOW!

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Pasta e Fagioli

For me, nothing answers the call of comfort food better than a hot bowl of Pasta e Fagioli (Pasta and Bean Soup). The rich stock, tasty bites of beans and pasta, makes this soup hearty. Of course, like an authentic tomato sauce, there are many variations of this staple of the Italian kitchen. Therefore, you’ll find different recipes in every household.

I like to add small chunks of genoa salami. After all, pork and beans go well together. Perhaps at a later date, I’ll ask mom for her “lighter” white bean recipe.

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There’s nothing like comfort food

 

Ingredients

1 – Small White Onion (Do a medium dice according to Onions 101)

2 – Teaspoons of Chopped Garlic

1 – Can of Red Kidney Beans (Reserve half of the liquid)

1 – Quarter inch thick slice of Genoa Salami (Go for two slices if you prefer an even heartier soup)

1 – Pinch of Sugar

1 – Beef Stock (Yes, I said stock not buillion)

2 – Tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2 – Ounces of White Wine (I prefer White Zinfandel)

8 – Ounces of Tomato Sauce or Plain Crushed Tomatoes

8 – Ounces of your favorite dried pasta (Elbows, Ditalini, Tubetini, or Small Shells)

Salt* & Pepper to taste

*The amount of salt depends on the brand of cooking stock and if it’s a low or non-sodium version.

Step 1: Dice the onion and cut the salami into small bite sized cubes

Step 2: Put the olive oil into a soup pot and heat

Step 3: Sauteé the onions until tender and limp, but not browned.

Step 4: Add the garlic (Remember garlic cooks very fast) Cook for 1 minute

Step 5: Add the wine (Let the alcohol cook out 1-2 mins.)

Step 6: Add the tomato sauce, beef stock, salami, and Kidney beans with reserved liquid

Step 7: Add one pinch of sugar*. Let simmer to allow flavors to mingle

*The nitrates in cured pork products can leave a nasty aftertaste. The sugar will cancel it out.

Step 8: In a separate pot, bring enough water to boil in order to cook the pasta according to box directions. You shouldn’t cook or store the soup and pasta together.

Step 9: Put one half ladle of cooked pasta into a bowl and add two ladles of the soup. Serve with a piece of crusty Italian bread for a hearty meal.

Step 10: Enjoy it! Mangia Bene!

Comment below if you attempt or plan on attempting this recipe.

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Ernesto San Giacomo is the author of Ragged Souls

***Put Ragged Souls on your Kindle at Amazon U.S. or Amazon U.K.***

Fettuccine Alfredo

There are many myths that circulate throughout the culinary world, most of them concerning the origins of famous dishes.  However, the raw beginnings of Fettuccine Alfredo are rather well-known and accepted.

As the story goes, Alfredo first made the dish for his wife, who suffered from terrible nausea during a pregnancy (it is an old Italian custom to “eat white” when you don’t feel well). Further down the road in 1920, he made it for Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks. They were so impressed that they presented Alfredo with a gift before they left Rome. Soon the newspapers caught on and ran the story, thus cementing Alfredo’s restaurant and the entrée that bears his name to the world.

I like to order Fettuccine Alfredo whenever I’m trying out a new restaurant. It’s such a simple entrée that if you ruin it, maybe you should get out of the restaurant business. Too often I’ve seen this dish destroyed by either complicating it with extra ingredients, or by foolishly misunderstanding it and using the wrong preparation method. I especially cringe whenever I see jarred “Alfredo Sauce” in the supermarket. Once you read this recipe and its true technique, you’ll realize that there is no such thing as Alfredo Sauce.

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Ingredients:

1 16oz. box of your favorite fettuccine (regular or spinach or mixed)

1 cup of heavy cream or milk or half n’ half * (your choice will impact the cooking time of the pasta)

*If your pasta cooks in 8 minutes, then remove after 7 minutes if you’re using heavy cream, 6 for half n’ half, and so on.

2 tablespoons of room-temperature butter

2 tablespoons of grated cheese

Cooking:

While the water for your pasta is heating, heat the butter and cream mixture in a skillet. Don’t boil it, just get it above room temperature.

Drop your pasta into salted boiling water. Usually dried pasta takes 6 – 8 minutes to cook, but we’re going to remove it early. The pasta will be somewhat flexible but too hard to eat, but that’s exactly where we want it at this point.

