Saturday, April 28, 2012

Potato and Leek Soup

I love leeks. They're a milder cousin of the onion. This is primarily a lighter potato soup, with the leeks singing backup, and a slight smoky flavor from some bacon. Even onion haters will probably enjoy this one.

With leeks you only eat the white and light green parts. The darker green leaves are usually too tough to eat, but they make excellent packaging for a bouquet garni, which is what this recipe calls for. Just save two of the bigger leaves, lay the whole seasonings in one leaf, put the other on top, and tie with string, like so:
Learn from Bridget Jones's Diary and don't use rubber bands or dyed string. If you plan a little better than me, you'll have cooking twine on hand. Otherwise some plain cotton string will do in a pinch. Seriously, tying the string is the hardest part of this recipe, then it's all smooth sailing. You saute a little bacon with butter until most of the fat renders, and go from there.
Emeril serves his soup with snipped chives, but I hate buying an extra ingredient just for a couple tablespoons of garnish. It's great with crackers and I could see going the loaded baked potato route and adding cheese, bacon, or green onion on top too. 
Potato and Leek Soup
Serves 6
Adapted slightly from Emeril Lagasse
Cooking Time: 60 minutes (30 active)


2 tablespoons butter
2 strips bacon, chopped

3 small leeks (about 1 pound)

2 bay leaves
20 black peppercorns
4 sprigs thyme

1/2 cup dry white wine
5 cups chicken stock
1 to 1 1/4 pounds russet potatoes, diced
salt, to taste (with low sodium stock you'll probably want 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons)
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream


1. Cut the dark green tops and roots off the leeks. Slice the edible part lengthwise and rinse thoroughly to get rid of any dirt, then slice thinly. Reserve two of the larger dark green leaves for a bouquet garni.

2. To make the bouquet garni, put the thyme, peppercorns, and bay leaves in one of the leaves, and put the other leaf on top. Tie with cooking twine.

3. In a large saucepan melt the butter and add the bacon. Saute for a few minutes until most of the fat has rendered from the bacon.

4. Add the leeks and saute until they're very soft, about 5 minutes.

5.  Add the wine and bring to a boil.

6. Add the bouquet garni, stock, potatoes, salt, and white pepper. Simmer for 30 minutes or until the potatoes are fully cooked and falling apart.

7.  Puree with an immersion blender.

8. Stir in the cream and serve!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

French Onion Soup

This past winter I got into soups in a big way. They're a great way to get more veggies into your diet, they make a great meal, and they freeze and reheat well. Since your consuming a good deal of water with the broth, you consume a lot less calories per volume than lots of other meals. This French onion recipe adapted from Julia Child is one of my favorites. It requires just a few ingredients, but it would impress the hell out of dinner guests and you can make it ahead of time too. It's got a deep rich onion and beef flavor and it's awesome with crusty bread broiled with cheese. This recipe takes a good chunk of time though, so I usually double the batch and freeze half for later.
Making good French onion soup requires full on caramelization of the onions. Basically you want to cook the onions first by letting them sit, covered at a low temperature, then you turn up the heat to start breaking down the sugars in the onions resulting in the brown goodness you see above. If you were to just fire up high heat straight off you'd get semi-raw onions with burnt edges. With proper caramelization you also don't need to add any food coloring. The soup will have the rich brown color from the onions and broth alone. It's crazy how much water cooks out of onions too. If you decide to do a double batch, use at least a 6 or 8 quart stockpot.
The enrichments are optional. I didn't use cognac simply because the only cognac I had was Grand Marnier! And I didn't add the grated raw onion because frankly slicing onions is bad enough, grating them just seems like punishment to my eyes. I did add Worcestershire though and I like the extra layer of flavor it adds.

French Onion Soup
Adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking via Smitten Kitchen
Serves 6
Cooking Time: 2 hours, 15 minutes (1 hour, 15 minutes active)


For the Soup:

1 3/4 lbs onions (794 grams), thinly sliced (This is another place where a mandoline slicer is handy.)
3 tablespoons (42 grams) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil
1 teaspoon (5 grams) salt
1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) granulated sugar
3 tablespoons (24 grams) flour
2 quarts (8 cups or 1.9 liters) beef stock or broth
1/2 cup (118 ml) dry white wine or dry white vermouth
black pepper, to taste

Optional Enrichments:

1 teaspoon or to taste, Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons (45 ml) cognac or brandy
1 tablespoon grated raw onion

For Serving:

slices of bread, toasted until hard, for serving (Baguette or French is traditional, but I really like sourdough too!)
Parmesan or swiss, for serving


1. Melt the butter and oil together in a large pot. Turn the heat to medium-low. Add the onions, stir to coat them, cover the pot, and let them sit for 15 minutes.

2. Uncover, turn the heat to medium, add the sugar and salt. Stir onions frequently for 30 to 40 minutes or until completely caramelized. 

3. Sprinkle the flour over the onions and cook for about 3 minutes.

4. Add the wine and stir. Add the broth a little at a time, stirring in between.

5. Add pepper and adjust salt if necessary. Err on the side of less salt since the cheese on top will add extra salt.

6. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes.

7. Stir in the Worcestershire sauce, cognac, and raw onion, if using.

8. To serve preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Divide the soup among six bowls. Top with toasted bread, mound some cheese on top, and bake on a cookie sheet for 20 minutes. Deb over at Smitten Kitchen recommends a generous 1/4 cup of cheese per bowl if you like it gooey with cheese. I used less for the calorie savings. Finish under the broiler for a minute or two to brown the cheese a little.

