This week, the recipe for French Fridays with Dorie was so much better than last week’s. The choice this week was a simple side dish with the fancy name of brown sugar squash and brussels sprouts en papillote. Diced squash, halved Brussels sprouts and chopped apple are tossed with a bit of oil, sprinkled with a little brown sugar, garnished with a sage leaf, and roasted in a foil. The result: easy and delicious oven-steamed vegetables.
I’ve mentioned the fruit with savory dishes issue at my house before (yes, Howard, I’m making fun of you again). The individual packets allowed me to make half with and half without apples for perfect domestic harmony. The side was fast to put together and, as with so many of Dorie’s recipes, a natural jumping off point for other vegetable and herb combinations.
I roast vegetables often, and, honestly, I prefer the caramelization of roasting vegetables on a baking sheet. That said, this was a worthwhile experiment that I would repeat. We found it hard to eat out of the foil packets, so ended up just emptying the vegetables onto the plate. If I make this again, I would cover the pan for the steaming effect rather than take the time to portion them out separately.
This side made a perfect accompaniment to leftovers from the Oven Off Roast Beef we were eating this week. This recipe was recommended by my friend Lauren Z (to distinguish from my friend Lauren L). A less expensive cut of beef (bottom round, in my case) is rubbed with a garlicky-herb paste, then seared in a hot oven for about 15 minutes. Then you turn off the oven and let the meat cook to the desired temperature (120F). This took a little less than an hour for my 2.5 pound roast, though the instructions said it would take 2 hours. Every oven is different, I suppose. The final roast is miraculously tender. In the meantime, you have time to make the delicious accompanying Henry Bain sauce. We enjoyed this roast, so I pass along the recommendation. Check it out! Note that because the oven needs to stay tightly closed, you can’t make the papillote vegetables at the same time as the roast unless you are fortunate enough to have two ovens, which I am not.
Soup! I love soup, especially this time of year. As the weather cools off and there’s a chill in the air, soup is just the perfect thing. Also, I love a hot lunch, making soup the perfect thing for lunch.
The selected recipe this week for French Fridays with Dorie was Spur-of-the-Moment Soup, aka Stone Soup. It’s a recipe, but also, in typical Dorie fashion, it is also a jumping off point for making a pot of vegetable soup from what you have on hand.
The book offers a carrot version of the soup. In the fall, I can’t seem to leave a farmers market, farm stand or grocery store without yet another winter squash in hand, so the natural choice was for me to make a winter squash version of the soup.
I’ve seen a couple of new (to me) varieties of winter squash around this year. One I found this week is Sunshine, a variety of Kabocha squash. Another is Rugosa, an Italian heirloom variety that looks like a wrinkly butternut squash. That’s what I used for my spur-of-the-moment soup. The squash has a thick skin, so I used a pound of squash flesh, after I’d seeded and peeled it.
Chopped aromatic vegetables (onion, celery, and garlic) are softened in butter along with the squash. I also added a large sprig of thyme along with a large sprig of sage. Once the vegetables are softened, a chopped potato is added, along with chicken broth, and everything simmers until the potato is soft. The soup could be left chunky or pureed. I opted to puree the soup in the blender because that’s the texture I prefer.
The resulting soup had a nice squashy flavor. I prefer this kind of soup a little thicker, so would add less broth next time, maybe only a quart, but otherwise, it’s a keeper. As described, this “stone soup” is the perfect back-pocket sort of recipe to pull out to make as soup from whatever vegetables are on hand.
To accompany the soup and make a satisfying meal, I made a cheese quesadilla to go with it. For me, the ingredients are pantry items, and I can usually throw one together even when it seems like the cupboard is bare.
Makes one (multiply as needed)
1 flour tortilla (whole wheat is nice)
1 oz cheese, grated (my favorite is pepper jack, but cheddar or plain jack are both good)
1 large spoonful of salsa
In a skillet set over medium heat, melt a small pat of butter. Place the tortilla in the skillet and swirl in around to coat the bottom with melted butter. Sprinkle evenly with cheese. When the cheese is almost melted, drizzle salsa over the cheese. Fold the tortilla in half. Be gentle, you don’t want to the fold to break. If the bottom of the tortilla is nicely browned and the cheese is melted, it’s ready. If the tortilla isn’t browned, let it cook for a few more minutes, flipping it over so both sides are browned. Remove to a cutting board and slice in half or quarters.