Place the pasta into the skillet with the butter and milk and turn up the heat one notch. The pasta will finish cooking by absorbing the water content from the milk / butter mixture. This also thickens the sauce. Just remember to keep flipping and tossing the pasta about twice per minute.

Plate it and sprinkle your favorite grated cheese on top.

Buon Apetito!

I hope now you see why you can’t get Alfredo sauce in a jar. It takes dried pasta to create it. That icky stuff in the jar is usually made (and I’ve seen restaurants do this as well) with a butter and flour roux as a thickener. That pasty flour taste just does not belong in there.

Another major error I’ve seen is the use of garlic. Some chefs mistakenly think that tossing garlic into a recipe makes it more authentically Italian. Wrong! There’s no place for garlic in a butter and cream sauce.

Are you ever going to use “Alfredo Sauce” from a jar again?

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Click the pic and go straight to this Amazon listing

 

Welsh Rarebit

There are a few special recipes to consider now that the fall and winter seasons are coming upon us. One of those recipes is Welsh Rarebit. I love English “Pub Grub” comfort foods and a well prepared Welsh Rarebit soothes and relaxes like few others dishes can do, especially on a cold day.

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Ingredients:

2 Tablespoons of Room Temperature Butter

2 Tablespoons of All Purpose flour

1 Teaspoon of Mustard (use your favorite spicy brown, Dijon, whatever)

1 Teaspoon of Worcestershire Sauce

½ Teaspoon each of Salt and Pepper

½ Cup of Dark Beer (Aficionados of this dish love to use a porter, but I prefer Shiner Bock)

¾ Heavy Cream or Half n’ Half

6 Oz. Shredded Cheddar Cheese (do not use aged cheese)

8 Slices of bread (I prefer seedless rye)

Step 1:  In a 2 quart pot, melt the butter and stir in the flour to make a roux. Let the roux cook for at least 1 – 2 minutes. Remember, you can’t put cold butter into a hot pan. It will turn brown and nasty in seconds. It’s better to use room temperature butter and melt it over medium heat.

Step 2: Add the beer. The beer will cool off the pot, which will allow you to add the cream without shocking it. Go ahead and add the cream and all other ingredients except the cheese

Step 3: When the mixture has heated (not boiling) you can add the cheese and stir. The cheese will melt and absorb the liquid creating a silky smooth cheese sauce. If you let this mixture boil (or used aged cheddar) the sauce will be gritty instead of smooth and creamy.

This is also a good time to toast your bread.

Step 4: Move an oven rack to the highest position and turn on your broiler. Spoon the cheese sauce over each toasted slice. I like to put my slices of bread on a cookie sheet. Watch as the cheese starts to bubble and create a brown crust. It can go from golden brown goodness to black burnt yuck very quickly. Have your oven mitts ready to remove the cookie sheet instantly.

Step 5: Eat and enjoy. It washes down especially well with the same beer that you used to make the sauce.

I could not get my hands on a bakery quality loaf of seedless rye bread and had to opt for a country white loaf as evidenced by the photo. It was still quite yummy, and so was the beer.

Is your recipe different? Let me know how this came out.

Pasta Carbonara

This is the dish that can make chefs scream at each other. The original recipe has come a long way and has gone through many adaptations in different regions in Italy and since crossing the Atlantic, gracing the menus of Italian restaurants and trattorias in America. I can hear some of the purists already screaming at me because my first ingredient is pasta. Just to be clear, I’m not specifically calling for spaghetti. I prefer fettuccine nests.

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1 lb. of pasta (use a long pasta that needs to be twirled)

½ – 1 cup of grated parmigiano cheese (the amount of cheese depends on your taste)

4 eggs

½ onion, finely chopped (most recipes don’t call for onion, but I love it)

1 tablespoon of garlic

¼ pound of ham* (optional)

10 slices of thick-cut bacon**

A handful of frozen peas (optional)

3 tablespoons of heavy cream or half-and-half (optional)

 

*I buy a quarter pound of ham at the deli counter and ask for it as one thick slice.

** Guanciale, pancetta, or bacon? Use whatever pleases you or what is available.  If you’re using bacon from the supermarket, make sure it’s plain bacon. Don’t use anything like Apple Hickory smoked or other flavorings.

