French onion soup

November 19, 2009

Fr onion soup

Every where I turned last week I ran into French onion soup: commercials, blogs, cookbooks. It almost seemed surreal but certainly not bad.

For me, French onion soup has a retro appeal that’s hard to beat. When made well, it’s a rich, full-flavoured broth that begs tender, sweet onions to bask and linger. Instead of covering it with a heavy, greasy layer of cheese, I prefer to make a Gruyere-topped crostini that you can either float on top of the soup or stand up on one side of the bowl.

Regardless of how you position the cheese and bread, be sure to choose good quality Gruyere cheese. I think it’s much yummier than regular Swiss cheese. Given a choice, I buy Gruyere that has been aged for 10 to 12 months since it has a rich, nutty flavor. Gruyere also has a medium fat content so that complements the flavour of the onions without overwhelming their zesty taste.

French onion soup

3 tbsp (30 mL) butter
2 Spanish or 3 medium cooking onions, peeled
and sliced
2 clove garlic, minced
11/2 tsp (7 mL) dried thyme
1/2 tsp (2 mL) each salt and pepper
1 tbsp (15 mL) granulated sugar
1/3 cup (75 mL) sherry
1 tsp (5 mL) Worcestershire sauce
6 cups (1.5 L) beef broth
6 slices, thick baguette
1 cup (250 mL) shredded Gruyere or other Swiss cheese*
1 tbsp (15 mL) chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Melt butter in a Dutch oven set over medium-low heat. Add onions, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, for 20 minutes or until onions are translucent and very soft. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes or until onions are just beginning to brown. Sprinkle in sugar and continue to cook, stirring often, until very brown but not scorched.

Add sherry and Worcestershire sauce. Stir to scrape up any brown bits. Add the broth and bring soup to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes.

Preheat the broiler to high. Toast the baguette slices on a baking sheet until golden on each side. Sprinkle cheese and parsley (if using) even over the toasts. Broil until cheese is bubbly and golden. Ladle an equal amount of soup into each bowl. Top with a cheese crouton and serve immediately. Makes 6 servings.

* This recipe appeared in Dana’s Top Ten Table.

I could go for a ginger cookie…

November 6, 2009


If you read yesterday, you know that I’m taking the easy way out to end the week by recycling some of my favourite cold weather comfort food posts.

On the list today are recipes from my sweet kitchen:
Microwave butterscotch pudding
Tarte Tatin
Super crisp ginger cookies
Butter Tarts

What sweet treat epitomizes warming comfort for you? Again, feel free to link to your site or recipes that we can all bookmark for a day when we need an indulgence.

It’s perfect weather for…

November 5, 2009


Now that I’ve been blogging for so long (over two years!), it’s becoming harder to post about my favourite fall comfort foods since, at least at this time of year, I like to rediscover my favourite fall dishes. It’s not until later in the autumn that fatigue sets in and I start to experiment.

So, in case you missed them the first time or in case you’re new here, today and tomorrow I’m featuring a glossary of my favourite fall food posts from the last two years.

On the roster today:

Savoury autumn favourites:
Double cheddar mac ‘n’ cheese
Zesty lasagna
Roasted Chicken broth for soup
Lemon parsnip soup
Sausages with onions, apples and Swiss cheese

What savoury recipe epitomizes autumn for you? Feel free to add links to your own posts and favourite sites so that it’s easy for us all to try out your ideas.

Pizza poll

October 22, 2009

pizzaconeWe have all been asked to ponder that philosophical question: if a tree falls in the woods and no is there to hear it, does it make a sound? I say, unless it was a fruit tree and I can score some free apples or pears without having to risk my neck on a ladder, who really cares?

No, I’m more concerned about things that really matter such as: is a pizza still pizza if it isn’t flat?

Consider the Calzone, the Cone (pictured here) and the much advertised microwavable Pizza Pocket… true iterations of pizza or pretenders? Discuss.

In other pizza related news: check out this modernized new pizza box made from recycled paper.

Irony at the table

October 16, 2009


Last summer I got a new bike for my birthday. Besides being a gift that I really wanted,  going to the store to be fitted for my bike was a bit of a present, too. Martin chose a Dutch bike for me that’s only sold at a handful of places including a store on Toronto’s Bloor Street near the University of Toronto campus.

