French onion soup looks like it should be a simple dish. Cook onions, add stock, simmer; add bread, melt cheese. Serve. Easy, right?
The key to all excellent French onion soups centers around how one cooks the onions, a process called caramelizing. Low and slow, deglazing with broth as needed, until a soft product with a deep, brown color that produces a hint of sweetness. I give a tip for those interested in speeding up the process, but it's better if you don't.
This French onion soup recipe uses Gruyere cheese for a mellow, smooth topping on what is surely to be a favorite for frigid winter nights.
3 large onions, sliced thin (any type of onion will do, but yellow onions make a delicious soup, and are cheaper)
2 oz clarified butter
3 quarts beef stock
4 oz sherry
4 oz Alaska Distillery Bristol Bay Gin (or a similar, less-juniper-y gin)
A sachet, or tea ball ,containing;
3 parsley stems
1 bay leaf
¼ tsp cracked black peppercorns
½ tsp thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
1 loaf dry French bread, sliced
½ pound Gruyere cheese
In soup kettle or dutch oven, cook sliced onions in butter until a deep brown color develops. Add small amounts of broth if necessary to prevent burning. In a hurry (but try not to be)? Add a pinch of sugar at this point to speed caramelizing.
Add sherry and deglaze. Continue to cook until the onions and broth have a slightly-syrupy consistency.
Add remaining broth and sachet of herbs.
Simmer up to 25 minutes and remove sachet. Add the Bristol Bay Gin and stir.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve in to bowls and top with bread as pictured (above). Add Gruyere cheese and place under a broiler until desired cheese melt is achieved.
Serve carefully, bowls are hot.
Using tea as a smoking agent for meats is not a new concept. In fact, the Chinese have been doing it this way for centuries, and I find its rich, juicy flavor a winner for not only chicken, but salmon as well. This recipe may look complicated, but it's really not -- just a matter of careful timing and vigilance on the part of the chef. The first step involves steaming the chicken on a rack inside a wok (or a large saucepan if you don't have a wok). The second step brings the "smoking" mixture into the process, allowing the mixture to reach temperature, then turning heat off so the chicken sits and absorb the wonderful flavors of jasmine, brown sugar, and sesame oil. Perfect for a cold winter day. This recipe serves two, mostly due to space constraints in a wok. It pairs nicely with rice and a fresh salad.
2 bone-in chicken breasts, skin left on
2 Tbs Jasmine tea (loose tea)
2 Tbs brown sugar
2 Tbs long-grain rice
Heavy aluminum foil
A wok or large saucepan with a rack
- In a small bowl, mix loose tea, sugar, and rice. Set aside.
- Place the wok or saucepan on the stove and add 1 ½ - 2 cups water, and turn heat to high. Place rack in the pan or wok and place chicken on top. Cover and steam for about 8 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
- Tear off a piece of foil and fold and shape until it resembles a circle about 8 inches in diameter. It helps to fold up the sides a little bit to form a rim.
- Drain the pan or wok of initial drippings, and place back on stove. Place the foil creation in the bottom of the pan. - Add the smoking mixture to the top of the foil, and turn heat to high. Place rack back into pan.
- Rub the chicken pieces with sesame oil.
- When smoke starts to rise from the tea mixture, place the chicken back on the rack and cover.
- Heat on high for 5 minutes, then turn the burner off. Leave chicken covered for about 20 minutes.
- NOTE: Be sure chicken is fully cooked by piercing it with a sharp knife; juices should run clear. At this point you have a succulent and delightful treat, and I usually eat it at this point.
You can however, go one step further by removing the bones from the chicken, slicing, and returning to the wok with sesame or peanut oil, and frying until the chicken is a deep, rich brown. Add a dash of Szechuan pepper and salt to taste.
Favorites from Chef Mark Bly
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