Friday, January 29, 2010

Onion Soup w/ Cheddar Sage Toast

Jamie Oliver, Jamie Oliver, Jamie Oliver.... if you've seen his perfect cooking show At Home With Jamie on Saturday mornings you know why I'm smitten. Or if you've picked up Cooking With Jamie you've found at least one hearty recipe that caught your eye. His focus is on farm fresh ingredients, foraging, local butchers, outdoor cooking and low fuss fare but his flavor profiles, nostalgia for comfort foods and roguish irreverence toward food snobbery make his food accessible and just fun. Plus he's so damn cute. I don't know anyone gay, straight, male or female who doesn't think he's f'n adorable.

My friends Christina and Patty came to lunch on Saturday. We have missed each other for months. Actually hadn't seen them since Thanksgiving and I needed some face time. So, they graciously gave up some of their precious weekend to come by my house. Patty got a lot of QT with Brody while Christina and I caught up in the kitchen. I put her to work prepping for an apple crisp while I baked off cheese bread with fried sage for the onion soup. There's really nothing I like more than fussing with food while catching up with friends in my kitchen.

I won't repeat the recipes here because I did, in fact, actually use one this time for the Roasted Carrot & Avocado Salad. I may have varied it a bit but it doesn't seem proper to claim it or re-script and give the impression it's mine. As for the Onion Soup I did make one very conspicuous variation that I will share with you here. I don't eat beef, as some of you may know, and I don't care for the idea of beef broth at all so I made a vegan "beef" broth, experimenting as I often do at my friends expense. I thought it came out quite well. Here is the best I can recollect from Science Project Saturday:

Vegan Beef Broth for Onion Soup

2 Leeks - cleaned, sliced lengthwise, green trimmed but left on
1 Lg. Yellow onion - sliced in half, peel dry skin
2-4 Lg pieces of Kambu Seaweed
2 Tbl fish sauce
2 Tbl tamari
1 bnch thyme
1/2 bnch parsley
2 Lg carrots - ends cut off, cut into 3 inch pieces
2 Tbl Mirin
1 Lg handful of dried Shiitake mushrooms (mix in some wild mushrooms of other variety if you have them)
1 Tbl mixed peppercorns
4 Qts water

Now you can really go about this any way that you want. I tend to start with a little oil and sautée onions and leeks for a moment on a high heat to bring out flavors. I add a little sea salt and let them get a bit wilty. Then I add the water. I bring it to a boil and toss in the seaweed, carrots and Shiitake. Give those a second to boil and then bring the stock down to a simmer. I add the peppercorns, Tamari and fish sauce and let simmer for about 5 minutes before tasting. You want that fish sauce to meld in with the other flavors. It's not good straight out of the bottle :-(

Taste and keep in mind it will boil down to a stronger flavor so if it's too salty or strong add some water but if it's too mild leave it and continue adding ingredients that are left, herbs and mirin. Mirin is sweet so again, give it some time and taste.

There is no real science to this. I guess you've figured that out by now. It's a mudpie project. Just keep tweaking it until you get the robustness you desire. But these are the basic ingredients to pull off a deep brown, hearty broth worthy of a multitude of sliced, sauteed onions from the farmers market (spring, red, sweet and leeks in my case this day) slowly cooked with olive oil and sea salt for the better part of an hour.

As for the Cheesy Bread I found the ends of a very good parmesan, something like an aged gouda and some soft shredded organic cheddar in my fridge. Mixed those in a bowl and smeared the mix over some thickly sliced and buttered fresh Asiago Cheese bread I got at the market that morning. Bake it on a sheet pan for 10 and then under the broiler for just one to brown the top. Fry up some sage in Ghee if you have it or butter and put it on top. Plop the whole gooey mess on top of the bowl of onions and broth and eat. At least that's how we did it.