Wednesday, September 25, 2013

French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup
French Onion Soup
It is with great personal injury that I bring you one of my all-time favorite soups. French Onion. When I was in culinary school it was my task one day to make the French Onion soup. When making soup for a restaurant you don't simply make a gallon, you make many gallons.

I remember cutting up pound after pound of onions and nearly losing my eyesight during the process. I adore onions, but in their raw state I seem to have issues. I don't just tear up, I have full-blown tears streaming down my face eyes swelling up moments - and that's with just one or two onions.

I would get through a couple onions and then race out of the kitchen to the girls' locker room and blow my nose, wipe my eyes, flush my face with water, sanitize my hands and then run back to the kitchen, sanitize hands again just inside the door and do it all again. I think I made the trip 5 or 6 times before I was done. 

Yesterday was a little easier as I was only cutting up 5 onions, but I still had to stop and deal with things before finishing.

French Onion Soup

No matter, this lovely soup is more than worth it. I like to use several different types of onion for my soup, though you can use all one kind if you wish. Whatever you do, make sure the onions are well caramelized before moving along with soup for the best flavor.

I did this in two ways, as well. In a large dish (ala Julia Child) and in individual bowls. Both ways are wonderful. I also like to use several different cheeses. This time it was Provolone, Parmesan and a bit of Mozzarella though I really love a good Swiss or Gruyere here, too. A perfectly stringy, gooey cheese experience to top this masterpiece.

French Onion Soup for Three

French Onion Soup
Serves: 6
Ready In: 1 hour and 10 minutes


1/4 cup olive oil
5 large onions (I used Vidalia, Spanish and Red here along with 3 shallots)
2 cloves garlic - minced
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 cup wine - something you like to drink - dry preferred 
2 quarts beef stock
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme - crushed
1 bay leaf
1 Tablespoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
6 thick slices of French baguette - about 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick
8 ounces shredded cheeses 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

1. Peel and slice onions thinly. Heat olive oil over medium heat and add olive oil, onions, garlic, sugar and half the salt.
2. Cook onions until well caramelized - this can take 20 minutes.
3. Place baguette slices in the oven while onions are caramelizing. They should be toasty in about 20 minutes. Remove and set aside.
4. Add wine to onions and stir well. 
5. Pour in stock and add thyme, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Simmer for 15 minutes.
6. Remove bay leaf and ladle soup into 6 individual crocks or one large oven-proof bowl (3 quart would be best.)
7. Top with bread and sprinkle cheeses atop each slice.
8. Place into oven and bake for 30 minutes. 
9. Turn broiler on and allow cheese to brown and bubble. Serve carefully!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Minestrone Soup


I can't for the life of me figure out why I haven't yet posted this soup. It's honestly one of the classics and one I'm very fond of. I do have a recipe with Disney at both and, but that was created with super-busy parents with basic cooking skills in mind. I dug it out and revamped it to better suit my own tastes and that of my family.

Minestrone uses just about any vegetable, bean and pasta you have on-hand. It's so forgiving and yet so delicious. You can make it exactly the same each time, or change it up slightly and still have a delicious and hearty soup. Try this recipe and tweak it as you like to fit your own needs.

Minestrone Soup
Printable Recipe
Hands-On Time: 10 minutes
Ready In: 45 minutes
Serves 6-8


5 tablespoons olive oil
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped
2 stalks celery - diced
1/2 small cabbage, shredded
2 leeks-white part only-cleaned and sliced
2 small carrots - peeled and diced
8 cups water or chicken stock
2 medium potatoes, scrubbed and diced
2 cups fresh green beans - cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 - 15 ounce can cannellini beans
2 15-ounce cans diced tomatoes - undrained
1 15-ounce can tomato puree
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried basil
2 small zucchini- diced
1 cup dry pasta - such as ditalini or little shells
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan


