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Archive for December, 2011

French Onion Soup

Well, let’s call it Frenchish Onion Soup. Onion soup for sure. French? Eh. Not so sure about that.

As I’ve said, I eat a lot of soup. It works for two out of three meals. I wouldn’t really eat it for breakfast, but it’s done in some part of the worlds.

Because I make a lot of soup, I tend to make bigger batches so I’ll have something to take for lunch during the week. Not only do I spend a lot of time at my desk, but the only food options around my office are fast food, pretty much. While I enjoy the occasional drive-by burger and fries, it tends to just leave me feeling crappy and cranky. No one wants that.

Now where was I going with this?

Oh right. Soup. Soup.

So I make a lot of soup. And sometimes when I don’t feel like making anything, I open up the freezer to see AHHH, I DO have some forethought. I love it when I’m smart.

This was one of those times.

I don’t have the step by step photos. But you know what onion soup looks like. It’s brown and has onions in it. The best part about this dish? Well, aside from just pulling it from the freezer and thawing it … is that I made the croutons. Now don’t roll your eyes. I cut up a slice (or two?) of whole wheat bread, tossed them with some salt, pepper, Italian seasoning and olive oil then crisped them up in a skillet over medium(ish) heat. When one side is toasted, give it a flip and toast the other side. You could also do that in a toaster oven, or the real oven.

And the cheese? Well since you asked. That, my friends, is the Quattro Formaggio from Trader Joes. It’s quite possibly the best cheese in the world. And it also makes a great quesadilla. It melts, but not too much like, so it still has a little of that elasticity when you bite into it. MMM. I don’t eat quesadillas for breakfast either, but I could start. Cheese and tortilla. Yum.

Sorry, my mind wanders sometimes. Back to the soup. This soup is quick and simple. Butter, olive oil, onions, garlic. A little red wine, beef broth, salt, pepper and thyme, bay leaf. If you want, you can turn it into a French Dip sandwich in a bowl. I got that idea from Rachael Ray.  Cut up pieces of roast beef and toss into a bowl. Ladle on some onion soup. Top with toasted bread cubes and  cheese. Perfect. (You could also put the bread on the bottom, but it gets really soggy. If you put it on top, it won’t happen as quickly.

French Onion Soup

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 5 large onions, thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1 fresh bay leaves or 1 dried bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 6 cups beef stock

Optional:

  • 1/2 loaf crusty bread, torn into bite-size pieces and toasted
  • 1 lb deli-style roast beef, shredded
  • Quattro Formaggio (Trader Joe’s) or Provolone

Heat a deep pot over medium to medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and butter. When it’s hot, add the onions and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Add thyme and bay leaf. Cook the onions for 20-25 minutes, stirring frequently, until tender, sweet and deep caramel-colored. If the onions are burning in spots before browning all over, add a splash of water and stir every now and then, scraping the bottom of the pot.

Once the onions are tender and brown, add the wine and scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the pot. Add the beef stock and cover the pot to bring the soup up to a quick boil. Once the soup reaches a boil, remove the bay leaf and thyme sprigs. Ladle into bowls and enjoy! Or take a few extra steps and make this soup into an even more satisfying meal.

Optional: Place a few chunks of the toasted bread into each of four deep soup bowls or crocks and top the toast with a handful of the shredded roast beef.  Ladle soup into bowls to cover the roast beef. Top it off with grated cheese and enjoy!

— Adapted from Rachael Ray.

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Spago Fudgy Chocolate Cake

The first time I made this cake, I think, was for our housewarming party in 2002. Since then, it’s become David’s Official Birthday Cake or the more aptly titled Evil Birthday Bliss. He’s been known to talk dirty to this cake. One year I begged to not bake the birthday cake. I offered an ice cream cake, a cake from the Fancy French Bakery (not its real name). I kicked. I screamed. But no. It had to be this cake. I’m sure there was some whining from the kitchen that day.

I’ve since learned not to even ask. I just pull out all the equipment, measure, pour and mix and viola! An hour and a half later, this luscious beauty comes steaming from the oven. The drizzle, of course, comes after the cake has cooled.

