Archive for May, 2011

A Quiet Saturday Evening & French Onion Soup

May 15th, 2011 | Rachel

Its the Saturday evening after a busy week.

On Tuesday you listed your apartment on Craigslist during lunch and had a renter for the summer lined up by the time you got home from belly dance class that same night (for $100 more a month than you asked for!).  On Wednesday you applied to about a bazillion jobs and went to two “girls’ nights,” and on Thursday you drank an unfortunate mixture of beverages that killed half of your plans on Friday (but you still managed to drag yourself to Ikea to help a friend pick out furniture for her new apartment).  And now, you are just a little bit tired.

So what do you do?

Perhaps you meet a friend and her visiting mother for cappuccinos at Stumptown and then spend the evening slow cooking some of Julia Child’s French Onion Soup while watching random movies and tv shows on Netflix On-Demand.

Start with a pound and a half of onions…

Thinly slice…

Sauté in butter for 15 minutes.  Then cook over moderate heat for 40 minutes until golden yellow.  Stir in three tablespoons of flour.

Add two quarts of your own homemade chicken stock (great use of the leftover carcasses that have been patiently waiting in your freezer since your many roasted chicken attempts).

I think I only used one quart of chicken stock.  Or maybe I lost count when I was measuring the volume of my new Ikea food storage containers.  Two quarts seemed like it would make the soup too thin.

Let simmer partially covered for another 40 minutes.

Mix in a few shreds of cheese and cover with a round of toasted bread and more cheese.

Then bake in the oven for 20 minutes.  Julia says to turn on the broiler for two minutes at the end, but it wasn’t necessary (and my broiler doesn’t work).

Toasted cheese perfection.

In case you don’t have any cute mason jars on hand (or an “onion soup dish” like Julia recommends — whatever that is), a mug is a fine alternative:

Time for the second episode of Cashmere Mafia.


Steve & Rachel Are Going To France (Recommendations Welcome!)

May 6th, 2011 | Rachel

Steve and I are officially heading to France at the end of the month for two weeks!

On our agenda so far are the French Open and lots of driving.  If you have suggestions about where we should go, what we should eat, what we should drink, where we should stay, etc., please share in the comments!  Also, if anyone knows how to get tickets to the French Open, please let us know.

Guest Blogger: Fête de Printemps

May 4th, 2011 | Guest Blogger

Many thanks to Simon for sharing a bit of his life in Provence.

Springtime in Provence is always a magical time; warmer days, green plants, cicadas chirping, lavender blooming, and of course, the start of outdoor cooking.

The end of March is the time when our Quartier (neighbourhood) has its first fête of the year; normally dozens of Pizzas and Socca[1] are the stars of the show.  This year however the local Sheppard happened to have two beautiful lambs that he promptly handed over to us. One thing you must understand in Provence is that some neighbours are extremely useful and somehow can solve anything (if they benefit of course!). Michel is one of these neighbours, he immediately made some phone calls, not an hour later there was a spit roast in my garden. Time to open a bottle of wine to celebrate the achievement, a cheeky Cote de Provence.[2] To get the lambs cooking as soon as they arrived, we set about making a nice slow burning fire in the garden. Once burning nicely, it was time for the next glass of wine.

Finally our lambs arrived, we covered them in herbs and olive oil, placed them on the spit whilst making sure they weren’t too close to the fire so they cooked slowly. Just past 10:30 it was time to change wines to a Cote du Rhone, a bolder flavour that lingered longer than the Provence.

We now turned our attention to getting tables, chairs, benches, wines,[3] and nibbles in the form of Charcutrie, home grown olives and various other bits. At 12:30 the neighbours start arriving, bringing even more food, couscous, home made bread, vegetables in varying sauces, omelettes and tartes. It is at this point that the wine is traditionally served in copious amounts. There is not much like sitting in the sun on a beautiful day with a glass of wine in one hand and incredible nibbles prepared by your neighbours in the other, not to forget the great company as well.

Finally we arrive at the pinnacle moment of the afternoon, the lambs are ready. Our tools are laid on the table: several cleavers, boning knives, 25cm chef’s knife, carving knife and a saw for good measure. Reinforcements are needed: Bourgogne is poured. Now the carnage begins, hacking, chopping, sawing and any other means of getting at the meat. In what seems like no time at all the lambs are prepared, the meat going to the eagerly waiting friends, whilst the dogs, who have been patiently drooling for a number of hours, are rewarded with the bones.