If you're bowls aren't oven safe, you can use untoasted bread, sprinkle with cheese, and broil on a cookie sheet until bubbly, then transfer to the bowls. (This method is what's pictured above.)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Chocolate Walnut Biscotti

This is another baked good I'd never tried before, so I didn't know what to expect. I'm here to tell you biscotti are super easy to make. If you're a coffee drinker you should think of making them a regular part of your repertoire. First of all, this is another recipe that doesn't require butter. The cookies are very crunchy and hold up well to dunking. They'll also stay good for 2 weeks or more without a problem, which is good because the recipe makes a lot. They're extra good dipped in more chocolate. The raw dough is also very tasty. It addition to the nuts, there are chocolate chips and cocoa powder in the dough. Jeremy liked it so much he requested I create an ice cream cake based around it.
I did an egg wash on these, but I don't think it's necessary. It just gives them a pretty gloss around the edges. Nerdy fact: the word biscotti comes from a Latin word meaning "twice-baked". The basic technique is to make a long loaf, bake, slice on a diagonal, and bake again. The only tricky part about these is you'll want to check them often toward the end of the second baking time because the dough is dark, it's hard to tell when they're browning around the edge. I came close to burning quite a few. Luckily even the semi-burnt ones tasted good.

Chocolate Walnut Biscotti
Yields 45 or more biscotti, depending on how thick you slice them
Cooking Time: Approx. 90 minutes (30 active)
Barely adapted from this recipe by David Lebovitz 


2 cups (280g) flour
3/4 cups (75g) top-quality cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup (200g) sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1 cup (125g) walnuts (or almonds or pecans), toasted and very coarsely-chopped
3/4 cups (120g) chocolate chips

For the glaze (optional)

1 large egg
2 tablespoons coarse or crystal sugar


1. Preheat your oven to 350 and line two cookie sheets with baking mats or parchment.

2. In one bowl, sift together the first four dry ingredients.

3. In another bowl, beat together the next four ingredients (sugar plus wet ingredients).

4. Gradually stir the dry into the wet. Then mix in the walnuts and chocolate chips.

5. Flour your hands and you work surface. Divide the dough in two.

6. Form two flattened logs the length of your baking sheet and approximately 4 inches across.

7. Beat the egg for the glaze and brush the tops of the logs. You'll have egg left over. Sprinkle the coarse sugar over the top of the wash.

8. Bake the logs for 25 minutes until the tops feel firm to the touch. Remove and let cool for 15 minutes.

9. Slice the logs on a diagonal and place biscotti on sheets cut side down.

10. Bake 15 to 25 minutes until the cookies feel mostly firm. (My biscotti were blackening around the edge before 25 minutes, so keep an eye on them.)

11. Cool completely and store.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Skillet Fried Banana Bread

This is what happens when I leave my husband alone in the kitchen.
Really I should know better. Jeremy has the demented superpower of being able to take something reasonable like low fat banana bread and turn it into complete decadence. Diets are ruined, whipped cream stores are depleted, and sweet sweet awesomeness always ensues.
This banana bread recipe is like a regular banana bread recipe except instead of using butter I used more banana and a little coconut milk I had left over from another recipe. I replace butter with pureed fruit/vegetables a lot in quick breads and I think they come out better for it. They taste fruitier and are moister too. My pumpkin spice bread recipe doesn't use any butter either. If you don't have any coconut milk just add a few more ounces of mashed banana. I didn't use enough for the bread to have a coconut flavor anyway. As with most fruity quick breads, this tastes way better day two. So bake your bread the day before you want to fry it.

The frying is basically the technique we use for grilled cheese sandwiches. Butter both sides and brown in a skillet.  Then Jeremy went totally bananas (har har) and made some sweetened whipped cream spiked with bourbon. The whipped cream gets all melty and the boozy taste soaks into the bread. The taste is bananas foster meets bread pudding. If I'm confessing all the sugary sins we committed with this bread than I have to tell you on a couple of pieces I also added a little cider syrup I canned around the holidays. A little drizzle of caramel or butterscotch would be equally excellent.

Skillet Fried Banana Bread
Yields 1 Loaf (About 12-16 slices)
Cooking Time: For the bread: 80 minutes (20 active) Make a day ahead. To serve: 10 minutes or less
Adapted from this recipe on


For the bread:

1 cup (115 grams) walnuts or pecans, coarsely chopped
1 3/4 cups (230 grams) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 ripe large bananas (approximately 20 ounces or 567 grams), mashed with a fork 
1/4 cup coconut milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the whipped cream: 
a few tablespoons heavy cream
bourbon or rum, optional
a few teaspoons sugar 

butter, for frying


Make the bread:

1. Grease a loaf pan. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Stir all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl and all the wet ingredients together in another bowl.

3. Pour the wet into the dry and stir just until all the flour is moistened. 

4. Pour into the loaf pan and bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center.

5. Cool in the pan on a rack.

To serve:

1. Using an electric mixer, whip a few tablespoons of heavy cream to soft peaks.

2. Add sugar and bourbon to taste. Start with just a teaspoon or less of alcohol because it can easily become overpowering. Whip to stiff peaks.
3. Slice the bread 1/4 to a 1/2 inch thick depending on how many slices you want.

4. Spread both sides of slices with a very thin layer of butter. 

5. Fry in a skillet over medium heat until golden brown, about 1 minute per side.

6. Serve hot with dollops of whipped cream on top. And if you want to be really bad, add a drizzle of caramel, butterscotch, or even maple syrup.