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French Cooking

French Cooking
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By Stefania Trimboli

France has one of the most important cuisines in the culinary industry. It is classic and at times considered the beginning of it all. When you go to culinary school to study, you study classic French cooking and all it’s techniques. It’s the foundation of food.

French Onion Soup

French-Onion-Soup-

Ingredients:

Butter (as needed)
1 lb yellow onion, very thinly sliced from root to top
Couple cloves of garlic
5 springs of fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper as needed
½ cp. dry white wine or sherry
3 cups beef stock
Sliced French baguette
Grated Gruyere cheese

Directions:

Now, I don’t normally follow recipes exactly because it’s all a matter of personal taste. This is to be used a guideline and for you to expand as you wish.

  1. Preheat the broiler on high.
  2. In a large stock pot, heat the butter over medium high heat, careful not to burn the butter as it can happen fast. Add the thinly sliced onions and reduce heat to medium. Season with salt and pepper and let the onions do their thing. The process of caramelizing onions takes about 30 minutes and it cannot be rushed, so stir occasionally and let it happen. Add garlic and let it hang out in there until it releases its flavor. Add the fresh thyme with stems and bay leaf.
  3. Deglaze the pan with the white wine or sherry and scrap off all the bits that get stuck to the bottom of the pan. This is gold. Let the liquid reduce a little to cook out the alcohol. Add the beef stock and simmer until the onions are very tender and the flavors are married for about 20 minutes or so. Taste, taste, taste. It’s very important to taste your food. It’s the only way you’ll ever know what it needs. Too concentrated? Add a little water. Not rich enough? Add more broth. Lacks taste? Season with a little more salt. Love sherry? Drizzle a little more in as its simmering. Love garlic or thyme? Add more! Once you get the soup to where you want it, you’re ready to move on.
  4. Using a sheet pan, toast the sliced French bread under the broiler for a couple minutes. Drizzling a little olive oil helps. This also happens very fast. Toasts both sides lightly.
  5. Ladle soup into oven proof bowls. Don’t quite fill them to the top. Place the toasted bread on top of the soup, 2 slices might fit, or just one slice. Depending on your bowl.
  6. Now, cover the top of the bowl with the grated Gruyere cheese, it doesn’t have to be perfect. The beauty of this soup is its rustic demeanor.
  7. Using the sheet pan, broil the soup in the oven until you see the cheese melted and blistering, you’ll know when it’s ready. Take out, set aside to let the bowl cool a bit, get a spoon and dive right in.

Croque Monsieur

DSC_0106

Ingredients:

Brioche bread (or any white bread will work, sourdough is good, anything that slices like sandwich bread)
Lots of butter (as needed)
¼ cp crème fraiche (found in the specialty cheese section in H.E.B.)
¼ cp. good quality Dijon mustard
3 figs or so, if in season. If not, you could replace with any fruit if your choice, or leave it with just cheese
1 cp shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cp shredded Gruyere or Swiss cheese (or really any cheese will work)
2 slices of prosciutto (also found in the specialty cheese section) or any ham of your choice

Directions:

Every step of this recipe is essential for the result to turn out the right way. No cutting corners. I gave estimated measurements of the cheeses, you can use more or less to your liking.

  1. Preheat broiler on high.
  2. In a large sauté pan, melt butter over medium high heat, not to let burn. Place two sliced of bread on the pan and toast in the butter on medium heat until they are a nice golden brown. Toast one side only.
  3. In a mixing bowl, combine the crème fraiche and Dijon mustard. Using a sheet pan, build the sandwich on the toasted side. Spread the mixture on both sides on the sandwich. Add some grated mozzarella cheese, add a layer of sliced figs, top with another layer of grated gruyere cheese (if gruyere is too strong, mozzarella will work also). Close the sandwich.
  4. Add more butter to the pan, now grill the entire sandwich in the pan on the untoasted sides. You want it to be a nice golden brown on the outside and the cheese should be melted.
  5. Now, for the good part. You take your warm grilled cheese sandwiches, set them on the sheet pan. Spread more of the Dijon/crème fraiche mixture over the top. Add the slices of prosciutto (or ham or cooked bacon, anything would work). Add more grated cheese, covering the prosciutto.
  6. Broil sandwiches until you see the cheese bubbling, blistered and melted. Take out.
  7. With knife and fork, or eager hands, take that first bite and never look back.

Ratatouille

RATATOUI
Long before the adorable movie with the tiny chef mouse, this was and still is one of my most beloved recipes. It’s a very traditional French Provencal dish, originating in Nice. A winner every time that’s totally satisfying, vegetarian and healthy. It’s a great Meatless Monday option, or a wonderful treat to bring to a pot luck. Always a crowd pleaser.

Ingredients:

Olive oil (as needed)
1 onion, medium diced
Couple cloves of garlic
1 zucchini, medium diced
1 yellow squash, medium diced
1 eggplant, medium diced
1 green bell pepper, medium diced
1 can tomato paste
1 large can of whole plum tomatoes, cut in half.
1 bay leaf
3 springs of fresh thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh parsley
Fresh basil
Directions:

  1. Cut eggplant into medium sized cubes, sprinkle with salt and set aside. This is to remove any excess liquid and impurities so they will sauté easier.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large pan, on medium heat, add onions and garlic, sauté until they are sweating and flavors are released. Set aside in large mixing bowl.
  3. Add a little more olive oil to the pan, sauté zucchini until half cooked, slightly sweating and flavors are released. Add to mixing bowl with the onions. The reason why we are sautéing the vegetables separately, is to give them each a chance to cook evenly and showcase their flavors.
  4. Saute the yellow squash until also half cooked and flavor has been released. Add to same mixing bowl.
  5. Do the same with the green bell pepper. Add to bowl.
  6. Pat the eggplant dry to remove any excess liquid. Saute eggplant adding a little olive oil as needed. Cook half way, until its flavor has been released.
  7. Now add the rest of the vegetables to the pan and incorporate them all together. Add the can of tomato paste and turn the heat to medium high. Cook this for about 5 minutes to let the flavor of the tomato paste really melt in with the vegetables.
  8. Add the canned plum tomatoes, bay leaf, thyme and season with salt and pepper. Cover and let simmer on medium heat for about 20 minutes. Until vegetables are tender and flavors are well blended. If ratatouille is still too juicy, simmer uncovered for a few minutes until it has reduced. Be careful not to burn the vegetables on the bottom.
  9. Taste, adjust seasonings, sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley and basil. Enjoy

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