I’m proud of how often I’ve been cooking. Thanks to my exhaustive shopping lists and frequent photojournalism, I know exactly what we ate each night. And now you do, too! This was last week’s line-up. Can you tell I visited the fish market on Monday? It’s all about efficiency.
Monday: salmon tartare; mussels steamed in white wine; broiled asparagus
Tuesday: roasted salmon; cabbage gratin; green beans with butter
Wednesday: thai hot and sour soup; salmon salad with soba, asparagus, and spinach
Thursday: french onion soup
Friday: french onion soup (again) with root vegetable gratin
Saturday: lasagna with artichokes, mushrooms, and bechamel
The two gratins were prompted by the wintery weather we’ve been having, and both were hits. (The cabbage version is a little deadly, loaded with heavy cream.) The lasagna was a recipe we cooked with friends in college and our part of our anniversary nostalgia festival, probably not worthy of regular rotation.
I declare the french onion soup to be the week’s winner, based on tastiness, non-deadliness, and my level of sadness when the last serving was gone. Perfect for cooking on a cold and drizzly weekend day (I say weekend due to the cooking time), and even better as leftovers to see you into the following week.
FRENCH ONION SOUP
3 tablespoons unsalted butter , cut into 3 pieces
6 large yellow onions (about 4 pounds), halved and cut pole to pole into 1/4-inch-thick slices
2 cups water, plus extra for deglazing
1/2 cup dry sherry
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups beef broth
6 sprigs fresh thyme , tied with kitchen twine
1 bay leaf
Ground black pepper
1 small baguette , cut into 1/2-inch slices [a nice seedy wheat bread is good, too]
8 ounces shredded Gruyère cheese (about 2 1/2 cups)
1. For the soup: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Generously spray inside of heavy-bottomed large (at least 7-quart) Dutch oven with nonstick cooking spray. [This is the only instruction I didn’t follow, no problems.] Place butter in pot and add onions and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, covered, 1 hour (onions will be moist and slightly reduced in volume). Remove pot from oven and stir onions, scraping bottom and sides of pot. Return pot to oven with lid slightly ajar and continue to cook until onions are very soft and golden brown, 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours longer, stirring onions and scraping bottom and sides of pot after 1 hour.
(onions after the oven time)
2. Carefully remove pot from oven and place over medium-high heat. Using oven mitts to handle pot, cook onions, stirring frequently and scraping bottom and sides of pot, until liquid evaporates and onions brown, 15 to 20 minutes, reducing heat to medium if onions are browning too quickly. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until pot bottom is coated with dark crust, 6 to 8 minutes, adjusting heat as necessary. (Scrape any fond that collects on spoon back into onions.) Stir in 1/4 cup water, scraping pot bottom to loosen crust, and cook until water evaporates and pot bottom has formed another dark crust, 6 to 8 minutes. Repeat process of deglazing 2 or 3 more times, until onions are very dark brown. Stir in sherry and cook, stirring frequently, until sherry evaporates, about 5 minutes.
(onions after the first deglaze: not brown enough!)
(onions after the third deglaze: could be darker still, but I only have so much patience)
3. Stir in broths, 2 cups water, thyme, bay leaf, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, scraping up any final bits of browned crust on bottom and sides of pot. Increase heat to high and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 30 minutes. Remove and discard herbs, then season with salt and pepper.
4. For the croutons: While soup simmers, arrange baguette slices in single layer on baking sheet and bake in 400-degree oven until bread is dry, crisp, and golden at edges, about 10 minutes. Set aside.
5. To serve: Adjust oven rack 6 inches from broiler element and heat broiler. Set individual broiler-safe crocks on baking sheet and fill each with about 1 3/4 cups soup. Top each bowl with 1 or 2 baguette slices (do not overlap slices) and sprinkle evenly with Gruyère. Broil until cheese is melted and bubbly around edges, 3 to 5 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.
(lacking oven-proof bowls, I toasted the croutons separately)
[Source: Cooks Illustrated, behind the subscription wall]