Monday, January 3, 2011

Go On with Your Bad French Self

Confession: I made these dishes B.E. (Before Evan).

These days, everything I’ve been cooking up is tres simple. Or, I’ve already blogged about it. For instance, right now as we speak, there is a pot of Chicken and Dumplings brewing. But, I wrote about that already.

The thing that’s challenging my cookery is neither time nor screaming child. (Evan quite digs it in the kitchen, thank you very much.)

Rather, it’s my inability to get my bootie to the grocery store. I’ve been quite reluctant to take a person who is weeks old and about in the freezing cold. So, I revolve my grocery shopping excursions around those who can stay with the bambino. This wouldn’t be so tough if I had a husband who works a normal 9-5 job. But I don’t. I have a husband chained to a desk in a newsroom 24 hours a day.

So, my grocery trips require more strategery and planning than ever before. But, I promise I will have new and exciting recipes in 2011. For reals.

Today, we’re taking a look at my French Onion Soup and the Barefoot Contessa’s Goat Cheese Tart from her “Barefoot in Paris” cookbook.

First off, I loves me some French food. Truth be told, I love all different cuisines. I have to be super careful with the Asian sector of the world due to my whole food allergy thing, but I love trying out dishes from all over the place.

It’s not like either of these dishes are super fancy or unique. They’re quite standard French fare. Classic, if you will.

Sure, cutting a bazillion onions is a pain in the arse, but the effort is so worth it.

Regarding the tart: If you fear making pastry dough, please try to get over it. The more you do it, the better you become. (That’s the piano teacher in me lecturing you.)

I do recommend keeping the butter as cold as you possibly can for the tart, and be sure to fill up the tart with beans or pie weights all the way up to the top of the dish to prevent the crust from shrinking.

When rolling out dough, make sure your surface and rolling pin are well-floured. Also, turn your dough after six to eight rolls to prevent sticking and tearing.

For the Goat Cheese Tart recipe, click here. I will also list it below.

In addition, I’m sharing with you my recipe for French Onion Soup. This is the perfect time of year to rock out this soup, since the weather is all chilly willy, at least that’s how it is my neck of the woods.

Be sure your Gruyere is very cold. That makes shredding it way easier. And my tip for preventing teary eyes while cutting up a bazillion onions is to run the kitchen faucet and slice up those bad boys really really fast. Scientific, I know.

Make sure you have soup bowls that are a.o.k. for popping in the oven. If you need to purchase some, I recommend these from Sur la Table, where a major sale is under way right now.

I served these dishes with a salad.

Goat Cheese Tart
From “Barefoot in Paris”
By Ina Garten

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the board

Kosher salt
13 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, divided
3 to 4 tablespoons ice water
3/4 cup chopped shallots (3 to 4 shallots)
10 1/2 ounces garlic-and-herb soft goat cheese (recommended: Montrachet}
1 cup heavy cream
3 extra-large eggs
1/4 cup chopped basil leaves
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

For the crust, put the flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Cut 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) of the butter into large dice, add to the bowl, and pulse until the butter is the size of peas. With the machine running, add the ice water all at once and process until the dough becomes crumbly. Don't overprocess. Dump the dough out on a floured board, gather it loosely into a ball, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Roll the dough on a well-floured board and fit it into a 9-inch tart pan with a removable sides, rolling the pin over the top to cut off the excess dough. Butter 1 side of a square of aluminum foil and fit it, butter side down, into the tart pan. Fill the foil with rice or beans. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the beans and foil from the tart shell, prick the bottom all over with a fork, and bake for another 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining tablespoon of butter in a small pan and saute the shallots over low heat for 5 minutes, or until tender. Place the goat cheese in the bowl of the food processor and process until crumbly. Add the cream, eggs, basil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and the pepper and process until blended.

Scatter the cooked shallots over the bottom of the tart shell. Pour the goat cheese mixture over the shallots to fill the shell (if the shell has shrunk, there may be leftover filling). Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the tart is firm when shaken and the top is lightly browned. Allow to cool for 10 minutes and serve hot or at room temperature.

French Onion Soup
Makes 6 servings

3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
5-6 large yellow onions, sliced
1 tsp. sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
½ tsp. dried thyme
1 Tbsp. flour
4 cups beef broth
2 cups water
3/4 cup white wine
Baguette, sliced and lightly toasted
Gruyere cheese, shredded

Melt butter and oil over medium heat in a large soup pot. Once the butter bubbles, add onions. Saute for about five minutes. Season with salt and pepper and thyme. Add sugar. Cook for about 20-25 minutes. Onions should be golden and soft.

Add flour. Stir, cooking for a minute or two.

Add broth, water and wine. Bring mixture to a simmer. Partially cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

To serve:

Ladle soup into ovenproof ramekins or soup bowls placed on a rimmed baking sheet.

Place a toasted baguette slice on each bowl of soup. Sprinkle with shredded Gruyere. Place under a hot broiler until cheese is bubbly and browned.

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