Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Mastering the Art of French Cooking: Soupe à l’Oignon Gratinée (Onion Soup Gratinéed with Cheese)



I was really excited to try this recipe. Who wouldn't be? French onion soup is everywhere, most of it bad, so I wanted to try the authentic article.  I did veer away from Julia's recipe in just one respect. When making the bread and cheese crouton toppers for the individual soups, I used Gruyére cheese instead of Swiss or Parmesan. I seem to remember reading somewhere that it's really good on onion soup, and plus, doesn't it still count as a Swiss cheese?

The result of my efforts was an incredibly rich and hearty soup, perfect for a winter's day. The onion were sweet, and the beef broth (yes, I used canned!) had picked up all the flavors, including the liquors. I was very impressed, and I think I'm ruined for this soup anywhere else.

Soupe à l’Oignon Gratinée (Onion Soup Gratinéed with Cheese)
Adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck

1½ pounds or about 5 cups of thinly sliced yellow onions
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon oil
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon sugar (helps the onions brown)
3 tablespoons flour
2 quarts boiling brown stock, canned beef bouillon, or 1 quart of boiling water and 1 quart of stock or bouillon
½ cup dry white wine or dry white vermouth
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons cognac
Rounds of hard-toasted French bread
1½ cups grated Swiss, or Swiss and Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil or melted butter

Cook the onions slowly with the butter and oil in a covered 4-quart saucepan for 15 minutes.  Uncover, raise heat to moderate, and stir in the salt and sugar.  Cook for 30 to 40 minutes stirring frequently, until the onions have turned an even, deep, golden brown.  Sprinkle in the flour and stir for 3 minutes.

Off heat, blend in the boiling liquid.  Add the wine, and season to taste.  Simmer partially covered for 30 to 40 minutes or more, skimming occasionally.  Correct seasoning.

Just before serving, stir in the cognac.  Preheat oven to 325°F.

Bring the soup to the boil and pour into soup pots.  Float the rounds of toast on top of the soup, and spread the grated cheese over it.  Sprinkle with the oil or butter.  Bake for 20 minutes in the oven, then set for a minute or two under a preheated broiler to brown the top slightly.  Serve immediately.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Vegetarian Times: Veggie Tamale Pie


I've been toying with the idea of vegetarianism.  I even went so far as to subscribe to a vegetarian cooking magazine.  To be honest, I'm not entirely sure I'll be able to commit for any length of time to giving up meat, but it certainly doesn't hurt to try and get some extra vegetables into your diet.  I deliberately picked a recipe that had tons of spices in it, because my one big fear is that eating vegetarian means eating without flavor, and that is certainly not going to happen, in this lifetime or any other.  This little tamale pie was actually pretty good, and I got a nice dose of zucchini that otherwise wouldn't have been part of the dish.

Veggie Tamale Pie
From Vegetarian Times magazine, January 2010

Topping
½ cup dry polenta or corn grits
¼ cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese

Filling
1½ teaspoons vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic, minced (1 tablespoon)
1 medium onion, diced (1 cup)
1 small zucchini, diced (½ cup)
½ medium red, yellow, or orange bell pepper, diced (½ cup)
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano (Mexican, if available)
1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14½-ounce) can tomato purée
½ cup frozen corn kernels
2 teaspoons brown rice flour

To make topping: Preheat oven to 375°F. Bring 2 cups water to a boil in saucepan. Stir in polenta, reduce heat to medium, and simmer 30 minutes, stirring often. Stir in cheese. Set aside.

To make filling: Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and onion, and cook 5 minutes. Add zucchini, bell pepper, chili powder, cumin, and oregano. Cook 5 minutes more.

Stir in beans, tomato purée, and corn. Mix rice flour with ¼ cup cold water; stir into zucchini mixture. Cook 3 minutes, or until mixture thickens slightly. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Spread filling into 8-inch square baking pan. Spread topping over filling. 

Place casserole on baking sheet. Bake 40 minutes, or until filling bubbles and top is golden. Let stand before serving.

Frozen cooking instructions: Preheat oven to 375°F. Cover casserole with foil, and place on baking sheet. Bake 90 minutes. Remove foil during last 15 minutes of baking.

