Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Holy Mother of Onion...

I have a friend who I have known since we were in high school who is just about as bat shit crazy as I am.
She has a system on how to judge a restaurant on quality. She bases it all on how good their french onion soup is.

This was always one of the things that I never did, only because it takes a fuck ton of onions, and if I am going to do this, I am going to DO THIS. Go big or go home.

What I failed to estimate was the amount of crying I was going to do. Remember a while back where I said I bribe others to cut up onions for me? Yeah, well, no one was here but me and the dogs, and I wouldn't trust the bassets with a knife.

Anywho, this recipe is really something you need a whole day for. And don't plan on going anywhere. Or having your house smell of anything other than onions for several days.

Honestly after cutting up the onions, I didn't want to eat anything that tasted of onions. So maybe if you were to cut them up the night before, you would have enough time to recover.

Holy Mother of Onion Gods, my face is all puffy.

Fasten your seat belt bitches, and get ready for some onions.
Honestly, this recipe is really simple. There is very little to it, but it is about technique.

French Onion Soup
2lbs Medium Yellow Onions, chopped
1 large sweet Mayan onion
1/2 stick (4 tbsp) Unsalted butter
Salt to taste
1/2 cup Sherry
16 oz carton beef broth
16 oz carton chicken broth
Large crouton
Provolone cheese slices

Cut up onions and decide how you want to roast them. You can cook them down in a dutch oven over low heat, or put the dutch oven in the oven and roast them, taking them out every hour to stir. Either way you slice it, this is a time consuming thing. I was planning on making a LOT of this because I only wanted to do this once in a great while because it takes days for the smell of the onions to dissipate.

I used my sooper nifty table top turkey roast for this because it has a temp control that gives me precisely the temp I want.
Yes, that is a 10lb bag of onions. 

Roast  your onions with the butter at about 375 to 400 degrees, or over low heat on the stove.

After about 3 hours (mine took closer to 6) you should have something resembling this:

Now add the sherry, and a little of the broth. Doesn't matter but you are trying to break down the onions so they are almost paste like. If you like them a little more whole, then thats fine too.

Once you have it where you like it, add the rest of the broth, and seasoning. It doesn't need much, really. Boil this down so it is nice and dark, about 30 minutes (mine took 2 hours).

Now comes the issue of the crouton. Traditionally, there was a large crouton floated on top of the soup and the cheese would go on top of that and the dish was shoved under the broiler. You can use a chunk of baguette, garlic bread or make some fancy bread like I did.

The bread recipe came from the LA Times from a restaurant called Cedar Creek, and I saw it on another blog. Click Here for her version she lovingly calls Crack Bread. Of course, I went a little different with mine, not wanting to be a slave to a recipe.

Garlic Bread 
1 loaf of italian bread, cut in half
1 cup Mayo
Hearty handful of shredded Italian blend cheese
6 tbsp melted butter
2 tbsp cream cheese
chives, garlic and parsley to your liking.

Smear on the bread and throw under the broiler until it looks like the picture.

Now cut up some chunks and put them in a bowl, pour the soup over it.

Throw the sliced provolone on top and shove that under the broiler to melt and brown the cheese.

I know, I KNOW! It is supposed to be gruyere cheese or something like that. I really am not a cheese person but I do like provolone, so I used that.

It should, Hades willing look like this:

Check out my shitty action shots! My husband just wanted to eat his dinner.

It was mega yummy. And kinda pretty but I don't think we cared what it looked like at that point, we just wanted to eat the damn thing.

So there you go. This is a recipe of poor french country folk who only had meat scraps and bones to make broth and a ton of onions to eat. Necessity is really the mother of onion inventions.

Cheers! (as Red continues to spray the house with febreeze)

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Startlement and a Burrito

I don't know if they have these places everywhere but there is a tex-mex joint in town that, when you walk in the door, the employees yell a welcome to you. "WELCOME TO ---" I don't want to use their name, in order to avoid a lawsuit.

I love their food. My whole family loves it too. However, when you or one of your children suffers from an anxiety disorder, this outburst of welcome, as well meaning as it may be, is unnerving. I don't need startlement with my burrito, thanks very much.

So I did a little messing around and I have sort of recreated their burrito at home. What is great is that I can make tons and put it in the fridge and then the masses can make their own for lunches and such.

So here is the recipe, and technique for making your favorite burrito without the startle reflex.

First things first, make some rice. You can make it plain or flavor it with stock and/or spices, but you should have rice for this.
Having a rice cooker helps...

 Saute an onion and some sweet peppers in some olive oil, add some fajita seasoning, and some beans of your preference. We used pinto, cannellini and red kidney for this, but any will work.

I add a little garlic flavored rice wine vinegar and some extra cumin. I think it adds to the flavor and makes things more "bright"...this is a Michael Ruhlman reference. He just wrote a book on acids for cooking. The guy has some major cooking chops. (No pun intended)

Then you will need a couple of grilled chicken breasts. You can cut and saute or use a stove top grill. I make my long suffering husband stand in the snow and make me chicken. We were getting a decent snow storm too....

Next you want to heat up your tortillas. This is a step that too many people miss. You need to get them warm and damp enough to become almost "sticky" so they will stay together. This is a simple step but is necessary for burrito success. 

 Put a stack of flour tortillas in a flour sack towel. Try not to use terry cloth as I find it absorbs too much of the moisture you are trying to impart to your tortillas.

Wrap 'em up.

Spritz them just to dampen the towel.

And place in the microwave, and hopefully yours is cleaner than mine is.
A couple minutes will do, but when the time stops don't just open the door. You want to steam them well, so two minutes cooking, and two minutes resting. In the meantime gather your ingredients.

Cut up your chicken in the manageable strips. 

 Take out a tortilla, and smear a little sour cream on it. This is not necessary, but without it I think the burrito is missing something. It plays off the vinegar in the beans and peppers really well.

Add the ingredients that are most likely to fall out and go all over next. The sour cream holds them in place.
So here it is rice and beans/peppers mix.

Now add some salsa, chicken and cheese. 

Here is where technique come into play. And as simple as I make this look it really is something that takes practice to do quickly and so it won't fall apart.

Start by grasping the two sides. Bring them in a little.

Now, with your thumbs grab the bottom and fold it over top of the two sides. 

Hold it down and start tucking and rolling like Oprah trying to get into a prom dress. 

Keep it tight but don't smoosh it. You can adjust the sides a bit here to keep it together, but if the tortilla is steamed it should just stick to itself. 

You should end up with the seam faced down. You can nuke this again for an additional 30 seconds or so to start the cheese melting, or throw it on the griddle and brown it on both sides. Not necessary but everyone likes things a little differently.

I should have slices one and shown you how yummy it looking on the inside, but the moment they are built they get shoved into somebody's pie hole. So no final pics on the plate or any of that. Sorry, you gotta be quick around here just to get one, let alone long enough to get a picture. 

If your sides come undone, and stuff spills out, unroll and try again. It takes practice, and I was using standard sized tortillas for this. If you were to use wrap sized ones, then you have more tortilla to work with. And there are any number of flavored ones out there to try too. Use brown rice and you get a complete protein with the beans, so the meat, in this case chicken, isn't really necessary. 

And you get to eat it without the surprise party-like dread that comes with the ones from the restaurant. 

And social anxiety sucks. Just sayin.