Step 1: Bring the water to a boil and add the pasta and salt as per the box directions.

Step 2: While the water is waiting to boil, cook your bacon and drain on a paper towel. Retain 3 tablespoons of the drippings.  Dice the bacon.

Step 3: Cook the onions in the bacon drippings. Add the ham, garlic, bacon and peas to the pan after the onions are cooked.

Step 4: Beat the eggs and add the cheese and cream. You can also temper the eggs with 4 tablespoons of the pasta water.

Step 5: Drain pasta. Add it to the skillet and toss for a minute. Remove from heat, add the egg mixture a little at a time, and keep tossing the pasta.

Removing the pan from the heat is critical. You don’t want the egg to scramble. This can also happen if you add all of the egg mixture at once.

Step 6: There is no step 6. Bring that pasta to the table and eat it while it’s hot. Enjoy!

Cream of Tomato Soup and Sandwiches

One of the fringe benefits of having an Italian ancestry is never developing a taste for instant food. A side benefit of being an Indie Author is to be able to write about the wonders of the Italian kitchen.

Ingredients for the soup

10 plum or 5 beefsteak tomatoes

2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil

3 Tablespoons of Olive Oil

1 large onion

1 carrot

3 Cups chicken or vegetable stock (never beef)

1 Tablespoon fresh thyme*

1 cup of cream

Salt & Pepper to taste

* Dried thyme is potent so be careful if you substitute. Just add a pinch and adjust as necessary.

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Step 1: Quarter the tomatoes and remove the seeds. Toss the tomatoes in olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place in a 325 degree oven for 20-25 minutes.

Step 2: Heat the 3 Tablespoons of olive oil in your soup pot and cook the carrot and onion.

Step 3: When the onion and carrot are soft (not browned), add the stock and thyme.

Step 4: Add the roasted tomatoes, and any other juices into soup pot. Let the flavors mingle for a minute or two, then blend (use a blender, food processor, or immersion blender) to a fine consistency.

*Steps 1-4 can be done ahead of time.

Step 5: Bring the soup back to a simmer. Remove from heat and add the cream. Return to heat to keep warm until serving

This should yield 4 crocs of soup.

Ingredients for the Mushroom and Fontina Sandwiches

2 Tablespoons of olive oil

1 Pat of butter

2 Tablespoons of melted butter

½ pound of mushrooms

1 teaspoon of sage

Sliced bread

½ cup grated fontina cheese

Salt & Pepper to taste

Step 1: Slice the mushrooms* and sautée in the olive oil, pat of butter, sage, and salt and pepper until brown.

Step 2: Brush the bread olive oil and melted butter and toast in a dry pan. Remove and brush the untoasted side.

Step 3: Build the sandwich with the mushrooms and grated fontina cheese. Place the sandwiches into the dry pan to toast the outside and melt the cheese in the same process. You can press the sandwiches a bit with a metal spatula

*Remember to either rinse or clean the mushrooms with a tea towel.

Final Step: Buon Apetitto!

Got My Eye on a Shepherd’s Pie

Pining for a cozy cottage with a warm fire in the English countryside? I don’t have one either, but this recipe helps me dream about it.

 

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Ingredients for the meat filling:

1 cup of small diced onion

½ cup of carrot (peel, chop, two or three pulses in a food processor)

½ cup of celery (peel, chop, two or three pulses in a food processor)

1 pound of ground beef or lamb (or a combo of both)

3 tablespoons of oil (I prefer olive oil…feel free to use your favorite)

2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon of salt

½ teaspoon of black pepper

1 teaspoon of tomato paste

1 cup of beef stock (use chicken or vegetable if preferred)

½ teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce

½ teaspoon of Jugo or Bovril (beef flavor booster)

Cheddar cheese (optional – as much as you want)

Ingredients for the Mashed Potatoes:

1 ½ pound of russet potatoes

¼ cup of heavy cream, Half n’ Half, or milk

½ teaspoon of salt

¼ teaspoon of white pepper

2 tablespoons of butter

Step 1. Heat the oil in a large skillet or a large cast iron frying pan (the best). Put the carrot in first because it takes longer to cook.  After 3 minutes, add the onion and celery, and cook until the onions start to look soft and translucent.

Step 2. Start heating a second large skillet OR transfer the vegetables to a soup bowl.