Makes 6 servings

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Mastering the Art of French Cooking: Potage Parmentier (Leek and Potato Soup)



I decided to start trying some more recipes from the good old Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and since I’m not a big fan of soup, I figured I would start there.  Hey, if anyone is going to convince me to eat soup, it’s Julia.  Well, the soup was delicious, creamy and comforting in all its simplicity. And even though I have never had this soup before, it seemed somehow homey, like something you've had as a child.  Delicious.

Potage Parmentier (Leek and Potato Soup)
From Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck

3 to 4 cups or 1 pound peeled potatoes, sliced or diced
3 cups or 1 pound thinly sliced leeks including the tender green
2 quarts of water
1 tablespoon salt
4 to 6 tablespoons whipping cream or 2 to 3 tablespoons softened butter
2 to 3 tablespoons minced parsley or chives

Either simmer the vegetables, water, and salt together, partially covered, for 40 to 50 minutes until the vegetables are tender; or cook under 15 pounds pressure for 5 minutes, release pressure, and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes.

Mash the vegetables in the soup with a fork, or pass the soup through a food mill.  Correct seasoning.  Off heat and just before serving, stir in the cream or butter by spoonfuls.  Decorate with the herbs.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Truluck's: Texas Striped Bass Pontchartrain


Tonight my family went to Truluck's for some delicious seafood. Unfortunately, the crab was just a little bit too pricey for my taste. Lucky for me, the fish sounded fabulous. I choose the Texas Striped Bass Pontchartrain. This is a fried striped bass fillet topped with a spicy sauce made from shrimp, crawfish, and crab. The fish is served over crab fried rice. The dish was pretty spicy, but oh so rich and delicious.

Fish Pontchartrain
Inspired by Truluck's

2 (7-ounce) fish fillets (redfish or striped bass)
3 teaspoons blackening seasoning
2 tablespoons lemon garlic butter
4 ounces shrimp, peeled, deveined (size: 31/35)
2 ounces blue crab claw meat
2 ounces crawfish tails
6 ounces Pontchartrain Sauce
12 ounces cooked rice
2 lemon wedges
1 teaspoon chives, chopped
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Season redfish with blackening seasoning. Do not add additional salt or pepper.  Sear the redfish flesh side down on an extremely hot griddle or in a sauté pan.  When the fish is blackened, turn fillet over and turn off the heat. The carry over heat will continue cooking the fish.  Fry the fish until golden brown in oil or for about three and a half minutes.

In a sauté pan, heat lemon garlic butter. When hot, add the shrimp and cook until opaque and just under done or about two minutes. Add the crawfish, crab and heat thoroughly.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add the Pontchartrain sauce and mix well.

Place rice in the center of a hot plate.  Place the crusted fillet on top of the rice.  Pour the sauce, crab, crawfish and shrimp over the fried fish.  Garnish the plate with lemon wedges and chopped chives. Serve immediately.

*For Texas Stripped Bass Pontchartrain, coat bass fillets in grated Parmesan cheese and fry.

Pontchartrain Sauce
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 shallot, chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon garlic, minced, ends removed
3 ounces all-purpose flour
1 quart chicken stock
1 pound crab shells, roasted
6 quarts heavy cream
5 bay leaves
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons Zatarain’s creole mustard
2 tablespoons A1 steak sauce
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons basil, picked, chopped
2 tablespoons oregano, chopped
¼ cup green onions, chopped
1 teaspoon SwampFire seafood boil seasoning
1 teaspoon Louisiana hot sauce
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
2 tablespoons sea salt and black pepper mix

Sweat carrots, shallot, jalapeño, and garlic in melted butter until fragrant and soft.  Add flour to make a roux and cook until roux is red in color. Set aside.

In a different saucepan, bring chicken stock to a boil and add roasted crab shells.  Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes or until liquid is reduced by half.  Strain crab-chicken stock into the roux and whisk continuously.  Add the heavy cream and remaining ingredients. Simmer for twenty minutes.

Blend with an immersion blender until smooth and check for seasoning.  It is suggested to prepare sauce 24 hours prior to use.  Flavors will marry and intensify overnight.  When serving the Redfish Pontchartrain, squeeze one lemon wedge over the fish and sauce prior to serving to complete the sauce.