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French Onion Soup

June 28, 2010 1 comment

French Onion Soup

What do you do when you have a sack of onions from Costco that you have to use right away? French onion soup! We had a lot of onions leftover from the crawfish boil two weeks ago and I didn’t want them to go to waste. Since we will be traveling for the next month, I have been on a mission to cook and eat all perishables. This has gone a little bit further than intended so we’ve also been eating through the freezer and pantry…probably could have used some fresh vegetables in the past few days, but oh well! I would call this mission a success.

I didn’t know what else to do with that many onions, we had some bread and cheese to get through, and I also had some beef broth in the pantry that I didn’t really know what to do with. French onion soup seemed to make sense, despite the fact that it is 85 degrees out. Luckily, we have air conditioning!

I found a recipe for French Onion Soup at Simply Recipes and went from there. Per usual, my modifications:

  • Used half beef broth and half chicken broth because that’s what I had in the pantry. Obviously a homemade stock would have been better but at the very least, stick to beef broth…the flavor is more authentic.
  • I used a thick slice of ciabatta, which I toasted before dropping into the soup and throwing into the oven. I don’t know if it made a difference, but it seemed like the right thing to do. I forgot that the bread would expand while soaking up the soup so I ended up with a bit more bread than I would have liked. Next time, I would only use enough bread to cover half (or less) of the top.
  • Had some random cheeses in the fridge, so didn’t bother using “authentic” cheese. I think one was a Swiss Emmentaler from Fair Oaks Farms and the other was some grated parmesan.
  • I used the smallest oven-proof dishes I had but it was a good size for a lunch portion (that’s all we had for lunch).
  • My onions never caramelized…I think because I stirred too much. Or I got impatient…the next World Cup match was starting soon and I didn’ t want to be cooking after kickoff!

French Onion Soup

This is what 6 sliced yellow onions looks like

French Onion Soup

This is the 6 yellow onions that never caramelized

French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup

Despite no caramelization, it tasted good anyway! Cover anything in bubbling cheese and it is hard to fail.

Posts will be sporadic or non-existant for the next month as we explore London, South Africa and Namibia!

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Categories: soup, vegetables Tags: ,

Graduation Cookout

June 25, 2010 Leave a comment

Potato Salad

I graduated! With friends and family in town from all corners of the country, we hosted a cookout the night before graduation. I didn’t take any pictures of the food since I was so busy prepping, watching soccer and hanging out with friends and family. Instead, I’ll just give you a list of food we served with links and comments:

  • Rosanne Cash’s Potato Salad: I doubled the recipe and we had more than enough for our 20+ guests. I had never made potato salad before (love potato salad but its not really a staple for the West Coast cookout) but it seems like everyone in the Midwest has an opinion about what should or shouldn’t go into a potato salad. I used red potatoes, omitted the onions, added some creole seasoning and used both dill and sweet butter pickles (because that’s what was in the fridge). Next time, I would add some bacon. Otherwise, this recipe is pretty awesome as is…not too mayonnaisey, which is always my fear.
  • Grilled Corn
  • Grilled Korean meats from H-Mart
  • Pesto Pasta Salad: Used whole wheat pasta and added tomatoes and mushrooms.
  • Slow Cooker Pulled Pork: This is such an easy way to feed a lot of people with minimal effort! Only two ingredients to throw into a slow cooker and all you have to do later is shred the pork and throw in some BBQ sauce. I had intended on making BBQ sauce from scratch but I discovered a few bottles in the fridge and figured it would be wasteful not to use it. I used 4 pounds of pork shoulder but definitely could have made more (there were no leftovers).
  • Cole Slaw: I’m not usually a big fan of cole slaw but it goes so well with pulled pork (and we needed some veggies).
  • Fresh Pineapple: Since my Dad was in town, I bought three pineapples for him to carve up. Normally, it is too much work for me (well, I’ve never attempted it)…but I do love fresh pineapple…and now I know how to choose good ones, too!
  • Freezer Cookies: Between the crawfish boil and the graduation cookout, all of the cookie dough hoarding paid off. We had delicious fresh-baked cookies (ginger snap, oatmeal peanut butter, snickerdoodle, oatmeal chocolate chip) without any of the effort required!

And of course, I couldn’t have done it without the help of my best girlfriends who all flew in for my graduation. THANK YOU!!

Potato Salad

Categories: Chicago, meat, sides Tags:

Red Beans & Rice

June 15, 2010 1 comment

Red Beans (w/o the rice)

For the crawfish boil, I also prepared a pot of red beans and rice. I didn’t eat any at the party (gas!!) but the bite I tried was delicious…the pot was empty by the end and I got many thumbs up, so I guess it was a success! It was also very easy to prepare and I heard it went really well with the mac and cheese too (that a friend brought over). I didn’t get a picture of the red beans over rice as I had already had too much sweet tea vodka by the time we started eating, but oh well.

