Posts Tagged ‘alton brown’

French Onion Soup

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

As I’ve said before, Alton Brown is usually our first stop when looking to make a classic dish for the first time. This post is mostly about David’s adventures in French Onion Soup, since he is the one who likes french onion soup, wanted to make french onion soup, and received a Christmas gift of soup crocks for the sole purpose of making french onion soup.

I, personally, am not a big fan of onions. I used to avoid them altogether, but now I can use them sparingly and pick around them. I don’t even mind the flavor of them, most times. I would say that I’m growing into them. I can certainly get behind the traditional cheesy crouton topping on french onion soup.  Still, onion soup is a lot of onions. So this one was all David.

A month or so ago, David set out to make french onion soup. He watched the appropriate episode of Good Eats, printed out the recipe from Food Network, bought Mayan Sweet onions, Italian Fontina, and our favorite sourdough bread at Costco, and was all ready to make them, until we realized that our Corningware ramekins weren’t safe to use under the broiler. That disappointment made broiler-safe soup bowls the perfect Christmas gift for David.

Shopping on behalf of my grandmother, I purchased four soup crocks for David the weekend after Thanksgiving, and they’ve been wrapped up under the tree ever since. Of course, in the spirit of Christmas, I didn’t mention them, and David’s desire for french onion soup waned. That is, until David and I went out with my parents for dinner at a fancy-pants steakhouse, and David ordered their Baked 5 Onion Soup as a starter. My mom, who had been shopping with me after Thanksgiving, turned to David while he was eating his soup and said “How did you like your little soup things?”

A week before Christmas.

With the proverbial cat out of the bag, David began looking forward to making his own french onion soup. Fast forward to the week after Christmas. Soup crocks in hand, David got everything together to make French Onion Soup yesterday, and this time, it was a success.

Alton Brown’s French Onion Soup
Makes about 8 bowls of soup

Ingredients

  • 5 sweet onions (like Vidalias) or a combination of sweet and red onions (about 4 pounds) (We used Mayan Sweet, and they were very sweet)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups white wine (we used a dry chardonnay)
  • 10 ounces canned beef consume
  • 10 ounces chicken broth
  • 10 ounces apple cider (unfiltered is best) (We used organic apple juice, because cider wasn’t available)
  • Bouquet garni; thyme sprigs, bay leaf and parsley tied together with kitchen string
  • 1 loaf country style bread (We used Boudin sourdough bread)
  • Kosher salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • Splash of Cognac (optional) (We used brandy)
  • 1 cup Fontina or Gruyere cheese grated (We chose Fontina, yum!)

Directions

Trim the ends off each onion then halve lengthwise. Remove peel and finely slice into half moon shapes. Set electric skillet to 300 degrees and add butter. We do not have an electric skillet, and did not buy one just for this recipe. This step worked just fine in a stock pot on the stove over medium-low heat. Once butter has melted add a layer of onions and sprinkle with a little salt. Repeat layering onions and salt until all onions are in the skillet. Do not try stirring until onions have sweated down for 15 to 20 minutes. After that, stir occasionally until onions are dark mahogany and reduced to approximately 2 cups. This should take 45 minutes to 1 hour. Do not worry about burning.

Add enough wine to cover the onions and turn heat to high, reducing the wine to a syrup consistency. Add consume, chicken broth, apple cider and bouquet garni. Reduce heat and simmer 15 to 20 minutes.

Place oven rack in top 1/3 of oven and heat broiler.

Cut country bread in rounds large enough to fit mouth of oven safe soup crocks. Place the slices on a baking sheet and place under broiler for 1 minute.

Season soup mixture with salt, pepper and cognac. Remove bouquet garni and ladle soup into crocks leaving one inch to the lip. Place bread round, toasted side down, on top of soup and top with grated cheese. Broil until cheese is bubbly and golden, 1 to 2 minutes.

Note: As I said, I don’t like onions. However, this soup was quite good. It had a rich, flavorful broth, and the one slice of onion I ate tasted fine. I guess. For an onion. It was mostly mental at that point, really, because the soup was good. I especially like the part where it’s topped with a tasty crouton and melty, bubbly cheese. I love cheese.

I bet we’ll make this again. I know David enjoyed it, and I liked the broth well enough to dip my roast beef panini (my backup, in the event that I didn’t care for onion soup) in it. I thought that this version tasted better than the one at Morton’s, actually. The flavors of David’s soup were a little more layered and complex than the Five Onion Soup, and David’s was definitely sweeter.

Basic Waffles

Monday, December 29th, 2008

David and I got married in August, and we’ve been planning to use our new Cuisinart Waffle Iron ever since. Of course, we both work, and David’s definitely not a breakfast-for-dinner kind of guy, plus he usually sleeps later than I do on the weekends. The point of all that is to say that we do not end up eating breakfast together very often. So up until this weekend, we’d never gotten around to making waffles.

