Tuesday, February 16, 2010

French Onion Soup

I am fortunate to be sitting under sunny skies here in Southern California, no doubt about it. For my friends and family back East who are exhausted from battling the snow and cold temps, this soup could be a bright, warm beacon on a cold snowy night! Combine this with a piece of skirt steak seared to a perfect medium, a big green salad and a bottle of good red wine for a French Bistro meal right in your own home. I hope you like my own version of traditional French Onion soup!

French Onion Soup
serves 4

4 large sweet onions, halved and thinly sliced

1/4 cup butter

3/4 cup cognac or brandy
1 1/2 cups dry white wine

6 cups chicken broth

2 packets beef bouillon (I use all-natural liquid concentrate; available at Whole Foods Market & Trader Joe's)

salt and pepper to taste

crusty baguette, sliced
Gruyere cheese, grated

In a large, heavy bottom pot, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté, stirring frequently, until the onions start to caramelize and are a nice golden brown (about 20 – 25 minutes). Deglaze the pan with the Cognac and simmer uncovered for 5 minutes. Add the wine and continue simmering 10-15 minutes more. Add the stock and beef bouillon. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 25 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

While the soup cooks, toast 8 – 12 slices of baguette in the oven and set aside.

Ladle soup into 4 oven-safe bowls, placed on a baking sheet. Top each bowl with 2 – 3 toasted baguette slices and a handful of grated Gruyere. Place the bowls under the broiler just until the cheese starts to bubble and brown (3 –4 minutes).
Serve immediately.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Goat Cheese, Onion & Tomato Tart

Well, it has been much longer than I would like since I last posted an update. The last few weeks have gotten away from me — I can hardly believe it is February 2010! Where does the time go? I have been keeping busy and of course spending some time in the kitchen. One of my latest favorites is a tart I made using a sheet of puff pastry topped with fresh tomatoes, goat cheese and caramelized onions. This would make a nice addition to your menu for the big game on Sunday!

Goat Cheese, Onion & Tomato Tart

1 sheet of puff pastry (9x9), defrosted
1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons dry white wine
5 ounces plain goat cheese
6 small (golf ball size) tomatoes on the vine, cut in half
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1/2 cup of Parmesan or Romano cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler, plus 1/3 cup grated
olive oil
sea salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425º. Lightly oil a baking sheet. Unfold the puff pastry onto the baking sheet, pressing the folds together gently. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and sautée for 15 – 20 minutes, until almost all the moisture is gone from the pan. Add the white wine and season with salt, pepper and thyme. Continue cooking until the onions are brown and caramelized (about 10 minutes). Remove from heat and allow to rest in the pan.

With the tip of a sharp knife, score the pastry dough all around about 1/4 inch in from the edge. Be sure not to cut all the way through. Pierce the dough inside of the score lines multiple times with the tines of a fork as you would a pie crust.

Sprinkle grated cheese over the dough and then cover with onions, staying within the scored border. Next, crumble the goat cheese over the onions and add the halved tomatoes. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and spread the shaved Parmesan over the top. Bake for 25–30 minutes, until the pastry is a nice golden brown. Add a sprinkling of thyme, cut into squares and serve.