This sinfully rich confection is a once-a-year treat. I’ve even “lightened” it up a little. Instead of all bittersweet chocolate, I use half bittersweet and half semisweet. Bake this evilness at your own risk because you will love yourself for how fabulous it tastes. But you will hate yourself if you eat too much of it. One bite too much and you’ll be on the express train from heaven to someplace not so nice, with a tummy ache.

This barely even resembles cake. Notice there are barely any crumbs here.

That’s because it doesn’t really crumb that much. It’s super moist and fudgy, held together by butter, melted chocolate and coffee. And a little flour for good measure. Its texture is how it got its real name, Fudgy Chocolate Cake. It’s from the Spago Chocolate cookbook.

I’ve flipped to that recipe so much that the book opens to it automatically. And now the page has even come out.

Here’s how they serve it in fancy Spago-ness…

But here’s how we serve it.

Add a little pshhhht. (What? You don’t call it that? That’s code for whipped cream from the can.) Or some vanilla ice cream. With the chocolatey cake and the extra rich ganache poured on top… You’ll need something a little lighter to accompany it. Unless you’re so awesome that you can take all that chocolate and still remain standing.

Tall glass of milk anyone?

Evil Birthday Bliss

Cake:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 ounces Ghiradelli bittersweet chocolate pieces
  • 6 ounces Ghiradelli semisweet chocolate pieces
  • 8 ounces unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 2 cups brewed coffee, cold
  • 3 tablespoons Kahlua (optional)

Glaze:

  • 4 ounces Ghiradelli bittersweet chocolate
  • 4 ounces Ghiradelli semisweet chocolate
  • 3 ounces unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/3 cup light corn syrup

Cake:

Preheat the oven to 325, making sure the rack is in the middle of the oven. Butter and flour (or use baking spray) on a 10-inch bundt pan, making sure you coat all the ridges and the center tube. If the pan doesn’t have a nonstick coating, dust it with flour. Set aside. (I’ve used a stoneware pan and a metal one. I like the metal one better for this cake. For some reason, it comes out taller. Maybe it needs to bake a little longer in the stoneware pan.)

Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In microwave-safe bowl, add the chocolate and butter. Microwave for 1 minute. Stir. Depending on how melted everything is, give it another 30 seconds or a minute. Then stir again. That’s all it should take. Don’t overheat it, or you’ll ruin the chocolate. If there are just a few bits remaining unmelted, stir and let it sit for a minute. It’ll continue to melt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl if you don’t have a stand mixer), whip the eggs. On low speed, gradually pour in the sugar and continue to beat until well incorporated, raising the speed when all the sugar has been incorporated. On low speed, scrape in  the chocolate mixture. Add vanilla and mix well.

Alternate adding the flour mixture and the coffee, starting and ending with the flour mixture (three additions of flour and two of the coffee). Do the additions on low speed then turn the speed a little higher. Not too high though, the batter is really thin and will splatter everywhere.  Stop the machine and scrape under the beater(s) to make sure everything gets mixed in. Add the Kahlua, if you’re using it. I use it if I have it, but it tastes just as good without.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, distributing it evenly around the pan. Tap the pan on the counter to level the batter. Bake for an hour, or until a cake tester comes out clean. (When you start smelling it, check on it. It takes 45 minutes in my oven in the metal pan.) Cool on a rack for 15 minutes, then invert onto a large plate to cool completely. Remember you’ll need room for the pools of glaze.

Glaze:

When the cake is cooled, prepare the glaze.

In a microwave-safe bowl, combine the chocolate and butter. Microwave for 1 minute, then stir. Microwave another 30 seconds if needed, then stir. If it’s not mostly melted,  give it another few seconds. But if just small bits, remain stir and just give it a moment to melt on its own.

When everything’s melted, whisk in the corn syrup until smooth. Pour through a fine mesh strainer into a clean medium bowl and reserve, covered, in a warm spot until needed.

— Adapted from “Spago Chocolate.” The cake’s real name is Fudgy Chocolate Cake.

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