Tuesday, February 3, 2009

French Onion Souper Food

"Plums are the new super food!"
"Eating dirt is good for you!"
These were two top headlines on the news Monday morning. Great. What if you can't get to the super market for the latest uber fruit? What if the ground is so frozen you can't even scrape up a teaspoon of dirt?
Why not try a novel approach to nutrition...like cooking from your pantry?
How about French onion soup? How about freshly baked bread and melted cheese? How about red wine? (I actually think that is a super food, or drink, that is.)
Onions...the new fabulous February food! Find them in your pantry today!
As long as you have beef broth and onions, and possibly some brandy, you can pull it off. If you happen to have vermouth, all the better. The next time you go to town, pull into Kappy's and stock up on cognac, vermouth and lots of red wine. Then go to Shaw's or Stop and Shop and get a big bag of onions, a couple of boxes of beef broth, a bag of flour and some yeast. Don't forget to get some Gruyere or other sharp cheese that melts well. Continually keep all of these ingredients in stock until the sun shines, around July fourth. Don't worry, you won't notice that it has snowed for days if you keep enough red wine in your cabinet and in your glass.

French Onion Soup (adapted to serve 2-4 people from Julia Child's "The Way to Cook")
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 cups thinly sliced onion (about 4-6 onions)
1/4 teaspoon each salt and sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1 box beef broth (32 oz.), heated
4 tablespoons cognac
1/2 cup dry white French vermouth

Using a large sauce pan or pot, melt butter and olive oil on medium heat. Add the onions the cover and cook slowly until tender and translucent, about 10 minutes.
Blend in the salt and the sugar, raise heat to moderately high, and let the onions brown, stirring frequently until they are dark walnut color, 25-30 minutes.
Sprinkle with flour and cook slowly, stirring, for another 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat, let cool a moment, then whisk in 1/2 of beef broth. Blend well and bring to a simmer and add the rest of the broth, cognac and vermouth. Cover loosely and simmer slowly for 1 hour adding more liquid if necessary. Correct seasoning.

Herbed French Bread
(makes 2 loaves)
5 1/2 -6 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons yeast
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups warm water (115-120 degrees F)

Combine 2 cups flour, yeast, basil, thyme and salt in a stand mixer bowl. Add 2 cups warm water and beat at low speed for 1/2 minute. Beat at high speed for 3 minutes and stir in as much remaining flour as you can. Knead to stiff dough 8-10 minutes. Shape into ball. Place in greased bowl and turn to coat. Cover and let rise until double in size, about 1 hour.
Punch down and divide dough in half. Let rest 10 minutes. Roll out each piece to a rectangle, roll up and shape loaves, seal well.
Place formed loaves on a greased cookie sheet. Spray with water and sprinkle with cornmeal. Make diagonal cuts across the top of the loaves. Let rise until double, about 45 minutes.
Place a pan of water on the bottom shelf of the oven. Preheat to 375 degrees. Place bread on middle rack and bake for 40-45 minutes until loaves start to turn golden. Remove from oven to wire racks to cool.

To Make crostini:
Slice cooled bread on the diagonal. Brush slices with olive oil. Cover slice with grated cheese such as Gruyere and broil for 5 minutes in the oven. Serve on top of soup.

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