Bowls, Books & Buffy
Souptober is off to a rousing start. And by rousing, I mean liquid. A liquidy start. That’s good, right?
Pictured above is an original creation focusing on roasted sweet italian red peppers, keilbasa and pureed black and pinto beans. Want another one? Fine. Need the recipe? Email me.
Soups are a blast, but I'm going to be honest - a burger is already sounding really, really amazing. The fun part of this is that I can eat whatever the heck I want though, as long as I incorporate it into a soup somehow. I’m pretty sure that I could rock a cheeseburger soup. Stay tuned for that.
By the way, Portland's weather is NOT cooperating in my welcoming celebration of the new season. It stubbornly insists on staying firmly in the 80's (Global warming? Is that a thing?), which does put a little damper on the menu. I love light and cool soups – really, can you think of a more fun word to say than vichyssoise? – but they are best put to use as a prelude to a slightly more solid meal. I find them lacking when they’re the sum total of what I’m eating. Oddly. Sidebar: I kept a pitcher of gazpacho in my fridge over the summer and poured myself glasses for snack time. Dee-freaking-lish. Hey, did you know there's such a thing as gazpacho and gin shots? Ayup.
photography courtesy of yuppiechef.com
The fall also kicks off my re-reading and re-watching season. I never really plan it this way (other than the yearly Buffy marathon, which takes me out of social running for a good month and will continue to happen until I die or televisions don’t exist anymore. Sorry sweetie.), but something about the nostalgia of wanting to snuggle and nest just brings it organically about. I am a compulsive re-reader, which is about the only way that I can justify buying as many books as I do. The fall is all about wrapping myself up in familiar stories, well-worn and immensely loved. I just finished Mary Doria Russell’s Doc for the third time (if you haven’t read her first novel, The Sparrow, just stop reading right now and go get it. You can come back here and finish this later).
I'm now diving back into Michael Cunningham’s The Hours, which is a lovely and rare example of a movie actually doing justice to its literary predecessor (mostly to do with the brilliance of Ed Harris, in my opinion, and not with any famous prosthetic noses). The book is still better. I think Amy Tan’s Saving Fish from Drowning may have to be next, but she’s neck and neck with Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. It may depend on the weather. Are you making a list yet? Make a list.
Anyway. Back to soup! The lovely sausage, potato and kale collaboration of last week was followed by French Onion, the afore-mentioned Spicy Roasted Red Pepper, Bean and Sausage Puree and Chinese Clear Soup with Meatballs (above). The recipe with the most potential for utter awesomeness is the latter, but I’m going to need to do some tweaking and make another batch before I commit to sharing (Pork or beef? Beef or pork?). I have some REALLY delicious sounding ideas that may or may not be … actually really delicious. To that end, I give you:
BREAD, CHEESE & WINE IN A BOWL (or French Onion Soup with Thyme)
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup unsalted butter (½ stick)
4 large sweet onions (Vidalia, Mayan or Walla Walla all work wonderfully) – halved & sliced into thin half moons
2-4 garlic cloves – minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Bouquet garni with 4-5 sprigs fresh thyme, 2 sprigs parsley (flat-leaf if you have it) and 2 bay leaves – tied together with kitchen twine or in cheesecloth (you can totally put these all in separated if you don’t have the twine or the cloth – just keep in mind that you will need to pull them out before serving and they’re sometimes a little more difficult to find than one might expect. Or you can just chance your guests eating a twig every once and a while)
1 cup white wine (Pinot grigio and sauvignon blanc are both good, potentially inexpensive options. Full disclose – mine came from a box.)
1 quart low sodium beef broth
1 quart low sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup aged gruyere - grated
1 cup swiss cheese - grated
6-12 slices of French bread
2 tablespoons brandy or cognac (optional)
Salt & pepper to taste
Heat butter and oil together in a Dutch oven or large pot on medium heat.
Add the onions and cook gently for about 15 minutes or until soft. Make sure to give your pot a lot of attention and stir frequently – you don’t want the onions to crisp or burn.
Add dry thyme, garlic and a sprinkle of salt and pepper and continue cooking for 30-45 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are completely cooked down. They should put out enough moisture that they won’t stick in your pan. Reduce the heat considerably if they start to crisp.
Stir in the flour and mix until well-blended.
Add in the wine and increase heat to medium-high. Stir with a wooden spoon until liquid is mostly reduced.
Add the broth and the fresh herbs and bring to a low boil fr about 3 minutes.
Lower the heat and simmer for at least another 30-45 minutes. I noted before that I always love to meld my hot soups for as long as possible. If you have the time to let this one go at a super low heat for an hour or more, you won’t be disappointed. You almost want the onions to become the liquid and vice versa. Just make sure that you really reduce the heat before you let it go that long – you don’t want to boil away all of that delicious broth.
Meanwhile, heat your oven to 350 and toast your French bread on a cookie sheet for 15 minutes or until slightly golden, turning once halfway through. Remove from oven and turn broiler on high.
Remove fresh herbs from the soup pot and stir in brandy or cognac, if using.
Fill 6-8 ovenproof soup bowls ¾ of the way up with the onion and broth mixture and float 1-2 toasts on each (you want most all of the soup covered, so this will depend on how big your bowls are). Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the tops of the bowls. By the way, you can use all gruyere or all swiss and this will still be delicious. I liked the mix of the sweetness of aged gruyere and mellowness of swiss.
Set the bowls on a cookie sheet six inches under your broiler. Broil for roughly 3-4 minutes. Cheese should be bubbly and just very slightly golden, but not brown.
Obviously this can be made with veggie stock and still be quite delicious if you are of a non-meat-eating persuasion.
This is a very rich broth, as you can probably tell, so if you’re serving it as a starter (just because I’M eating nothing but soup for 30 days doesn’t mean YOU have to), make sure that you have something light to follow. Maybe a nice, lemony chicken piccata. Send me pictures. I want to be you.
Cream of Kholrabi, Leek and Potato. Experiments!
I mean Cheers,