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.

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.

My mac and cheese secrets

September 28, 2009

coldpackcheeseIt’s no secret that my little family loves mac and cheese. I’ve shared my favourite recipe here and demo’d it on TV. The secret to the ultra cheesy taste and colour of my mac and cheese is cold pack Cheddar.

In the past, readers have asked me to tell them more about this kind of cheese. Many worry that it’s processed but, in truth, cold pack Cheddar is all dairy-based. Cheese expert Anne Marie Shubin told me herself.

A pound of regular Cheddar is made using between 10 and 11 lbs of milk. Then, to make cold pack Cheddar, the aged cheese is broken down, blended with some butter and reformed as cold pack cheese. A number of companies including Kraft and Ivanhoe make it and sell it here in Canada.

I hope that this info helps you to feel good about adding cold pack Cheddar to your sauces, soups and mac and cheese!

In the meantime, as you wile away the minutes between now and the next time you can make mac and cheese yourself, check out this
slide show and article about New York City’s new MacBar, a mac and cheese restaurant. This is my kind of food porn!

Cheese storage tips

September 2, 2009


During the Canadian National Exhibition I was invited by the Dairy Farmers of Canada to come and visit their All you Need is Cheese experiential kitchen and tasting area. Besides getting to eat a whole lotta cheese made with Canadian milk, I also got a chance to interview DFC spokesperson Anne-Marie Shubin who told me that the number one question people ask her is “how should I store cheese?”

Well, if you’re one of those curious people, here are Anne Marie’s tips for storing cheese:

1. Resist over-buying. Once cheese is cut it won’t get better with age and freezing cheese always diminishes its texture.
2. Wrap soft cheeses, which have living rinds, first in parchment paper or foil and then in plastic so that there is some oxygen available to keep the rind alive.
3. Wrap firm cheeses in plastic wrap and change the wrap frequently so that mold growth is discouraged.
4. If you discover a few millimetres of mold growing on your cheese, it’s perfectly safe to cut it off; however, before cutting it up to eat, clean your cutting board and knife and discard the wrappings.
5. Always wrap blue cheeses well and store them in separately from other cheeses to prevent their pungency from changing the flavour of the other cheeses in your refrigerator.
6. It’s safe to bring cheese to room temperature before you serve it but make sure it is wrapped so that the surface doesn’t dehydrate.
7. If cheese has been at room temperature for 3 hours or more, it should be discarded.

How many kinds of cheese do you usually have on hand at one time? Is there one kind of cheese that you simply have to have at all times?

Easiest appetizer ever

July 15, 2009


I admit it. I’m hooked again. This time it isn’t a tangy Asian-inspired slaw or a wanton lasagna that I’m enticed to make over and over. No, my new passion is so very, very simple that it’s almost not a recipe at all. And, it’s that very fact that makes me love it so! I’ve made this new favourite twice in the last week — that’s how easy and how delicious this concoction is!

I’m talking about the easiest. Summertime. Appetizer. Ever. Specifically, a watermelon and feta cheese plate.

All you need to do is cube equal amounts of watermelon and real Greek (i.e. sheep’s milk) feta. Arrange them on a plate and drizzle the cheese with some great extra virgin olive oil and then sprinkle over lots of cracked black pepper. That’s it. That’s all.

Feeling fancy? Cut the melon into wedges and crumble the cheese over top and continue with the oil and pepper as directed. See, even the fancy version is easy.

Do you have a super easy appetizer that makes you look and feel like a gourmet rockstar?

Cheeseboard maker

May 4, 2009


You know that too-often asked question about what you’d take to a desert island? Yeah, that one. Well, I’d take cheese. Me loves it in all of its various forms, strengths and textures.

So, not surprisingly, when the Dairy Farmers of Canada popped by the test kitchen last week with a selection of this year’s award winning Canadian artisan-made cheeses, I didn’t turn them away. Instead, our team canceled its lunch plans and sat down to this gorgeous spread of dairy goodness. We made a salad to go with the cheese but no one touched it (not even Amy and she’s an expert on culinary nutrition!)

All of these cheeses were excellent so I recommend you look for them this summer when you’re preparing a cheeseboard to share with your friends. Clockwise, from the bottom right hand corner, these cheeses are:

Evanturel (Thornloe Cheese) is a brie style cheese with a line of vegetable ash running through its centre. This cheese was our favourite for its truly milky taste and clean finish.
Cows Extra Old Cheddar (Cows Inc.), a firm cheese with no rind and an almost smooth texture. Aged for flavour but not astringently strong like some other old Cheddars.
Le Ciel de Charlevoix (La maision d’affinage Maurice Dufour Inc.). Creamy, whole milk cheese with a pleasant strength. Very delicious!
Island Bries (Little Qualicom Cheeseworks Ltd.) is a creamy, sweet Brie that is perfect to pair with fruit.
Kenogami (Fromagerie Lehmann) is a washed rind cheese with an herbal scent and rich, creamy mouth feel. Perfect with a slice of green apple or walnuts.

Cheese on a roll

May 1, 2009


In the “why didn’t I think of this?” category: Unwrap and roll mozzarella cheese!

What a fantastic idea for making cheese appetizers all your own. These sheets of mozzarella are perfect for filling with all kinds of yummy stuff. While serving the entire filled log is a terrific way to show off your cheese creativity, I’d love to try placing a thickly-sliced spiral of one of these filled cheeses on top of a toasted piece of bread to soften and warm, too.

I haven’t found a store in my area that sells this tricked out cheesy goodness, but I’ve got money in my pocket reserved to buy a pack or two as soon as I find it!

As soon as I find some, I’m going to fill one with nutless arugula pesto, roasted red peppers and chopped kalamata olives. What would you roll up in this cheesy wrapper?

Also, have you see any clever new food products lately?