lundi 29 janvier 2007

Onion Soup Gratinée

Onion Soup Gratinée or French Onion Soup is a tasty and inexpensive winter treat. It is popular in Canada but I rarely see it on menus where I have dined out in Paris. Actually, other than Bouillabaisse and Vichyssoise, I have rarely seen soup at all on menus here.
The trick to this soup is to well caramelize the onions in order to give the soup its rich colour. Using home made beef stock is best.

Onion Soup Gratinée
Serves 6

45 mL (3 Tbsp) unsalted butter
3 medium yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
200 mL (3/4 cup) dry white wine
1.5 L (3 cups) beef stock
1 branch fresh thyme
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
15 mL (1 Tbsp) dry sherry or cognac (optional)

12 slices of baguette
190 g (6 oz) gruyere, grated

Melt butter in a Dutch oven. Add the onions and cook over low heat until tender and golden brown (this caramelization gives the soup its colour), about 25 minutes. Add the white wine and bring to a boil. Add the thyme and season to taste with pepper. Add the beef stock and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the sherry or cognac and adjust the seasoning.

Toast the baguette slices under the grille until golden on both sides.

Spoon the soup into heated bowls and place the croutons on top. Sprinkle with the grated gruyere and place the bowls under a preheated grille until the cheese is melted. Serve immediately.

dimanche 21 janvier 2007

Caesar Salad

Caesar Salad is a North American classic. The origin can be traced to an Italian restaurateur, Caesar Cardini, in Tijuana, Mexico. One holiday weekend in 1924, his restaurant ran short of supplies. He experimented with the available ingredients and created this salad. He instructed the servers to treat it as a house specialty and to make a ceremony of the preparation at the table.

Caesar Salad can be served as a side salad or as a meal. Nowadays there are several variations and it is usually served pre-prepared in a bowl or salad plate. The Chicken Caesar version is one of my favourite lunch meals but Paris is not the best place to order it. From time to time I try it at some of the Tex-Mex restaurants around town. I had it this weekend while I was out shopping and was pleasantly surprised – the chicken was real, the romaine crisp, the parmesan shaved not grated and the dressing served on the side. This Tex-Mex version also included tomatoes and avocado.

This week’s recipe is the classic version. I would make it more often but it is difficult to find romaine in Paris.

Caesar Salad
Serves 2-4

1 large head of romaine, washed, torn into bite-sized pieces, thick cores removed, and dried on paper towels

250 mL (1 cup) of 1.5 cm (1/2”) cubes of Italian bread or French baguette
1 clove garlic, minced
30 mL (2 Tbsp) olive oil

Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F). Combine garlic, olive oil and bread cubes in a bowl; mix to coat evenly. Spread onto a baking sheet and bake until golden, about 10 minutes.

2 anchovy filets, cut in small pieces (optional)
1 garlic clove, crushed
2.5 mL (½ tsp) hot English mustard
5 dashes Worcestershire sauce
Juice of ½ a lemon
2 egg yolks*
45 mL (3Tbsp) grated Parmesan cheese
125 mL (1/2 cup) extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Place the anchovy, garlic, mustard and Worcestershire sauce in the bottom of a large wooden salad bowl and add a few croutons to aid in the crushing process. Using a large spoon crush and mash the ingredients into a thick, very smooth paste.
Add the lemon juice and two egg yolks and beat the dressing. Add 1 Tbsp of Parmesan and pour in the oil in a thin stream, beating very fast until the dressing is thick and creamy.

To assemble the salad, toss the romaine and croutons with the dressing and mix thoroughly.

* Raw egg yolks can be replaced by a 1 minute boiled egg or a coddled egg (lower the eggs gently into boiling water and immediately turn off the heat. Remove the eggs after 1 minute.) Crack eggs and separate whites from yolks, using only the yolks for the salad dressing.

Copyright 2007 Jan McIntyre

dimanche 14 janvier 2007

Gratin Dauphinois

Cooking is my passion. As a Scottish-Canadian living in Paris over the last seven years, I have gained a new perspective on cooking. Food is paramount here. Everything about food is important in France – the method of preparation, the order of the courses, the presentation, the way to eat and what wines to accompany the different plates. The marches are dynamic – cheeses, mushrooms, vegetables, fruit, game and seafood change with the seasons. The selection is breathtaking. I still have a lot to learn.

My cuisine is international. I will try any recipe that looks interesting to me. I am not an inventive cook but Paris has given me the opportunity to be more creative. Out of necessity, I have made subtle changes and substitutions to my old favourites to accommodate ingredients that are not readily available. I have tweaked recipes to adapt to changing tastes.

This week’s recipe is a classic French side dish. It is a perfect winter accompaniment to grilled meat.

Gratin Dauphinois
(Serves 6 – 8)

1.5 kg (3 lbs) potatoes of uniform size, thinly sliced
30 mL (2 Tbsp) unsalted butter, softened
1 clove garlic, crushed
375 mL - 500mL (1-1/2 cups - 2 cups) milk or half-and-half
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
60 mL (4 Tbsp) crème fraîche or sour cream (optional)
80 mL - 125 mL (1/3 cup - 1/2 cup) whipping cream
60 mL (¼ cup) Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).

Generously butter a 23 cm x 30 cm (9” x 12”) heavy shallow baking dish or oval gratin dish of comparable size. Rub the dish with half of the crushed garlic.
In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a simmer with the remaining garlic and season generously with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Arrange 1/3 of potato slices in one overlapping layer on the bottom of the dish. Season the layer with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Repeat for two more layers. Press to compact the layers. Pour in milk to just below the top layer of potatoes. Set the baking dish on a larger baking sheet, cover with foil, and bake until the potatoes about 1 hour until tender when pierced with a knife.
Raise the temperature to 210°C (425°F), remove the foil and bake for 10 minutes or until the top begins to brown. Pour just enough cream to cover the top, dab with crème fraîche and sprinkle evenly with the Parmesan. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, until top is brown and bubbly. Remove from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes to absorb the cream.

dimanche 7 janvier 2007

Carrot Orange Soup

60 mL (4 Tbsp) unsalted butter
2 large yellow onions, chopped
12 large carrots, peeled and chopped
2 L (4 cups) chicken stock
250 mL (1 cup) orange juice, freshly squeezed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Grated fresh orange zest, to taste

Melt butter in a pot. Add the onions, cover and cook over low heat until tender and lightly coloured, about 25 minutes. Add carrots and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until carrots are very tender, about 30 minutes.
Pour the soup through a strainer and transfer the solids to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade (alternatively a blender or a food mill fitted with a medium disk). Add 1 cup of cooking stock and process until smooth. Return purée to pot and add the orange juice and 2-3 cups of the remaining stock, until the soup is the desired consistency.
Season to taste with salt and pepper; add orange zest. Simmer until heated through. Serve immediately.
(Serves 4-6)