I’m trying to clean up my folders and I ran across a bunch of humorous memes and one pic.
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.
Due to a screw-up in the work schedule, we ended up with a couple of unexpected days off this past week. What does one do in Minnesota in the middle of winter when it’s 15 degrees out and a wind chill of 5? Go ice-fishing, of course.
My boss (Steve), a co-worker (Clint), and I decided that we needed to go sit on some ice for a day and see what happened. Since the St. Croix River is only a handful of miles from Steve’s place, it made sense to find a spot right off of Bayport. Clint, being an avid fisherman, knew the area pretty well, so that sealed the deal.
Clint and I started the day on the Wisconsin side of the river, but we had absolutely no luck. By the time Steve showed up, we were desperate and ready to move. So we called our friend Matt (a fanatical fisherman) to see where we should go. The short of it was we were on the wrong side. We were good on the north and south, we just needed to be on the west bank instead of the east. In fact, even before I got my line in the water, Clint pulled up the first fish of the day: a nice sized smallmouth bass.
Of course this got everyone excited, and in fishing terms means that we didn’t see another fish for an hour.
After a few beers, one feels nature’s call. Basically, as soon as I was indisposed, both Clint and Steve reeled in a nice crappie each. While excited that we finally got more fish, I was beginning to feel left out.
After several fish nudging my bait, but never taking it, one finally started pulling on the line. I quickly set the hook and started cranking it in. Everyone was confused as my “catch” came up to the hole. Once it popped out, there really wasn’t any less confusion. Then it slowly dawned on all of us that I just pulled up a mudpuppy. Or in slightly more scientific terms an aquatic salamander. Considering that a large one will measure 13″ to 16″, the 10″ one I caught at least was decent sized.
So, not only did I get dubbed with the “good luck leak” moniker, I also got the “ugliest fish” award. But as Steve pointed out, I didn’t get skunked.
I did sort of redeem myself later when I pulled in a big crappie on Steve’s line, but it still felt a little bittersweet.
All in all, it was a decent trip. Spent some relaxing BS time with my co-workers, got out and enjoyed nature, and even brought home a couple of fish for supper. The grand total for the day was 2 smallmouth bass, 4 crappies, and a mudpuppy that got thrown back.
Oh, and by the way, the crappies were quite tasty. I just gutted, beheaded, and scaled them before throwing them in a pan of hot oil. They didn’t even need any seasoning. Although I probably would have been better off filleting them, but I didn’t have the energy to do it. I’ll consider it for the next time.