1. Heat oil in a large heavy bottomed soup pot over medium heat. Add garlic, onion, carrot, celery, cabbage and leeks and cook for 5 minutes or so, or until onions become translucent.
2. Pour in water or stock and stir in potatoes, green beans, cannellini beans, zucchini, tomatoes and puree, bay leaf, thyme, basil and oregano and bring to a boil.
3. Reduce heat to a simmer immediately and cook for 15 minutes until veggies are tender.
4. Add pasta and parsley and cook until pasta is tender - another 10 minutes.
5. Add salt and pepper to taste and remove bay leaf. Ladle into bowls and top with Parmesan.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Real Beef Soup

Beef Vegetable Soup
Beef Vegetable Soup

When I was a child I honestly don't recall many soups being served that didn't come from a red and white can. There were navy beans and cornbread (not really soup) and mom's split pea with ham (still a favorite today), but other than that we were soup-less unless it was prepackaged.

I do remember one phase that mom went through which was making soups from canisters of "Homemade Soup Starter". Even as a kid I detected an "off" taste to each and none was my favorite. For some reason the one that stands out the most is the beef soup.

It was a small cardboard canister filled with dehydrated veggies, powdered soup stock and small pasta shells. The only thing the consumer was to do was to "Add 1 lb. of beef cubes" and the requisite amounts of water and stew away.

It worked, but it honestly didn't work well. I still haven't come across a soup from a package that I truly love. Here, then is my fresh version of that canister of soup.

Beef Vegetable Soup
Serves 8
Hands-On Time: 20 minutes
Ready In: 2 hours 20 minutes

1 1/2 pounds beef cubes
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
1 medium onion - chopped
2 medium carrots - peeled and diced
2 stalks celery - diced
2 cloves garlic - minced
3 medium potatoes - peeled and diced
1 cup finely diced tomatoes
8 cups beef stock
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs fresh Thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried
1 cup small shell pasta
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 cup fresh or frozen cut green beans

1 Combine beef cubes, salt and pepper and stir.
2. In a large heavy bottomed soup pot, heat oil over medium-high heat and add beef. Brown on all sides.
3. Add onion, carrot, celery and garlic and cook for 5 minutes or until veggies are translucent.
4. Pour in stock. Stir and add potatoes and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 1 1/2 hours until veggies and beef are very tender.
5. Add bay leaf and thyme. Add remaining veggies and pasta and simmer for an additional 30 minutes.
6. Remove bay leaf and taste for seasoning before serving.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Pork Cider Stew

Pork Cider Stew
Pork Cider Stew. Dish: Aaron Sanchez , Napkin: Pier 1 Imports, Spoon: Washington Forge

It's no secret that Autumn is my favorite time of year. The harvest is brought in, the days turn cooler and the sky is never bluer. Many of the vegetables and fruits harvested at this time of year are my favorites, as well. Squashes, pumpkins and apples to name a few.

This stew has it all, tender pork, chunks of creamy acorn squash, sweet potatoes and crisp tart apple. It is a bit on the sweet side, so you can substitute all white potato for the squash and sweet potatoes if you like. My children and I thought it was perfect as is.

It doesn't need a huge amount of cooking time for the pork to get tender making this a little faster than you may think.

Pork Cider Stew
Serves: 8
Hands-On Time: 20 minutes
Ready In: 1 hour 20 minutes

1 1/2 pounds pork cubes - 1 to 1 1/2 inches
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 medium carrots - peeled and cubed
1 medium onion - diced
1 stalk celery - diced
2 cloves garlic - minced
2 springs fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried
2 cups  apple cider
1 cup chicken stock
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 Granny Smith apple -  chopped
1 cup sweet potato - peeled and cubed
1 cup white potatoes - peeled and cubed
1 cup acorn squash - peeled and cubed

1. Combine flour, salt and pepper and stir. Coat the meat cubes with the flour mixture and shake off excess.
2. In a large heavy bottomed soup pot, heat oil over medium-high heat and add pork. Brown on all sides.
3. Add onion, carrot, celery and garlic and cook for 5 minutes or until veggies are translucent.
4. Pour in cider and vinegar. Stir and add remaining vegetables, apple thyme and chicken stock.
5. Stir well and turn to a simmer. Cover with a lid and cook, stirring every so often, for an hour or until meat and vegetables are tender.
6. Thicken if needed and serve.