French Onion Soup

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I hate french onion soup. There aren't a lot of foods I really detest, but I've made two of them in the last week for this blog (the other to come next week), and french onion soup is one of them. I'd argue my rationale is valid- without going into detail, it involves a Panera, a group study session, food poisoning and missing the first exam of my college career.

Since then, I have never eaten french onion soup (and I lived in France for a year, got married there, spent my honeymoon and three other recent vacations there- my commitment to avoiding it is truly admirable, if I say so myself). Not only have I completely abstained from french onion soup for the last fourteen years, but I also have only eaten anything made with beef broth maybe a half dozen times in that span. My hatred runs deep.

Because I haven't had french onion soup in that long, I have literally never eaten it in front of Judson. But I realised I didn't want to make a giant batch and be stuck with it if he didn't like it either, so I asked him if he did: 'UGH, french onion soup,' he sneered. 'YOU DON'T LIKE IT EITHER? How did I never know this?!' I asked, shocked. He responded 'it's not that I don't like it, it's just a food that's not fancy but that people eat when they want to BE fancy, and that bugs me. Why? Don't you like it?'

And that's how we each found out something new about the person we've been married to for almost six years. On account of all this, I only made us two servings of it because, I mean, what if I couldn't handle it? It turns out that Judson quite likes the act of eating french onion soup, it's just the idea of it he can't handle, so he didn't mind either. And really, what's not to like here? Onions cooked low and slow until they're sweet and soft, a deep, flavourful broth and seriously, what other soup do you get to serve with the melted cheese right on it, already broiled to a crisp?

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This version of the recipe is insanely easy- put your onions on and forget about them; add your broth and forget about it; when ready to eat, reheat under the broiler with a mozzarella crouton and you're golden- literally, that's the colour your toast should be. Best eaten with a glass of Pinot Noir and a film you've been dying to see (we went with Mindhorn) while you watch the snow swirl outside your window.

One note: my beef broth phobia runs deep, so I went on a limb and used the best quality I could get for this recipe- since it's literally half the ingredients of the soup, I'd recommend going top-notch with it. I didn't have any homemade, so I used the best quality stockpot I could get my hands on and upping the awesome factor with some fresh thyme, a glug of verjus (you can use wine, I just happened to have verjus to hand), and a generous pinch of brown sugar because I like the way it plays off the onions.

 

The verdict:

4 spoons out of five. I don't think I can properly call myself a fan of french onion soup yet, but if anything is going to convince me, the simplicity of this recipe will be it.

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One year ago: toll house marble squares
two years ago: double-chocolate layer cheesecake

The recipe:

French Onion Soup

The directions:

Chop onions into bite-size pieces.
Heat the butter in a large stockpot JUST until melted, then turn heat as low as possible.
Add onions, stir to coat with butter, and add the brown sugar if using.
Put the lid on the pot and allow to cook for 1 hour, checking occasionally to be sure they haven't dried out.
After one hour, add beef stock.
If using the thyme, bay leaf, and verjus/wine, add it now.
Stir well, and bring to a gentle simmer.
Allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes, until heated through.
Meanwhile, toast baguette slices until just crisped through but not yet browned.
Warm your grill (broiler in the US) and place an oven tray in the top 1/3 of oven.
Taste soup and adjust seasoning (ours needed a hint of brightness, so I added a spoonful more wine here).
Ladle the soup into two ovenproof bowls, place the toasted baguette on top of each bowl, and place the mozzarella on top of the bread.
Place the soup in the oven and toast until mozzarella is blistered and bubbly and soup is bubbling underneath.
Remove from oven, garnish with an extra thyme sprig if desired, and eat immediately.

Yields 2 generous servings.

the ingredients:

3 large onions
2 tbsp (28g) butter
Scant 2 cups (400ml) beef stock
2 slices from a baguette
2 slices mozzarella cheese
Optional: 1 tsp brown sugar, 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, 1 bay leaf, 2 tbsp verjus or wine.

Millinocket Fudge Cake

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I don't know why this cake is called Millinocket Fudge Cake, and when I googled it, the only relevant result I found was from a transcribed copy of this exact recipe, which is kind of weird. From what I can tell, Millinocket is a city in Maine and that's it. It's not particularly known for its cakes, it's definitely not known for THIS cake, and there's no other results on the whole internet.

I don't know why this is the case, because this cake is so good.

Let's back up a second. We all know how much I love cake, and how indifferent (at best) Judson is to it. But when you're facing down your second week of temperatures that don't crest the freezing point, the ground is covered in week-old slush mud that just won't quit and you're spending half of your waking hours either bundling up the dog to go for a walk or drying her off when you come in from a walk... there are few things you need more than cake. An easy, chocolate-fudgey cake with sprinkles that doesn't require fancy frosting techniques or multiple layers or a separate recipe for filling. Just a square chocolate cake with the plushest crumb and the fudgiest frosting (almost a glaze, really). A cake that is light and airy on the first day but settles, on the second day, into a chocolate-fudge wonder with a dense, brownie-like top. THAT is what you need to get you through January.

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So that's what I made. Millinocket or not, this cake is amazing. The frosting almost pours onto the cake, so you don't need to deal with a lot of decorating faff, and it makes the whole process of getting from ingredients to cake to your mouth that much faster. (Seriously, I think from start to snacking this took 45 minutes, excluding cooking time).

