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.

What would you eat for a month straight?

August 6, 2009

bakedsandwichesBLOGWhat food could I eat three meals a day for a month? This article about Matt McClellan, a Florida pizza restaurant owner, encouraged me to ponder this question.

You see, McClellan is pulling a publicity stunt where he will eat nothing but pizza for a month. His intention is to bring not only attention to his own pizzeria but to prove that he can improve his health by switching to pizza and cutting out his other menu staples: Taco Bell and Burger King.

Criticizing McClellan’s plan would be so easy, but that’s not what this post is about. No, it’s about what food do you like that is flexible enough in its execution to actually be palatable for a month?

While pasta, soup, stir-fry and risotto seem to offer as much flexibility as a pizza, I think I’d opt for sandwiches since they really do have limitless variations.

What about you? Is there a food category that you could enjoy for 90 meals in a row?

Worth replacing: Cheesecloth

November 24, 2008

wrcheeseclothAlthough I’ve never made cheese (I’d love to try it!), I always keep a package of cheesecloth on hand.

Besides using it to encase the flavouring ingredients that I want to remove easily from broths and infusions, I also use cheesecloth to line my strainer when I make homemade soup stock; it filters out all the little bits perfectly!

Likewise, once the bulk of the liquid has passed through to a clean container, you can squeeze every drop out of the cheesecloth-wrapped solids and then toss the waste into the composter – so much easier than trying to clean all the little bits out of a chinoise!

Amy Snider introduced me to one of the cleverest (and prettiest uses) I’ve seen for cheesecloth. Amy wraps a piece of cold butter in cheesecloth and ties it into a little beggar’s purse that she serves with hot corn on the cob. The idea is to rub the bundle over the corn so that every cob is swathed in a perfectly even coating of butter. Smart!

Do you keep cheesecloth in the kitchen? If so, do you have any innovative uses for it that you’d like to share?

NB: I’m traveling a lot this week and will pop in and out to add updates from Ottawa, Halifax and St. John’s and to respond to comments when I can; however, I won’t be as present as usual. For continuity, I’ve pre-written some posts for the week so please do pop in daily.


On deck this week are:
• Double crust pie making tips,
• Ideas for making squash delicious,
• Inexpensive Sunday roast options and
• Info about Jane Goodall’s influence on the food business.



Canadian Blog Awards Announcement

I’m very happy to report that my blog Dana McCauley’s Food writer’s blog ( has been nominated for the semi finals in two categories of the Canadian Blog Awards.

Please take a moment to vote for me in the categories of:

Best Blog:

Best New Blog:

If enough people vote for my blog in this round, you may hear from me again, asking for your support as a finalist!

Thanks for any support you can offer!


Easy, economical Lemon Parsnip Soup

February 22, 2008

lemon parsnip soup

The idea for this soup is borrowed from the repertoire of my husband, chef Martin Kouprie, who first made a similar version of this soup at his Toronto restaurant Pangaea.I love it since it is thick and satisfying but cream-free and low-calorie (In other words, it’s just perfect for someone like me who’s returned home from eating, drinking and gambling away her meagre fortune in Las Vegas! — more on that topic another time).

Lemon Parsnip Soup makes an excellent change from the ordinary and is interesting enough to serve to guests. Try a bowl with a rustic bread stick and a chickory-based salad for a homey, healthful, comforting dinner.

Lemon Parsnip Soup*

1 tbsp (15 mL) butter or vegetable oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 tbsp (30 mL) chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp (5 mL) finely grated lemon peel
1/2 tsp (5 mL) salt
1/2 tsp (2 mL) pepper
6 cups (1.5L) peeled, chopped parsnips
10 cups (2.5 L) chicken or vegetable broth
1 tbsp (5 mL) lemon juice
Thyme sprigs
Lemon slices

Heat butter in a large saucepan set over medium heat. Add the onion, thyme, lemon peel, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often for 5 minutes. Add the parsnips, cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until parsnips were becoming tender. Stir in broth and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring, for 20 to 25 minutes or until parsnips are very soft.

Transfer parsnip mixture to a blender or food processor in batches. Puree until smooth. Stir in lemon juice and bring to a boil. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve in soup cups garnished with thyme and lemon. Makes 8 servings.

*Recipe from Dana’s Top Ten Table: 200 Fresh Takes on Family-Favourite Meals. Published by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd. Copyright (c) 2007 by Dana McCauley. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.

Slimming, satisfying soup

February 19, 2008

Guest Blogger Amy Snider, PHEc.

Soup ingredients

I often crave soup during the chilly winter months. Luckily, eating soup more often can combat another winter reality — the weight gain that often is the result of being cooped up indoors. Most soups (except for those prepared with full-fat cream or loads of cheese) provide a satisfying meal with minimal calories and fat. No wonder the cabbage soup diet is still on many people’s radar!

Here are a several reasons why soups are a great part of a winter diet:

1. Broths are generally fat-free; even when loaded up with vegetables and lean meats, they provide a low-calorie and nutritious meal.

2. A hot piping bowl of soup has to be eaten slowly, by the spoonful, making you feel more satisfied and less likely to over-indulge.

3. Soups are economical and convenient. I always keep some ready-to-heat (preferably lower sodium and vegetable-rich) canned soups in my pantry to pack for lunch or for an easy supper. Just a few minutes in the microwave and they’re ready to slurp.

Soup is easy to make, too. It’s a great way to use leftovers and the flavour combinations are endless. Here’s one of my favourite soups, a thick, nourishing and fibre-rich bean soup adapted from my cookbook Fiber Boost, Everyday Cooking for a Long, Healthy Life (Key Porter, 2004).

Bistro White Bean Soup

1 tbsp (15 mL) olive oil
4 oz (125 g) bacon, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp (5 mL) dried thyme leaves
1/2 tsp (2 mL) each salt and pepper
1 bay leaf
2 cans (540 mL each) white kidney beans (or navy beans), drained and rinsed
4 cups (1 L) chicken broth
4 cups (1 L) baby spinach
Croutons and Shaved Parmesan Cheese

Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven or saucepan set over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until browned and slightly crisp. Stir in onion, carrots, garlic thyme, salt, pepper and bay leaf. Cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes or until tender and golden. Add the beans and chicken broth, bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

Remove the bay leaf. Use a potato masher or the back of a spoon to crush some of the beans to thicken the soup. Stir in the spinach and cook just until wilted. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with croutons and shaved Parmesan cheese. Makes 4 servings.