Lunch finally begins: food, wine and conversation make the time go by. The lamb was cooked to a perfect pink, served with potatoes rôti[4], salad from the garden, pasta, couscous and an assortment of other sides.

At about 6 in the evening people begin to leave, but a few stay on for apéritif and coffee. We begin discussing when to have our next fete and what to cook for it.

[1] Socca is a Niçois speciality made from chickpea flour, water, olive oil and some salt & pepper.

[2] It may only have been 9 in the morning, but that is perfectly acceptable in France.

[3] In Provence, a lack of wine is an offence punishable by guillotine.

[4] Pommes de terre rôti: Blanched potatoes sautéed in olive oil until caramelised, option to add shallots and/or garlic cloves

Un Petit Déjeuner Pour Une

May 1st, 2011 | Rachel

After a wonderful, busy day yesterday, I am postponing changing out of my pajamas as long as possible — even though the glow of springtime sunshine is beckoning me outdoors.

Yesterday began with a stroll down to the Union Square Greenmarket where I laid down 40 bucks and came home with a pretty good haul.

I was ecstatic to discover pearl onions for $2 a bag.  Mushrooms were considerably cheaper as well, and I had the added benefit of being able to ask the mushroom man how to store my mushrooms (paper bag in the fridge).  I’m not a big bread eater, and I have no idea what I am going to do with my half loaf, but the bread stand was so pretty I felt compelled to buy something from them too.

The flowers are peach blossoms, by the way, and were the splurge of the day at $10 for a bundle.  I think they are worth it, don’t you?

After the market, I headed down the street to a spa for a facial appointment and (somewhat) regretfully turned all diva on a young, inexperienced esthetician.  The peak was when I stood up and pointed at her and then at the door and said something like, “This is a complete waste of my time.”  I was angrily putting my clothes back on when the manager came in and somehow convinced me to stay and did the facial herself.  Sure, it may sound dramatic, but you have to have confidence in someone who is going to hold sharp objects near your face and has access to a slew of skin dissolving chemicals.

That ordeal took three hours, so I wasn’t able to cook something French and fabulous for a backyard barbecue up in the Upper East Side (next time, Arthur, I promise!), but I brought an offering of beer and limes in exchange for delicious, homemade guacamole, burgers, and lemon cake.  Then it was time to christen the rooftop of the Empire Hotel (and my summer party wardrobe).  I think this blog is catching on faster than I realized because the same photographer at Empire showed up at the Dream Hotel shortly after we did.  Coincidence?  Perhaps.

All that is to say I am taking it easy today.

I poked around the kitchen this morning looking for something respectable to eat that would involve minimal dish washing and ended up flipping through Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  Julia Child has a whole chapter on eggs, which I have been avoiding because Julia makes cooking eggs look incredibly complicated.  I contemplated trying my hand at an omelette, but that is going to require some outdoor flipping practice involving dried beans.

Eventually I settled on scrambled eggs.

If this post had a byline, it’d be: Scrambled Eggs, I Don’t Think That Word Means What You Think It Means.

If you are anything like me, then you cook your scrambled eggs in a similar fashion to fried eggs only you mix the yolk and egg white together a little before dumping into a pan on moderately high heat and stirring it around for 30 seconds or so until it becomes cooked little egg lumps.

Per Julia’s instructions, I cooked my eggs this morning in a sauce pan.  A sauce pan!  (That’s the pot with the handle, fyi.)  The trick is to cook your eggs on low heat in a pan small enough for the egg to be 2/3″ to 1″ deep.  Furthermore, when you pour your eggs (lightly beaten with a splash of milk) into the pot there is no satisfying sizzle, and, true to the instructions, nothing happens for the first 2-3 minutes as you seemingly fruitlessly stir.

But then, very slowly, the eggs will start to turn into a soft custard, and when it solidifies almost enough to eat with a fork, you remove it from heat and stir in a splash of cream to stop the cooking.  The result is breakfast perfection.

Now I know why the farmer’s plate at Community (replicated above) always seemed superior to anything I could cook.

Well, I reckon it is time to seize the day.