The best thing about this cake is... well, it's probably the frosting, to be honest. But the other best thing about it is that it's super simple but still pretty enough to serve to company or take to a party (or to work, if you can be bothered to share). It's the perfect thing to whip up after work to take to a party that same night, and no one else has to know how easy it is.

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The verdict:

5 spoons out of five. I'm honestly already considering making another one of these to keep for ourselves. I think it would probably freeze well, right?

ONE YEAR AGO: TOLL HOUSE MARBLE SQUARES
TWO YEARS AGO: HAPPY NEW YEAR!

the recipe:

Millinocket Fudge Cake with Quick Fudge Frosting

the directions:
cake:

Preheat oven to 175C/350F and line a 9” square pan with paper on the bottom.
Melt the chocolate and set aside.
Sift together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt, then set aside.
Cream butter and sugar until very light and fluffy.
Add eggs and vanilla and beat until light.
Blend in cooled chocolate on low speed until mixture is uniform.
Add sifted dry ingredients alternately with milk, beating until smooth.
Stir in boiling water, which will make mixture VERY thin.
Pour into prepared pan and bake 50-60 minutes, until a pick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Allow to cool to room temperature (or nearly) and frost.

frosting:

Sift powdered sugar, cocoa and salt together.
Heat evaporated milk until warm and add butter to evaporated milk.
Stir once or twice so butter softens slightly.
Add evaporated milk mixture and vanilla to powdered sugar mixture.
Beat with electric mixer until smooth, room temperature and fluffy.
Pour over cooled cake and add sprinkles immediately if desired.

Serves 12, generously.

the ingredients:
the cake:

2 oz dark chocolate, melted and cooled slightly
1 ¾ c (210g) flour
1 ½ tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
¾ tsp salt
½ c (114g) butter, softened
1 ½ c (300g) sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
½ c (4oz) milk
¾ c (6oz) boiling water


 

the frosting:

2 c (250g) powdered sugar
¼ c (25g) cocoa
1/8 tsp salt
¼ c (2oz) evaporated milk
2 tbsp (29g) butter
1 tsp vanilla
Optional: sprinkles!

Teriyaki Steak

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This is the time of year when I'm willing to spend ages making a dish if I think it's going to come out well, and the time of year when my resolutions about food ('I'll cook dinner every night of the week!' or 'I'll start meal-planning!' or 'I'll start remembering to marinate things overnight the day before I want to cook them!') are coming so fast and furious that I know it's only a matter of time until something falls off the table... hopefully not literally. But while I'm determined to remember to marinate things (surely I'm not the only one who hates this process? The night after I remember to do it, I love it: a delicious dinner with little prep and few dishes... but the night before, when I have to have already done the grocery shopping AND remember to make a marinade AFTER I've already dealt with a different dinner? I usually just can't be bothered), I decided to give this a whirl. My hopes were not high, and when you're dealing with steak that you're pretty sure you're going to ruin, it's easy to get discouraged.

So imagine my surprise when I seared this steak evvvvvver so briefly and it came out delicious! Pink in the middle, tender and juicy with a unique (and very non-teriyaki-ish) flavour, this steak is a perfect dish to make next time you're trying to talk yourself out of ordering takeout again because it's embarrassing that the Deliveroo driver is starting to ask about your family and become friends with your dog. The soy sauce tenderises the meat until it's ready to melt-in-your-mouth, and the wine gives it just enough of a fruity edge to keep the saltiness from being overpowering.

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If you can be bothered to remember to marinate it the night before, this cooks up in less than 5 minutes, start to finish (and if you can't be bothered to marinate it overnight, it's fine to marinate it for only a few hours). We served it with Momofuku's Brussels Sprouts with Fish Sauce Vinaigrette- seriously my favourite side dish to go with Asian flavours, and it was so nice I'm already watching out for the next time this wafer-thin steak goes on sale.

I've eaten enough Asian food in my life to be pretty confident that teriyaki sauce does not usually include golden syrup, but this one does (perhaps contributing to that non-teriyaki-ish flavour I mentioned above). If teriyaki is usually made from soy sauce, mirin and sugar, what we have here is a version substituting white wine for mirin (I would have had to make this substitution anyway because evidently there is not a single shop in Edinburgh- including the rich people grocery store- that sells mirin) and golden syrup/corn syrup for sugar. I'm not complaining; it may not be authentically teriyaki, but it was delicious.

The verdict:

4 spoons out of five. This was really tasty, but I have a feeling a large part of this was the specific cut of steak that I purchased, so I'm knocking off a spoon in case it doesn't work so well on other cuts.

ONE YEAR AGO: TOLL HOUSE MARBLE SQUARES
TWO YEARS AGO: HAPPY NEW YEAR!

the recipe:

Teriyaki Steak

the directions:

Mix together all ingredients except steak, making sure to blend golden syrup into mixture as much as possible.
Pour over steak and marinate at least 2 hours or up to overnight.
When ready to cook, heat a cast-iron skillet until it's screaming hot.
Cook steak, a few pieces at a time, making sure not to crowd them in the pan.
After 30 seconds, flip steak and allow to cook for a further 30 seconds on the other side.
Check for doneness and serve.

the ingredients:

1/3 c (2.5 oz) soy sauce
1/3 c (2.5 oz) white wine
¼ c (2 oz) golden syrup (light corn syrup in the US)
½ tsp ground ginger
1 clove garlic, minced
2 lbs (1 kilo) lean steak, sliced very thin