The staff, besides being knowledgeable about bikes, is also young and painfully fashionable in a nerdy way. In fact, the sales person I dealt with directly was a walking iteration of Ned Flanders’ younger brother: over-sized, brown framed specs,  70’s moustache – his style was so ironically hip, it hurt!

Just like those crazy moustaches hipsters are wearing these days, ironic foods have a place in our current food landscape, too. From doughnuts on fine dining dessert menus, mac and cheese with truffle oil, fancy meatloaf concoctions and the fried chicken I mentioned earlier this week on these pages, elevating retro, originally homey or down market favs has never been more popular.

What about at home?  When you entertain do you find yourself glamming up retro favs or do you try to pull off four star restaurant panache?  I’ve definitely  been enjoying making ‘ultimate’ versions of old favs such as pizza and tacos at my parties. In fact, just recently, I had a very fun dinner party where I made three kinds of gourmet burgers (chicken, beef and lamb) and home made hamburger buns to match. Dessert was brownies and butter tarts. I think we all enjoyed it as much as any more formal, three course meal I could have made.

PS: I borrowed this montage of 70’s moustaches as sported by actors both old and new from the blog Alice Q. Foodie where you can find lots of posts about food and a few about moustaches.

Off Topic Announcement:  I’m thrilled to have been chosen as one of’s best Canadian bloggers. It’s doubly exciting since I’m the only food blog featured. Please drop by their site and make a comment or vote for your favs.

Topline Trends Tuesday: Extra crispy gets extra attention

October 13, 2009

kfcYou know, if fried chicken were a person and not a food, its story could be the basis for the movie of the week: with humble beginnings as a homespun, comforting meal that epitomized all that is good about family life, it had a supremely wholesome beginning. Later, after fried chicken rose to success as a part of our popular culture as a fast food phenomena, this much loved entrée became a pariah shunned by the fat police. Then, just when fried chicken’s prospects seemed the worst, this crispy, battered food was rediscovered to become, along with a handful of comfort foods, elevated to gourmet status by chefs. A true underdog success story if  ever there was one.

Today fried chicken is a  menu star at fashionable restaurants such as Momofuko Noodle Bar in NYC and Harlem Restaurant in Toronto while slow food mecca Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California is serving it, too.

When’s the last time you had fried chicken? Did you order it at a fancy restaurant or have some of the Colonel’s special recipe? Or, did you make it at home like I did?

Reinventing grilled cheese

October 5, 2009

shrimp naanwich

Did I mention to you that I’m on a diet? Yes, again. I’m truly the poster child for yo-yo dieting. I even have a string in the top of my head.

When I diet, I fantasize about my favourite foods. In fact, all weekend long I was tormented by dreams of crunchy, buttery, gooey grilled cheese sandwiches!

As much as I love old school, aged Cheddar melted between slices of sandwich bread (these are the sandwiches that I grew up eating for lunch), I’ve been known to experiment with my grilled cheese, too. In fact, in my 2007 cookbook Dana’s Top ten Table (Harper Collins), I featured this suppertime sandwich that combines tender naan bread, molten cheese and crunchy, sweet shrimp. Decadent, fast, easy and comforting:

Shrimp Toasty Naanwhich

Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 5 minutes

1/2 lb (50 mL) thawed, frozen cooked shrimp, tails and shells removed
3 tbsp (45 mL) mayonnaise (light or regular)
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 green onion, finely chopped
4 slices havarti cheese
4 slices naan bread, halved crosswise
1 tbsp (15 mL) melted butter

Pat the shrimp dry on paper towels and then chop coarsely if large. Blend with the mayonnaise with the garlic and green onion. Lay two large naan out on a clean work surface; spread the shrimp mixture evenly over one slice. Top with the cheese slices and remaining bread.

• Spread the butter evenly over the outside of the naan. Preheat a panini maker, hinged grill or a large skillet or griddle to medium heat. Add the sandwich and cook for 4 to 5 minutes or until bread is golden on each side and cheese is melted. If cooking on the stovetop, turn the sandwich halfway through cooking. Makes 4 servings.

In case you’re uninitiated, naan is an East Indian, wheat flour, leavened bread that’s baked until pillowy, soft and golden in a tandoor oven. According to the Chicago Tribune, using naan for sandwiches is trending up. From Canada’s west coast chain Sabri Sandwiches that transform Indian entrées like butter chicken into hand held meals to old crocks like me, naan is a great way to perk up your sandwiches.

Do you use naan in non-traditional ways like sandwiches and pizza?