Sunday, February 22, 2009

Jamie Oliver's English Onion Soup with Cheddar

Go ahead, accuse me of cookbook monotony. I know what you're thinking: Another Jamie Oliver recipe? After you just gave us one last week? Goodness gracious, woman, you haven't been blogging long enough to start so blatantly cooking from a single cookbook. What's the deal?

The deal, I tell you, is twofold:
1) There's only so much time a girl can spare for sifting for new recipes when the big thesis is due in T-minus 6 weeks.
2) Jamie at Home is that fantastic of a cookbook.

Plus, this recipe is all about slow cooking a variety of onions until they are soft and flavorful. I can't resist onions like this -- and, in my opinion, you should love slow-cooked caramelized onions, too -- so really, you have no legitimate reason to fault me for blogging this particular treat of a soup recipe today. None at all.

It's snowing here again. Silly Punxsatawney Phil and his ability to accurately predict more winter. Oh well; at least I've given you a hearty, tasty onion soup to brave the coming weeks.

English Onion Soup with Cheddar
adapted from Jamie at Home

olive oil
3 cloves garlic
2 red onions, sliced
2 large white onions, sliced
6 oz leeks, sliced
sea salt and ground pepper
1 qt beef stock
bread for croquettes
fresh grated Cheddar
Worcestershire sauce

Sweat the onion in a heavy-bottomed French oven in the butter and olive oil, with the herbs, salt and pepper, for 50 minutes with the lid barely ajar, then an additional 20 minutes uncovered. When the onions are right (soft and getting translucent but not really coloring too much), add the beef stock to the pot and bring it to a boil. Simmer 10 to 15 minutes.
Toast the bread, then use it as a lid for the bowled soup. Top the bread with a bit of Worcestershire and some grated Cheddar, then broil it (only if your soup bowls are broiler safe) until bubbling and golden.
Note: Jamie's recipe calls for shallots as well, but try as I might I can't find them at my Kroger. And I refuse to shop at WalMart. I'm sure the wonderful flavor of this soup would be even more complex with the shallots, so let me know if you use them!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Jamie Oliver's Pasta with Broccoli and Oozy Cheese Sauce

Happily, this week did not explode with sudden things to do like last week. In fact, I've been able to have a rather pleasant weekend after finishing more of my writing work on Friday than I had planned. I was even able to start reading a magazine over breakfast this morning. Can you believe it?

This past week has been utterly lovely -- my friend with red hair and I have been going on walks through some of the older neighborhoods in town, enjoying the unseasonably warm weather before it all turns to winter again this week. Nothing like a week's dose of sunshine to brighten early February.

Also, I made a really tasty meal on Monday. So tasty, in fact, that I knew right then and there, as it was sitting on the table, that I had happened upon this week's blog entry. I love when that happens on a Monday! It makes cooking the entire rest of the week seem so much more relaxed and enjoyable.

Like I said last week, I've been leafing through a tremendous Jamie Oliver cookbook. The recipes and their accompanying pictures are mouth-watering, and in particular one recipe has given me a hankering for some Pimm's. (I miss Scotland.)

But anyways, yes, this recipe. It's creamy. It's warm. It's got veg. It's wonderful. Enjoy.

Pasta with Broccoli and Oozy Cheese Sauce
adapted from Jamie at Home

1 c whole milk
8 oz grated/chopped fontina
2 oz grated Parmesan
sea salt and ground pepper
1 lb broccoli
2 large organic egg yolks
pasta to serve about 4 (I used about 1/2 lb)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Put the milk and cheeses, along with salt and pepper, in a double boiler to melt together.
When the cheese sauce is oozy, remove it from the double boiler. Dump the pasta and broccoli into the boiling water and cook until done, 2-3 minutes (longer depending upon your choice of pasta).
Whip the egg yolks into the cheese sauce. Drain the pasta and broccoli, reserving a bit of the cooking water in case the sauce is too thin. Mix the pasta and broccoli into the sauce and stir. Top with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil if you like, then serve.
Note: The original recipe calls for creme fraiche, not whole milk, and purple sprouting broccoli, no regular green broccoli, but I've never been able to find either of those ingredients in the US, let alone here in Greencastle. Also, Oliver suggests 5 oz fontina and 5 oz Parmesan; I just used what I had on hand to make up the 10 oz of cheese.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Don't Start Preheating Your Oven...

