Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve been having a proper Minnesota winter. More often than not the highs were topping out in the single digits with wind chills hovering around -15 degrees Farenheit. If you’ve ever lived in this climate, you know how appealing a piping hot bowl of soup can be. In the middle of this cold snap, our friend Ring came over for a visit and I decided to make some homemade french onion soup.
This is yet another example of the necessity to properly read through the recipe and plan accordingly. The first night I ended up staying awake until one in the morning cooking the onions. Not the best thought out plan. Of course, the other option was to be eating at 10 p.m. the next night. But, I digress.
The recipe I used is from the 9th season of America’s Test Kitchen.
Ingredients – Soup
- 3 Tbs Unsalted Butter, cut into 3 pieces
- 6 large Yello Onions (approx. 4 lbs), halved and cut into 1/4″ slices
- 2 C Water, plus extra for deglazing
- 1/2 C Dry Sherry
- 4 C low-sodium Chicken Broth
- 2 C Beef Broth
- 6 sprigs Fresh Thyme, tied with kitchen twine (I just used a heaping Tbs of dried)
- 1 Bay Leaf
- Black Pepper
Ingredients – Cheese Croutons
- 1 small Baguette, cut into 1/2″ slices
- 8 oz shredded Gruyère Cheese (approx 2 1/2 C) (I used Mozzarella because I’m too cheap to drop $20 on cheese for one recipe)
For the Soup: Adjust the oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Generously spray the inside of a heavy-bottomed pot (at least 7 quart) with nonstick cooking spray. Place the butter in the pot and add the onions and 1 tsp salt. Cover, and cook for 1 hour. The onions will be moist and slightly reduced in volume. Remove the pot from the oven and stir, scraping the bottom and sides. Return the pot to the oven with the lid slightly ajar. Continue to cook the onions until they are very soft and golden brown. This will take 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours longer. At the 1 hour mark, stir the onions and scrape the bottom and sides again.
(This is a good stopping point if you want to split up the cooking. Just let the pot cool and stick it in the fridge till you are ready to get back to the cooking.)
Carefully remove the pot from the oven and place it over medium-high heat. Using oven mitts to handle the pot, cook the onions, stirring frequently and scraping the bottom and sides of the pot until the liquid evaporates and the onions brown, approx. 15 to 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium if the onions are browning too quickly. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the bottom of the pot is coated with a dark crust, approx. 6 to 8 minutes, adjusting the heat as necessary. Stir in 1/4 C of water, scraping the bottom to loosen the crust. Cook until the water evaporates and another dark crust forms. Repeat the deglazing 2 or 3 more times until the onions are very dark brown. Stir in the sherry and cook, stirring frequently, until the sherry evaporates, approx. 5 minutes.
Stir in the broths, 2 C of water, thyme, bay leaf, and 1/2 tsp salt. Scrape up any final bits of browned crust on the bottom and sides of the pot. Increase the heat to high and bring up to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove and discard the herbs. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
For the Croutons: While the soup simmers, arrange the baguette slices in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake in a 400 degree F oven until the bread is dry, crisp, and golden at the edges, approx. 10 minutes
To Serve: Adjust the oven rack to 6″ from the broiler and heat the broiler. Set individual broiler-safe crocks on a baking sheet and fill each with 1 3/4 C soup. Top each bowl with 1 or 2 baguette slices (don’t overlap) and sprinkle evenly with the cheese. Broil until the cheese is melted and bubbly around the edges, approx. 3 to 5 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.
From start to finish, this recipe took me around five and a half hours to complete. Granted, half of that time was waiting for the onions to brown in the oven, so it was time-consuming, but not very labor intensive. Just make sure you give yourself a nice big block of time when you plan on cooking this.
Ring gave me crap about not properly melting the cheese on top, but my feelings would have been hurt otherwise. Lindz said that this even surpassed the french onion soup at one of the restaurants where she used to work, which previously was her favorite. Score one for the TJ! For a relatively short list of ingredients, I thought that this method gave a nice depth to the flavor of the soup.
The one non-seafood meal (other than lunch / snacks) that I planned for the trip was one that had caught my eye about a week before we took off East. I had a hard time believing that I could be led astray with chicken, sage, and prosciutto. Not surprisingly, I found the recipe in my copy of the America’s Test Kitchen cookbook. Yup. Love that cookbook.
- 1/2 C unbleached AP Flour
- Ground Black Pepper
- 8 thin-cut, boneless, skinless chicken cutlets (about 2 lbs), trimmed of ragged edges
- 1 Tbs minced fresh Sage leaves, plus 8 large leaves
- 8 thin slices of Prosciutto, cut into 5″ to 6″ long pieces to match chicken (about 3 oz)
- 4 Tbs Olive Oil
- 1 1/4 C White Wine
- 2 tsp Lemon Juice
- 4 Tbs Unsalted Butter, cut into 4 pieces and chilled
- 1 Tbs minced fresh Parsley Leaves
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat to 200 degrees. Combine flour and 1 teaspoon pepper in a shallow dish.
Pat the cutlets dry with paper towels.
Dredge the chicken in the flour and shake off any excess. Lay the cutlets flat and sprinkle evenly with the minced sage. Place one slice of prosciutto on top of each cutlet, pressing lightly to adhere and set aside.
Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat until it begins to shimmer. Add the sage leaves to the skillet and cook until the leaves begin to change color and are fragrant, about 15 to 20 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, remove the sage to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside. Add half of the cutlets to the pan, prosciutto-side down, and cook until light golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip and cook on the other side until golden brown, about 2 minutes more. Transfer the chicken to a wire rack (set on a rimmed baking sheet) and keep it warm in the oven. Repeat with the two remaining tablespoons of oil and cutlets. Transfer these to the oven as well to keep warm while preparing the sauce.
Pour off the excess fat from the skillet and stir in the white wine, scraping up the fond. Simmer until it reduces to about 1/3 cup, about 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice and turn the heat to low and whisk in the butter, one tablespoon at a time. Off heat, stir in the parsley and season with the salt and pepper. Remove the chicken from the oven and place on a platter. Spoon the sauce over the cutlets before serving.
The one glaring mistake that I made was using too much sage. While in the process of making it, I knew I was using far more than the recipe called for, but I went ahead with it because I bought a package of fresh sage specifically for it. The other option was to throw it away. I should have went with my first instinct and follow the recipe. Other than that, I think it turned out really well. With the cost of ingredients, I’m not going to be making this all the time, but I would like to make it again in the near future. Using the proper amount of sage, of course.
. . . to bring you this breaking news story.
I just signed up to be a recipe tester for Cook’s Illustrated. They are going to e-mail me a recipe every so often, I’ll make it and then fill out a short survey afterwards. I’m excited about this because I’ve always thought it would be a blast to work for the America’s Test Kitchen company. At this point in my culinary adventures, I’m more than happy to be connected on a voluntary basis. Will keep you updated as things progress.