The bulk of our trivia team bowed out this week, so I decided to make soup for dinner for me and my roommate instead. And THEN I invited another member of the trivia team. And that's how I wound up having a small dinner gathering tonight.
We have a surefit of onions from the CSA, and I've been wanting to make vegetarian french onion soup ever since watching Alton Brown make it on Good Eats a while back. And once we went from just me and G (the roommate) to a small dinner party, I thought I should make dessert. I have a bunch of apples from the farmshare too, so I thought a french apple tart would make a good dessert.
It was a local, seasonal, french supper
The soup recipe was taken from Food Network, which cribbed from Julia Child's recipe. I made a few adjustments, and I want to kiss the man who invented the food processor (so much easier to slice onions with the slicing plate). I used less broth (although I probably could have used the whole 8 cups), and I added a teaspoon of herbs de provance and a bay leaf (Alton made his with a bouqet de garni of bay leaf, thyme and parsley, but I didn't have the whole sprigs of herbs).
French Onion Soup
Taken from Food Network, which based their recipe on Julia Child's recipe for French Onion Soup
1/2 stick butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 cups thinly sliced onions (about 2-1/2 pounds)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon flour
8 cups homemade beef stock, or good quality store bought stock (I used better than boullion No Beef Base. I LOVE their stuff and ususally have two or three containers in the fridge at any given time)
1/4 cup Cognac, or other good brandy
1 cup dry white wine
1 tsp herbs de provance
8 (1/2-inch) thick slices of French bread, toasted
3/4 pound coarsely grated Gruyere
Heat a heavy saucepan over moderate heat with the butter and oil. When the butter has melted, stir in the onions, cover, and cook slowly until tender and translucent, about 10 minutes. Blend in the salt and sugar, increase the heat to medium high, and let the onions brown, stirring frequently until they are a dark walnut color, 25 to 30 minutes.
Sprinkle the flour and cook slowly, stirring, for another 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat, let cool a moment, then whisk in 2 cups of hot stock. When well blended, bring to the simmer, adding the rest of the stock, Cognac, and wine. Cover loosely, and simmer very slowly 1 1/2 hours, adding a little water if the liquid reduces too much. Taste for seasoning
Divide the soup among 4 ovenproof bowls. Arrange toast on top of soup and sprinkle generously with grated cheese. Place bowls on a cookie sheet and place under a preheated broiler until cheese melts and forms a crust over the tops of the bowls. Serve immediately.
We had a side of salad with homemade balsamic vinaigrette.
For dessert I made an apple tart based on a recipe from Smitten Kitchen. I am pretty sure I used three kinds of apples (Macintosh, Granny Smith, and Golden Delicious). I altered the recipe a bit. Alton reccomends using applejack in apple pie dough instead of water, and I like bourbon in my apple pie so I used some of that in the syrup. Part of the decision was based on the fact that apple tart is traditionally french, part because I had a bunch of apples, and part based on my recent purchase of a new tart pan from Ikea
Alice Waters’s Apple Tart
Found buried deeply within my recipe bookmarks folder!
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, just softened, cut in 1/2-inch pieces
3 1/2 tablespoons chilled water (I used applejack)
2 pounds apples (Golden Delicious or another tart, firm variety), peeled, cored (save peels and cores), and sliced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
5 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup bourbon
MIX flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl; add 2 tablespoons of the butter. Blend in a mixer until dough resembles coarse cornmeal. Add remaining butter; mix until biggest pieces look like large peas.
DRIBBLE in water (or applejack), stir, then dribble in more, until dough just holds together. Toss with hands, letting it fall through fingers, until it’s ropy with some dry patches. If dry patches predominate, add another tablespoon water. Keep tossing until you can roll dough into a ball. Flatten into a 4-inch-thick disk; refrigerate. After at least 30 minutes, remove; let soften so it’s malleable but still cold. Smooth cracks at edges. On a lightly floured surface, roll into a 14-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. Dust excess flour from both sides with a dry pastry brush.
PLACE dough in a lightly greased 9-inch round tart pan, or simply on a parchment-lined baking sheet if you wish to go free-form, or galette-style with it. Heat oven to 400#176;F. (If you have a pizza stone, place it in the center of the rack.)
OVERLAP apples on dough in a ring 2 inches from edge if going galette-style, or up to the sides if using the tart pan. Continue inward until you reach the center. Fold any dough hanging over pan back onto itself; crimp edges at 1-inch intervals.
BRUSH melted butter over apples and onto dough edge. Sprinkle sugar over the crust and apples. I have some vanilla sugar that I used for this (although instead of alton's recipe I just keep a tupperware with white sugar and used vanilla bean pods that I add as I use them)
BAKE in center of oven until apples are soft, with browned edges, and crust has caramelized to a dark golden brown (about 45 minutes), making sure to rotate tart every 15 minutes.
MAKE glaze: Put reserved peels and cores in a large saucepan, along with sugar. Pour in just enough water and bourbon to cover; simmer for 25 minutes. Strain syrup through cheesecloth.
REMOVE tart from oven, and slide off parchment onto cooling rack. Let cool at least 15 minutes.