Alton Brown is kind of a standby for us, and when we go to make something for the first time, we usually start with his recipes. And we adore his pancake recipe, among others. The basic waffle recipe, however, seems to be lacking something. It may be that our waffle iron just isn’t hot enough, but the waffles did not get crispy. Otherwise, they were delicious. Great flavor, fluffy, not too sweet. I just wish I could’ve gotten them crispier.

Alton Brown’s Basic Waffle Recipe
Makes 8 Waffles

Ingredients

  • 4 3/4 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 1 cup
  • 4 3/4 ounces whole-wheat flour, approximately 1 cup (I did not have whole wheat flour, so I used all purpose)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 whole eggs, beaten
  • 2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
  • 16 ounces buttermilk, room temperature
  • Vegetable spray, for waffle iron

Directions

Preheat waffle iron according to manufacturer’s directions.

In a medium bowl whisk together the flours, soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar. In another bowl beat together eggs and melted butter, and then add the buttermilk. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until combined. Allow to rest for 5 minutes.

Ladle half a cup of waffle batter onto the iron according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Close iron top and cook until the waffle is golden on both sides and is easily removed from iron. Tip: Do not press down on the lid of the waffle iron, just rest it on top of the batter. This will help reduce the mess and waste of batter dripping down the sides of the iron. Serve immediately or keep warm in a 200 degree F oven until ready to serve.

Note: I’m not sure if I’ll try to make these again–I may do what I can to adjust things and see if I can crisp them up, but I might just try a different recipe next time. The comments on Food Network’s site show that we aren’t the first people to have this issue.

I will say that the leftover waffles were excellent frozen and reheated in the toaster this morning. They were perfectly crispy; I just wish I could get them that crispy in the first place.

Christmastime is for Cookies

Friday, December 19th, 2008

I have been waiting and waiting for the baking bug to bite. It’s Christmas, after all.

Part of the problem may have been a Thanksgiving hangover of sorts. Not only did I run the kitchen for what my friends and I call “fake Thanksgiving,” an all-out Thanksgiving feast above and beyond all of our family obligations on the real Turkey day, but David and I hosted our first Thanksgiving in our new place. His family came, my family came–and it was the first time we even had a place set up for hosting, so it was kind of a big deal.

I think that’s why I spent most of this Christmas season not feeling the urge to roll out the sugar cookies or decorate the gingerbread houses. Then, at work, my Secret Santa got me an adorable gift basket full of baking paraphernalia. Spatulas and mixing bowls and towels and cookbooks. And so, the baking bug bit.

When I decided I wanted to bake, last weekend,  I started poking around different websites and blogs looking for some great Christmas cookie recipes. I started at the Food Network site, where I was excited to see their 2008 12 Days of Cookies guide had started. It sounded so promising!

I was actually rather disappointed with what I found. Sandra Lee was more focused on pretty than tasty, with her Sugar Cookie ornaments, Duff’s cookies looked strange, Paula Deen had some Snowflake cookies that looked okay, but nothing special. Alton Brown’s submission, however, was just what I was looking for. He calls them Paradise Macaroons, and I have to say, the name suits them.

First of all, they were simple to make. There’s some fuss on the Food Network boards about how it’s confusing that he only provides measurements in terms of weight, not volume, but I don’t think that should be a surprise to anyone who’s seen his show.

Second, they were delicious. My husband, who had never had a macaroon, apparently has a new favorite cookie. They’re light and crisp on the outside, chewy on the inside, with just the right amount of sweetness. I used Ghirardelli chocolate chips for the coating, and I substituted chopped walnuts for the macadamia nuts, since that’s what I had on hand.

Third, they were beautiful. They look as good as they taste!

Overall, I was very impressed with this recipe, and will definitely make again.

Alton Brown’s Paradise Macaroons

  • 2 (7 to 8-ounce) packages sweetened shredded coconut
  • 2 ounces sweetened condensed milk
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 large egg whites at room temperature
  • 5 ounces granulated sugar
  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (I used Ghiradelli)
  • 1 ounce vegetable shortening
  • 2 ounces finely chopped dry-roasted macadamia nuts (I used finely chopped walnuts)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Combine the coconut with the sweetened condensed milk, salt and vanilla in a medium mixing bowl.

In the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium speed until foamy. Gradually add the sugar and continue to whip the whites until medium peaks form, 6 to 7 minutes.

Gently fold the egg whites into the coconut mixture. Scoop tablespoon-sized mounds onto a parchment-lined half sheet pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Immediately transfer the parchment with the macaroons to a cooling rack. Cool completely before topping.

Fill a 4-quart pot with enough water to come 2 inches up the side, set over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Combine the chocolate chips and shortening in a small metal or glass mixing bowl and set over the simmering pot. Stir occasionally until melted, then remove from the heat.

Dip the cooled cookies in the chocolate mixture, sprinkle with the chopped nuts and place on parchment paper to set, about 30 minutes.

Note: My one concern with this recipe is that as written, there is way too much chocolate topping. I used the 12 ounces of chocolate to 1 ounce of shortening recipe for a double batch of macroons, and still had chocolate left over for another cookie. I would recommend halving the chocolate dip for just a single batch of cookies.