I eat a lot of soup in the winter, making a pot once or twice a week depending on what’s on hand and my mood. A few favorites are periodically repeated, but there are so many soup recipes out there, more often I try something new. Of course, “something new” could be a different recipe for something I know we like. French Onion Soup falls under that category. This week’s selection for Cook the Book Fridays is David Lebovitz’s version of this classic soup from his book My Paris Kitchen.
French onion soup is one of those soups where the quality of the underlying broth is key. David’s version calls for chicken broth. I had a turkey carcass in the freezer which was close enough. I got a start early in the week, making a batch of turkey stock in the slow cooker. I love making stock in the slow cooker. I can comfortably come and go while it simmers away safely without any attention required. And when I do leave the house, the aroma on returning is magnificent.
To balance the lack of attention required by the stock, caramelizing the onions for the soup calls for two hours of frequent attention. Two pounds of onions melt away to a surprisingly small pile of fragrant mush. At this point, the rest is again hands off. The onions simmer in the stock for nearly an hour before balancing the flavors with sherry vinegar, salt and pepper.
The finishing touch are the cheesy croutons that top the soup. For my bowl, I topped toasts (made from Mardi’s No Knead French Bread) with Emmenthaler cheese and broiled it. Howard prefers the cheesy toasts on the side, so I also broiled some standalone toasts on the pan alongside my bowl of soup. Everyone was happy!
This version of French Onion Soup was delicious, though it wasn’t noticeably different from other versions I’ve made. I suppose that’s the thing with a classic – as long as the familiar flavors come through, it’s reliably good regardless of the recipe.
Last month, I made this completely vegetarian version from Serious Eats without any stock, just water, which we also loved.
The only downside of making onion soup is that my house always seems to smell skunky for the next day or so. Does that happen to you?
The end of the year is coming fast, and November has been crazy! I had a quick visit to Philadelphia to meet up with my sisters for a happy family event. We packed in the activities, as we always do. Our mother was not one to sit still, and she trained us to be the same way.
I really like cake, plain simple unfrosted cakes. I could take or leave birthday cakes or other layered cakes, but I always enjoy a pound cake, a Bundt cake, or any kind of one layer cake. A simple glaze or a dusting of powdered sugar makes them complete, no fussing required. For Howard, I think it’s all about the frosting as he never gets excited when I make a cake, so they are usually relegated to occasions where I’m having just my friends over or bake something to bring somewhere else.
My favorite bakery cake is the Vanilla Bean Pound Cake made by Hi-Rise Bakery in Cambridge. They are regulars at the Lexington Farmers’ Market and, in season, I treat myself to a slice about once a month. The genius of their cake is that it’s soaked in vanilla-infused simple syrup, making the outside crust magical. Eating an end piece with its extra crust is just heaven. I’ve never made it myself, but here’s the recipe.
Right before I left, I made David Lebovitz’s Bay Leaf Pound Cake, the first November challenge recipe for Cook the Book Fridays. I did NOT need a whole cake. I had nowhere to bring it that week. So, I minified it. I made one-third of the recipe (dividing by the eggs, of course) to fill one small loaf pan – a personal pound cake.
This cake is a little different than a traditional pound cake recipe because rather than creaming the butter, the butter is melted. In this case, the butter is then infused with bay leaves to add some depth of flavor. A couple of bay leaves are also set on the bottom of the pan to add more bay flavoring.
We are also instructed to squeeze a line of soft butter on top of the cake to enhance a decorative crack. It could be because of my smaller pan, but that didn’t happen on my cake.
The final touch was an orange glaze. The cake’s predominant flavor was orange. Even with the infused butter and extra leaves, I didn’t notice the bay flavoring at all. Overall, this was a lovely cake, small enough for me to eat a daily slice for a few days. It wasn’t interesting enough to make again, though I did enjoy it while it lasted.
The second recipe for Cook the Book Fridays is Panade de Butternut (Butternut Squash Bread Soup). To read the C&C (comments and concerns) post for this recipe, it wasn’t getting a lot of love, so I was a bit wary.
The recipe took a bit of advanced planning. David recommends homemade stock for this one. We were finishing up a whole chicken, so that was easy enough with a carcass on hand. I’ve been making stock in the slow cooker for the past few years which is so simple. Sourdough bread was also required. My sourdough starter needed a workout this week, so I managed to bake my own loaf to use. Stock? Check! Bread? Check! I was ready to go.
This panade is a layering of caramelized onions, toasted sourdough bread, sliced butternut squash, chopped thyme and sage, and grated cheese doused with the homemade chicken stock. I halved the recipe for our household. I must have sliced the bread too thickly because there wasn’t nearly enough to fully cover the pan for even two layers, and the recipe called for three. That means I had three layers of squash and just two of bread, which was fine.
As the panade baked, the bread absorbed all the stock, so the result was more like bread pudding than soup. It also reminded me of a lighter version of the filling for a stuffed pumpkin I’ve made. Whatever it was, it was delicious! All the flavors of fall combined into one hearty dish. It would be a wonderful alternative to stuffing for the Thanksgiving table. On the downside, if I’m being honest, even though I really liked it, in my opinion, it was a lot more work than it was worth.
Judge for yourself! Recipes for both the pound cake (page 296) and the panade (page 163) can be found in David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen. My friends from Cook the Book Fridays made these too. You can find their reviews for the cake here and the panade here.