...because I have nothing tasty to offer you today. The insanity that is the beginning of a semester has kept me from any significant kitchen escapades this past week. Sure, I made things to eat. But all of those meals, unfortunately for you readers, were either straight-from-the-refrigerator salami-and-string-cheese plates or heat-and-microwave V8 soup with a pita-style grilled cheese. Satisfies the hunger, sure, but nothin' special.

I promise to try my darnedest to make something tasty to share with you next Sunday. It shouldn't be too hard, considering I've been perusing an absolutely lovely Jamie Oliver cookbook. But who knows if this week will explode like the last. Oh, senior year deadlines.

I will leave you with a picture, though. I saw this truck with a message written in the wintry dirt on the back of its trailer. It made me smile, because I happen to believe that the message is true.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Beef Stew for a Snowstorm

I've had an interesting relationship with beef stew. I only remember my mom making it for family dinners starting in high school, so in a way it's a relatively new food for me. Make it she did, though, and I got burned out on it after a while to the point where I never requested it as one of my home-from-college meals. As far as I was concerned, my family could indulge their beef stew tastes while I was away at school. And for a while they did.

Then, camp. Have I told you yet that I spent two of my summers in college working at my childhood summer camp? It was wonderful. And there was campfire food. Somehow, everything tastes better cooked over a campfire. Everything like beef stew from an industrial-sized food services can.

Once a week for ten weeks each summer I went on a campout with my cabin, and we cooked pudgie pies and beef stew over the fire for dinner. I think the combination of wood smoke and little burned bits from the bottom of the pan made this particular beef stew out of this world. I loved it. I hope I didn't hurt my mom's feelings too much when I said I loved camp's beef stew and she pointed out that I wouldn't eat hers anymore.

I didn't work at camp last summer, and let me tell you, I've sorely missed my beef stew. I decided that, in conjunction with my thesis (which is currently killing my spirit, if you were interested in an update), I would give myself the task of finding a recipe for homemade beef stew that I liked as much (or almost as much) as I liked camp beef stew. I like to give myself projects, especially ones that reap tasty rewards.

So last semester I tried out the New Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book recipe for beef stew in a crock pot. It was mediocre, especially when compared to my standard of perfection. Unimpressed, I froze the other half of my beef stew meat and stored away the rest of my vegetable juice to await a more inspiring recipe.

Then came the snow.

My car is still under a foot of snow, and surrounded by a foot of snow on all sides for at least a four foot perimeter, so needless to say I haven't gone anywhere for a while, let along the grocery store. So, one day last week, my plans to await a better beef stew recipe were cast aside. I was cold and hungry and living off my reserves (of which I have plenty, but right now a lot of them are cold foods). Beef stew it would be.

I e-mailed my mom for her beef stew recipe, which I doctored a bit based on my preferences and pantry contents. I left out carrots because I don't like them; I substituted her tomato juice for my vegetable juice; I added a few spices. Turns out, that made all the difference. While this beef stew wasn't the same as the one I remember from camp, it was just as good and hit the spot wonderfully. I will most definitely be making it again. Thanks, Mom.

Beef Stew
adapted from Mary Koester

beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 onion, cut into wedges
potatoes, peeled and chunked
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
3 5.5-oz V8 Low Sodium Vegetable Juice
spices to suit your tastes (I used The Spice House's Old World Central Street)

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Pour enough of the vegetable juice to coat the bottom of a heavy-bottomed French oven, like a Le Creuset. Put the meat in next, followed by the onion wedges and potato chunks. Sprinkle the salt and sugar over the top, then cover with the rest of the vegetable juice, trying to wet all of the ingredients. Sprinkle as much of your preferred spices as you'd like. Cover the pot tightly and cook in the oven for 4 hours.