Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Onion soup gratinée

I wanted a quick dinner last night, and had a container of chicken stock in the freezer I wanted to use up.  French onion soup.

I've posted on this before, so no need to go into fine detail, but I do want to emphasize that this soup does NOT require a big investment in time, provided your pantry is well-stocked.

Variant here is that I used chicken stock.  I prefer a rich beef stock for onion soup, but didn't have any on hand, and chicken stock is fine. The stock I had was not particularly rich, having been made of scraps from roasted chicken breasts, so I needed to jazz up the soup a bit.

As the pot of onions was nearing its ideal caramelized state, I poured in about 1/4 cup sweet red vermouth.  Dry white vermouth would've worked, too, but the sweet red has an almost sherry-like flavor, which enhances the flavor of onion soup.  I then added the stock, and salted liberally, as the stock had not been previously salted.  FWIW, Aunt Millie used to say, "Kissing a man without a mustache is like eating soup without salt." 

I also added a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce, and a good pinch of Ajinomoto (a.k.a., monosodium glutamate).  Keep your panties on, folks, but it's a useful shortcut to add savor to food (like a wan stock).  And FYI, MSG comes from fermented soybeans.  Not surprisingly, so does Worcestershire sauce. 

I toasted up some excellent Italian bread from Metropolitan Bakery, and arranged the crostini on top of the soup, then covered the top with about 8 oz shredded Gruyere cheese.  Into a 425°F oven for 10 minutes, then under the broiler for about 3 minutes, until the cheese was melted and browned. 

Served a green salad with walnut-oil dressing on the side.  Awesome weeknight treat. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Facebook fig jam, chapter two

I managed to post all this on Facebook -- appropriate, as that's how it all started -- but didn't put it directly into the blog.  That's now remedied. 

August 26, 2012 -- more figs from my high school friend Lisa F., who has a huge backyard fig tree, with more fruit than she can manage.  I stopped by and picked up about 6 pounds of ripe figs. 

As I did last year, I made a nice batch of fig jam -- this year, twelve 8-oz jars.  Lisa got three of them in return for the figs.

I always follow the recipes and directions of the National Center for Home Food Preservation at the University of Georgia.  

  • 2 quarts chopped fresh figs (about 5 pounds)
  • ¾ cup water
  • 6 cups sugar
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
Just look at the colors of those figs -- pink and purple and green and white...

The two jars you don't see there were unintended bounty.  I figured I'd get 10 jars, but in fact got 12, so had to quickly clean a couple more, and fill them.  Instead of processing them, I just popped them into the fridge.  They lasted about 3 days -- wiped out by many fig-jam lovers. 

Few things as satisfying as the sound of a big pot of bubbling jam....

Saturday, September 8, 2012

More summertime specialties -- peach jam and cucumber pickle

A quart of peach jam, and cucumber pickle (with red onion, scallion, and jalapeno).

The quart of jam was from 6 large peaches, peeled and chopped, with 3 cups of sugar, juice of a lemon, and a pinch of salt.  Cooked over high heat, with frequent stirring, until it reached 220°F with an immersion thermometer. 

Two 16-oz jars of peach jam, right out of the boiling water process.  

Six Kirby cukes peeled and sliced, with red onion, scallion, and jalapeno. 
Salt (about a tablespoon), sugar (four tablespoons), and cider vinegar (about a half a cup).
Mix well, then refrigerate for a few hours.