Weekend Eats (and Drinks)

Dinner:  October 26, 2007

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ve probably noticed that our Friday night dinners at home usually feature something meaty – a steak, pork chops, that sort of thing. But as last week drew to a close, we still weren’t sure what Mike’s work schedule was going to look like. He’s been in a crunch period and has been working heavy overtime for the last couple of months now, but there was a possibility that if he and his coworkers could push through and finish up what they needed to on Friday evening, they wouldn’t have to work another Saturday. As it turned out, that’s exactly what happened – I got my husband back, and we could look forward to a relaxing weekend.

Since things were still up in the air as of Thursday night, I had planned something pretty simple for Friday dinner – a big pot of onion soup that could simmer away as long as necessary, and bitter greens salad with sherry vinaigrette and poached egg. Onion soup is the very first thing I taught myself to cook when I was around 11 or 12 years old, and the recipe has definitely grown with me. My current version uses a mixture of both beef and chicken stock, a healthy splash of brandy, and loads of sweet red onions. While my younger self loved to blanket crocks of onion soup in a heavy layer of cheese, I prefer a lighter take these days – a toasted slice of good sourdough bread, topped with a judicious amount of finely grated cave-aged Gruyere and popped into the oven or broiler until golden.

Dinner:  October 27, 2007

We did get our steak dinner this weekend, but we decided to let someone else do the cooking (and the clean-up). After all, we had cause to celebrate, and now that our lives and schedules are getting back to normal, we’ll have plenty of opportunity for dinners at home.

Onion Soup

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 medium red onions, peeled, halved and sliced
Kosher salt
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 oz. brandy
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups beef stock
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon dried marjoram

Heat butter and oil in a deep, heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. When the butter is melted, add the onions, season with salt, toss them to coat with the butter/oil mixture, and allow them to cook until very soft – 20 minutes or so. Move the onions aside to clear a spot on the bottom of the pan and add tomato paste, allowing it to cook in the hot spot for a minute or two before stirring it through the onions. Carefully pour in the brandy and let it bubble away for a few minutes before adding the chicken and beef stocks, bay leaf and marjoram. Cover, reduce heat to low and cook for an additional 20-30 minutes, tasting and adjusting the seasonings as necessary.

To serve, ladle the soup into bowls or crocks and top with toasted Gruyere croutons or your favorite bread/cheese combination.

9 thoughts on “Weekend Eats (and Drinks)

  1. Oh, yum. I love, love, love onion soup, and your recipe sounds divine. I really need to get started on some homemade stock.

    How was the duck rillette? (As if I have to ask.) I came thisclose to making cracklin with my leftover duck skin this weekend, but my conscience got the better of me. 🙂

  2. Jennifer Hess says:

    The rilette was awesome, but I have to say not as good as my husband’s. Though I might be a wee bit biased. 🙂

  3. Jennifer Hess says:

    Hi Rebecca – thanks, I hope you like it! Dumont has one of my favorite burgers around, for sure, and it’s hard not to order it whenever we go there. And let’s not forget their amazing mac & cheese… 🙂

  4. frenchy says:

    i love dumont. their mac and cheese is crazy good.
    quick question-is there any other kind of liquor I could replace the brandy with? like a red wine? or is the brandy essential to the soup’s goodness? just deciding whether to stop at the liquor store on my way home or not! thanks!

  5. Jennifer Hess says:

    Hi frenchy! I think the brandy adds a bit more sweetness to the dish than red wine would. I usually use brandy or cognac, but I’ve also seen recipes that call for sherry. I would probably substitute something like vermouth for wine, so you’ve got some sweetness to echo and enhance the sweetness of the onions. But certainly, feel free to experiment!

  6. Lisa says:

    Whoa there!!!! Does Dumont always have rillettes??? I go there all the time and somehow managed never to spy that one.

  7. Jennifer Hess says:

    Hi Lisa – I think they were actually a special that night, but if you like rillettes, I’d definitely try to get over there while they have them!

  8. Lisa says:

    I know I couldn’t have missed my favorite thing making an appearance on that menu for too long. But perhaps missing it is a sign, I’ve been long considering making some good old fatty rillettes. And I have some duck confit I just made that have been begging for a good cause.

    Side note: occasionally one can procure a very yummy tub of rillettes from Blue Ribbon Bakery (unless they’ve sold them all in their picnic baskets).

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