Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Best Thing I Ever Ate...this week

I have long wanted to copy the weekly menu concept ala Kate and Rachel. I read these blogs religiously, and this feature is a favorite of mine. I have tried more than a few new recipes thanks to these gals. However, doing the same on my blog has proven to not really fit with our lifestyle and how I cook. I don't always plan ahead, and when I do, plans often change. With teenagers in and out and here and there, I never know if I am cooking for 2 or 4 (or more if the kids have a friend with them.) I often find myself eating a meal and thinking "hey, this would have been a good one to blog about", but I didn't take pictures or I let to much time pass and the inspiration is gone. I am able to cook pretty much on the fly because I abide by the well stocked pantry theory. I firmly believe if you learn to stock your pantry with some essential ingredients, you can cook most anything. I know many of my friends protest this theory, but after cooking for as long as I have you also learn how to make substitutions or modify a recipe to your liking or to use ingredients you have on hand.

Hence, my new feature, The Best Thing I Ever Ate...this week. I got the inspiration from this show . I will post on Sundays about the best thing I ate for the week. I cook most nights, so this will definitely be home cooked food I blog about. I want to keep it real, so if it's a crazy busy week, the best think I ate might just be "Tuna Roona" or "Gruel" (Both names coined by my family. Both delicious despite their names and a few too many processed ingredients.) Hey, a girl's gotta have some old standy-by's, right? I've been cooking a long time, long enough to have let my cooking evolve. I started simple and cooked foods I grew up on or that my kids would eat. READ: too many cream soup and Velveeta cheese laden casseroles. If this is the way you cook, pleeeeeease don't be offended by my above statement. It's just that MY taste has changed and the way I think about food has changed. I try to cook healthy meals that include more whole grains, lean protein, and if it's laden with cheese sauce, it's homemade, not cream soup based. So...without further adieu The Best Thing I Ate...this week is this French Onion Soup. I watched this episode of Kelsey's Essentials on Cooking Channel and thought I would try her soup. Kelsey was on The Next Food Network Star a few seasons back. She didn't win but now she's got her own show. This show is one that would be helpful for novice cooks out there, she's very detailed and keeps things simple. She's young and a newlywed so her shtick is kind of "how to hone your cooking skills and impress your friends and family". It's not my favorite show, but this recipe caught my attention. The only changes I made to the recipe were that I didn't have any thyme so I used 2 T. of Italian Seasoning and I used slices of Havarti cheese (right from the deli case next to all the other cheeses) instead of the grated Gruyere.

I love caramelized onions. Here is what 3 pounds of sliced onions start out looking like. You can see the flecks of the Italian Seasoning that I substituted for the Thyme. I would also say be sure to season generously with salt and pepper.

After about 15 minutes, the onions have sweat out their moisture and the smell of the onion, the butter and the herbs is heavenly!
About 30 minutes into cooking, the sugar from the onions mixes with the butter and gets all brown and the onions almost melt. You can take this further but I like actual onion pieces in the soup.

After adding the rest of the ingredients don't discount the importance of letting the soup simmer for at least 30 minutes. This is where you will really deepen the flavors. After simmering I still added a good amount of salt, so taste it and see if you think it needs it.
Be sure to get your oven proof bowls ready because you will put the soup under the broiler to melt and brown the cheese. Set on a cookie sheet for easy transport in and out of the oven and to catch any spills if you overfill your bowls.

Yes, I already stirred it up and took a bite before I took this pic. Sorry, I couldn't wait.
My review of this recipe is that it's as good or better than the best French Onion Soup I have ever eaten. This is not a recipe you can rush. It isn't difficult, just takes some time.

In high school, one of my friends and I used to frequent a restaurant that served Bottomless French Onion Soup and Salad. We went there weekly and I have to think they hated to see us coming! The restaurant has been out of business for many years (possibly because my friend and I took "bottomless" bowls of soup to a whole new level) and I have not since had French Onion Soup that tasted as good. This one came pretty close. When I order it out I find that it really is lacking whatever gives it the richness and deep flavor that I loved about that soup from my days of old.

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