Place the beef or lamb into the hot skillet and let it cook. It’s best to leave meat alone for 2-3 minutes before turning or moving it around. You want to get some color on it. If you have large clumps of meat, break it up. Once the meat is cooked, add the veggies back into the skillet.

Mix the meat and veggies together and then sprinkle in the flour. Mix and leave it for at least one minute.  The flour has to toast or else the finished pie will have a pasty raw dough taste.

Step 3. Add in the rest of the ingredients (except the cheese), bring to a boil and simmer for at least 10-15 minutes.

Step 4. Peel and quarter the potatoes and bring to a boil until fork tender.

Step 5. Bring the butter and cream to room temperature (microwave if needed).

Step 6. Drain potatoes and mash (I use a ricer).

Step 7. Add the butter, cream, salt, and pepper to the potatoes and beat with a hand mixer.

 

Putting it All Together:

I prefer to make individual servings. Spoon the meat mixture into a single-serving croc until its half-full. Then place the mashed potatoes on top.  Don’t press the potato into the meat mixture; you want it to float on top, creating two distinct layers. Use a rubber spatula to create a potato seal around the edges.

If you’re ready to eat right away, preheat your oven to 325 and place the crocs on the middle rack for 20 minutes. If you’re going to use the cheddar cheese, place it on top of each croc for the last 5 minutes of baking.  If you’re not hungry yet, the crocs can go into the fridge instead, ready to be heated up whenever you like.

Yield: 4 servings

Pasta, Grandma’s Way

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Ciao amici! I know there are as many different versions of tomato sauce as there are households in Italy, so here’s mine. It was handed down from my grandmother, who was raised on a farm south of Rome.  Meatballs, of course, constitute another blog post; it’s coming soon.

 

Ingredients for Tomato Sauce:

2 medium onions

2 12oz. cans of crushed tomatoes

1 head of garlic

½ cup of extra virgin olive oil

2 cups of soup stock (chicken, beef, or vegetable)

1 tablespoon of tomato paste

¼ cup of red wine (not a cooking wine – choose something you would drink)

1 tablespoon of butter

1 tablespoon of flour

salt and pepper to taste

1 pound of dried pasta (I’m a Barilla fan, but use whatever you prefer)

 

Step 1. Peel the garlic and dice the onions. Pour the olive oil into a pot over medium heat. Then put the garlic in right away. The oil doesn’t have to be hot yet, because you don’t want to cook garlic over high heat. When the garlic is golden -not brown – remove it and set it aside.

Step 2. Put the onions in the pot and cook for 5 minutes, or until they are soft and translucent. Then put in the tomato paste and wine. Once the tomato paste has spread throughout the mixture, it’s time to deal with the garlic again. Squeeze the cooked and softened garlic through a garlic press, and add the crushed tomatoes and stock.

Step 3. Turn the heat two notches below medium.  Cover the pot, leaving the cover slightly askew. Let the sauce bubble and simmer for about twenty minutes, stirring every five minutes.

Step 4. In a small skillet or frying pan, melt the butter and add the flour. Let it cook until it has an almond or beige color. Now you have a roux.  Remove it from the heat.

Step 5. Put 5 ladles of sauce into a blender and blend until smooth. Empty the blender into a second large pot.  Repeat until all of the sauce has been transferred.

Step 6. Now that your original pot is empty, pour the roux into the pot, along with three ladles of the now-smooth sauce. Beat the mixture with a wire whisk, hand-held mixer or immersion blender.

Step 7. Once the roux has been completely blended into the sauce, put all of the sauce back into the original pot. Salt and pepper to taste, and let it simmer until the pasta is ready.

Step 8. Make your pasta according to the directions on the box. Remember to salt the water after the pasta has been placed into the boiling water.

Step 9. Enjoy!

Yes, this is a lot of sauce.  However, you can freeze it in Tupperware for up to 60 days.  Think of all the great dinners you can get out of this!  Eggplant and chicken parmigiana, ziti, lasagna, manicotti….ok I gotta go. I’m hungry.

French Onion Soup

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Men, this is the perfect dish to make on a cold night for that special someone in your life.  Not only will she be impressed by your culinary abilities, but she’ll be pleasantly amazed at how thoughtful you are.