I used this recipe from Simply Recipes and the only adjustment I made was to use smoked ham hocks instead of shanks (because that’s what they had at the store). Oh, and I also chopped a few chicken andouille sausages into the pot.

Red Beans (w/o the rice)

Categories: Southern Tags: ,

Crawfish Boil

June 14, 2010 1 comment

30 lb Batch #1

We hosted a viewing party this past weekend for the US vs England World Cup match for 20+ friends. After the game, we moved to the rooftop to boil 60 lbs of live crawfish flown in that morning from Louisiana (ordered from Louisiana Crawfish Company). I borrowed a huge crawfish kettle from some friends at school who had just hosted a 400 lb. boil over Memorial Day weekend and set up a big folding table with newspapers so everyone could drink Budweisers, peel crawfish and enjoy the potatoes, corn, andouille sausage, mushrooms, garlic and onions also cooked in the spicy broth.

It was a very fun way to spend the afternoon despite the random sprinkles (we just put raincoats on and continued eating). My fingers were a little sore and cut up after peeling all of that crawfish. I thought eating crab was a lot of labor but crawfish takes the cake!

We used to do crab boils when I lived in San Francisco and if I return to San Francisco, I think we should do a crab and shrimp boil but incorporate some elements from the crawfish boil: mainly the spices, sausage and veggies. Usually, we just steam the crab in beer, but I really did like the spicy seafood boil (which went down really easy with many cans of beer).

60 lbs of crawfish flown in from Louisiana

Prison break

Crawfish Boil

30 lb Batch #1

30 lb Batch #1

30 lb Batch #1

30 lb Batch #1

I also made a pot of red beans and rice, which I’ll show you in my next post!

Categories: seafood Tags: ,

Chicken, asparagus & spinach risotto

June 11, 2010 Leave a comment

Chicken, asparagus and spinach risotto

In an effort to clear out the freezer, I made stock out of three roast chicken carcasses. I had some asparagus and spinach that was about to turn and the only thing I could think to make was risotto. I also blended some asparagus and spinach with broth to infuse some vegetable flavor into the risotto…next time, I should put that in last. It turned the whole thing a grayish green hue because I put it in too early. It still tasted good and luckily I was just cooking for the two of us.

In retrospect, I could also have made sup mang (asparagus soup) but it just didn’t occur to me.

Roasted Artichokes

June 10, 2010 Leave a comment

Roasted Artichoke

I came across a post about roast artichokes on Pinch My Salt and thought it might be a good alternative to the steamed artichokes I grew up eating in Northern California. Not only was it a new preparation for whole artichokes but it would definitely reduce my mayonnaise intake. I prepared it almost exactly as Pinch My Salt suggested except I sliced the garlic to make it easier to tuck between the leaves. I also didn’t have heavy duty aluminum foil and the suggested doubling up didn’t seem to help. The stems ended up burning through the bottom of the tin foil which resulted in a browner and crispier artichoke than anticipated. However, after I peeled the charred part away, it was velvety and delicious!

I just need to pick up some heavy duty aluminum foil and this will be going into our regular vegetable rotation!

Roasted Artichoke

Roasted Artichoke

Roasted Artichoke

Roasted Artichoke

And stay tuned for some upcoming cooking extravaganzas…we’ll be hosting both a crawfish boil and a cookout within the next few weeks!

Salad, cookies & curds

June 9, 2010 Leave a comment

Kitchen sink salad w/grilled shrimp

Let it be known that this will be a pretty random post.

Pictured above is a typical lunch for us: baby spinach, chopped fruits and veggies from the fridge and whatever protein we may have lying around topped with almonds, black pepper, and Japanese miso dressing. This particular salad features leftover grilled yellow squash & zucchini, chopped celery, nectarines & carrots, and grilled shrimp (seasoned with chili powder, cumin, salt & pepper).

Fried cheese curds

I’ve been eyeing the fried cheese curds at Small Bar on Division for a while now. However, I knew that I would love them but that they would make me fat, so I have successfully avoided them…until the Do Division Street Fest last weekend. We had been drinking for several hours and there were five of us to share the calories, so I finally relented. They taste a lot like the fried mozzarella sticks from my youth (but better). I’m glad I tried them!

Oatmeal Peanut Butter Cookies

Oatmeal Peanut Butter Cookies

Finally, I baked a full batch of oatmeal peanut butter cookies that turned out a little differently than my last batch. I followed the exact same recipe…but these cookies were not as flat/crispy/gooey as the last batch (which I prefer). Nobody else seemed to mind though. The only differences from last time:

  • Used creamy peanut butter instead of chunky
  • Finally bought and used a cookie scoop (so much easier than hand rolling balls)
  • Bought generic quick oats instead of Quaker

Oh well–they were a hit at the potluck I brought them to and they were also appreciated at the She & Him free concert at Millennium Park the next day:

She & Him @ Millennium Park

Chicago is awesome when it isn’t winter. I would love to stay here for a few more years but the odds aren’t looking good…

Categories: Chicago, food, sweets