Saturday, December 20, 2008


Despite being retired for over 4 years, I still get the calls when school is closed since Larry works for the same school district. No matter that he leaves for work between 4 and 5 AM. As always, it's impossible to get back to sleep once you've gotten that early morning call, so I turned my thoughts to what I was going to make for dinner. Having been sick all week, the larder was looking a little empty. We'd already done the only take-out our small community has to offer, so I had to be a little creative. Then I remembered the lovely piece of Gruyere I'd had Larry purchase when he took over shopping duties last weekend when this cold first hit. Fingers flying over the keyboard, I searched for a meal worthy of an evening in the woods in front of a roaring fire. A bin filled with yellow onions, my wonderful piece of cheese, enough flour and butter to get through the holiday season. An SOS to Larry to pick up a carton of half and half at our deli outpost in town and it was settled: French onion soup gratinee a la the Barefoot Contessa and a spinach, Canadian bacon quiche.

By noon, we were in the middle of a white out. The storm came on suddenly and was relentless until almost 9 PM. But I digress. Although both Larry and I adore a good, rich onion soup cloaked in gooey cheese, I'd never actually made onion soup. The larder had no lard (sorry, former English teachers do love their play on words), so I had to make a butter crust.

I'm pleased to announce that making onion soup is a snap. As has always been my experience, actually carmelizing onions takes 2 to 3 times longer than any recipe states. Making pastry on my wonderful new silicone Food Network pastry mat is a snap and leaves my kitchen relatively free of the flourstorm that used to characterize any baking. I got mine on sale at Kohl's for less than $25. I love it because I just throw it in the sink to clean, then roll it up and store it between the oven and the microwave.

French Onion Soup Gratinee - Serves 4 - 6

2 1/2 lbs yellow onions, halved then sliced 1/4 inch thick

1/4 lb unsalted butter (this IS an Ina recipe)

1 bay leaf

1/4 cup sherry*

1/4 cup brandy*

1/2 cup dry white wine*

6 cups beef stock**

2 cups chicken stock**

Kosher salt to taste

*I reduced the amount of alcohol in Ina's recipe; hers called for 1/2 cup each of sherry and brandy and 1 1/2 cups of white wine

**in the best of times, I don't have veal stock in the larder; her recipe called for 4 cups each of beef and veal stock

In a large stockpot (my LeCreuset again) on medium high heat, carmelize the onions with the butter and bay leaf. It took me 45 minutes.

Deglaze the pan with the sherry and brandy and simmer uncovered about 5 minutes. Then, add the wine and simmer another 15 minutes.

Add the stock and salt to taste. Bring to a boil, then simmer uncovered 20 minutes. Remove the bay leaf.

At this point, I put soup in a crock, topped with thin slices of baguette, covered the bread with copious amounts of shredded gruyere, then broiled until it reached a lovely shade of brown.

What's in the Larder Quiche - Serves 4

For the Crust:

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour

1 1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces

1/4 cup iced water

flour for dusting

Egg Mixture:

4 eggs

1 cup half and half

pinch black pepper

pinch dry mustard

For the Filling:

4 slices Canadian bacon, diced small

1 box frozen spinach, defrosted, squeezed dry

1/3 cup diced onion, sauteed until translucent

4 oz Gruyere, grated

2 oz shredded mozzarella

Make the Crust:

In a large bowl, combine the flour and the salt. Cut in the butter. Add water to bring the dough together. Refrigerate for 3-4 hours, wrapped in plastic wrap. Roll out on a floured surface and place and shape in your favorite deep dish pie plate.

Assemble and Bake:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Sprinkle the Canadian bacon, spinach, onion, and cheeses over the crust. Slowly pour over the egg mixture. Cover loosely with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake another 10-15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

My larder is now somewhat increased with 3/4 of a lovely quiche--guess what's for breakfast?--and 4 quarts of onion soup. When the going gets tough, the tough start cooking.


  1. The French Onion Soup might be nice this week. I'll try your variation.

  2. The snow looks like a picture postcard.. You have a wonderful view..
    Your warm dinner looks great..

  3. Funny coincidence the name of our blogs!
    I really like your blog and your recipes, they sure look yummy. I'm adding you to my blog roll.

  4. Sounds like the perfect supper for a snowstorm--comfort food at its best! Stay warm!

  5. Lovely snow photo, Arlene. We are enjoying a blast of wintry mix ourselves (every other day!). Seems our Christmas stockings will not be bulging this year as Santa (me) hasn't found a chance to go to the North Pole Mall amidst all my scraping, scraping, scraping, and shoveling, shoveling, shoveling. Think I'll make myself some onion soup!

  6. Your onion soup looks like a perfect way to enjoy being snowed in. I was at my favorite grocery store this weekend where they have a kitchen and offer samples. The cook was making steak with caramelized onions. I had to laugh because the onion was barely brown and still had a crunch to it. Obviously, he didn't spend 45 loving minutes caramelizing the onions. :)

  7. I hope you are feeling better!
    That soup would make me feel better in a snap!


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