Ingredients:

2 large onions (I prefer Red Bermuda onions)

3 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 clove of garlic

1 tablespoon of all-purpose flour

6 cups of beef stock (NOT a bouillon or broth.  Try Swanson or Knorr Beef Stock.)

1 bay leaf

¼ teaspoon dried thyme

Slices of French bread

Grated Gruyere or Baby Swiss (Do not use a cheese that is aged or sharp)

1 teaspoon of sherry (optional)

salt and pepper

Step 1. Peel and French cut the onions (for instructions, try here). They should be thin.  If the onions are large, quarter them.

Step 2. Melt the butter in the soup pot, along with the olive oil.  (TIP: Do not put cold butter into a scalding hot pot. Let the butter come to room temperature and keep the pot on medium heat.)

Step 3. Add the onions and toss in the hot butter and oil. When the onions turn translucent, spread them to the outer part of the soup pot leaving the center clear. Place the pot on a small back burner on the lowest setting. Cover and forget it for 45 minutes. This process is called “sweating,” and after 45 minutes the onions will be soft and limp. (ATTN: Men! Fear not. It’s perfectly ok to want onions to be soft & limp.)

Step 4: Put the pot back onto a regular burner at medium heat and add the flour. The flour will absorb the oils and start to darken. It only takes a minute or two for the flour to cook.

Step 5: Add the beef stock, thyme, bay leaf, and sherry (optional) and bring to a boil for ten minutes. This is a good time to lightly toast the French bread.

Step 6: Add salt and pepper to taste.

Step 7: Find that bay leaf and discard it.

Step 8: Fill two soup crocks with the onion soup. Cut a slice of French bread to size, place on top and cover with cheese. Place the crocks into a 350 degree oven. Once the cheese melts, turn on the broiler for a few minutes to make the cheese a little brown on top.  And it’s done.

Step 9: Cuddle up on the couch with the soup and a good romantic movie. (Tip: Try “Love Actually”)

Step 10: Prepare a candlelight bubble bath.

Step 11: If you need more instructions at this point, seek professional assistance.

Enjoy!

Onions 101

Many entrée recipes call for onions, from ordinary Country Stew to Chinese Fried Rice. If you don’t know how to properly handle this versatile little bulb, you’re in trouble.  But the steps below will help you out.

First you’ll have to go to the kitchen. You can do it! You’ve been in there before to grab a beer or to see if there are any potato chips left. Get an onion from the fridge – an onion is the round white thing that looks like a baseball without seams – and get ready to begin.

Dicing

  1. Put the onion on a cutting board.  Your wife or landlord won’t thank you for cutting up the counter top.
  2. Slice the onion in half lengthwise. Cut off the top, but not the bottom fuzzy part. Peel it and your onion should look like the one in the picture.
  3. First cuts:  On the same plane as your original cut make two more cuts from top to bottom, but don’t slice all the way through.  Now your half onion has been divided into thirds, but is still held together.
  4. Second cuts:  Now make cuts perpendicular to the first ones – take a look at the picture. These cuts (along with the next ones) will determine the size of your dice.

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5.  Third cuts:  Turn the onion ninety degrees.  You took off the top before, and now you’ll continue from that point and cut from top
to bottom.  Basically you’ve just cut a grid into the onion.

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6.  The result will be fine diced onion bits, ready for cooking.
7.  This technique can also be used on shallots and garlic.

For a French Cut

  1. Slice the onion in half lengthwise. Cut off the top AND the bottom fuzzy part.
  2. Peel and slice from top to bottom, just like the Third Cuts in the Dicing technique. You should wind up with half-circles (perfect for French Onion Soup).

Food Processors

Never, ever use a food processor to dice an onion!  The cell walls of the onion break down too much, resulting in a mush that tastes terrible when cooked.

Tools

This is going to be a painful and frustrating experience with a dull knife, so you’ll need a sharpener handy. But you don’t need an expensive electronic gizmo; hand sharpeners sell for around ten dollars. That’s right men, there are tools in the kitchen! Therefore, it is a manly domain (I can hear some of you grunting like Tim Allen on Tool Time).

In my next installment we’ll use these techniques to make a French Onion Soup that’s guaranteed to make the woman in your life purr.

Hope this helped your onion skills.  Try it out, and feel free to leave a comment letting me know how it worked for you.  Good luck!