Potential for Greatness

French Onion Soup (Sans Baguette)

Here are two recipes that sounded so good that I followed them pretty closely, adjusting amounts but sticking to the ingredients they suggested. I don’t often do this because the ego that surrounds my so called cooking ability usually tells me “I can do better.” But it wasn’t that kind of a night. Yesterday was COLD. Not sweater and a cute vest cold, but wearing your winter coat just because you have to wait outside for the subway cold (subway rant will be saved for another day).

The only thing in my mind that can combat unseasonably cold weather is soup. Last night I chose to make French Onion Soup and Roasted Pears. I used a recipe I found on The Food Network website. I feel like, unless it’s one of Rachael Ray’s Recipes they are usually ok. I failed to consider though, these are recipes that have been seriously dumbed down for the general public, and therefore, you can’t always trust them. Again with my ego, I happen to think I have a fairly sophisticated pallet, and therefore Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup and my Mom’s Chicken Noodle Soup, made from scratch and with love, do not taste the same to me.

I don’t usually like to write about dishes that aren’t my own and that I’m not particularly proud of, but this is all a learning experience, right? And so, I have made it my duty to make sure that if you make either of the following recipes, they will taste better than mine did.

Tyler Florence’s French Onion Soup

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/tyler-florence/french-onion-soup-recipe2/index.html

I chose to attach these recipes instead of writing them out for two reasons. One, they aren’t my recipes and I don’t want anyone to think I’m straight up plagiarizing, and two, I’m lazy. However, I will tell you what I would do differently if I were you, making this recipe.

I don’t know if you’ve ever tasted store bought beef stock, but if you have, you’re making a frowny face right now because it is not good. Unlike chicken stock which is often just too salty, unadjusted, store-bought beef stock can ruin your soup. Luckily it didn’t ruin mine, but I got lucky! What I would suggest is, before you start cooking your onions, put your peeled, discarded onion pieces, 2 pieces of garlic, a sprig of thyme, and a bay leaf into your broth and simmer it until you’re ready to add it to your onions (removing these flavoring items before you do so). I would also suggest using half as much broth.

It’s going to look like you are using way too much onion. You’re not. Once your onions caramelize they will reduce by at least half, and a bit more once you add the wine and let them cook.

I didn’t use bread in mine, because I don’t eat bread, but still managed to get a crisp layer of cheese on top by getting my broiler hot and by gently placing a generous amount of grated Gruyere on top on my soup and letting it sit under the broiler for a minute. I was never a fan of that soggy bread anyway. Sometimes we have to tell ourselves these lies in order to be happy. (use the bread)

Byron and I really enjoyed this soup. It was very good, however, if I had followed my own advice and spruced up the broth before I lazily dumped it into my perfectly caramelized onions soaked with wine, it could have been great.

On to recipe #2! You thought I was done! Wrong.

Roasted Pears with Blue Cheese
Before and After Roasting

Ina Garten’s Roasted Pears with Blue Cheese

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/roasted-pears-with-blue-cheese-recipe/index.html

Love or hate her, you know you wish Ina would invite you to one of her “simple” outdoor evening dinner parties in The Hamptons. I wanted to make something else to go with the soup because I don’t eat bread and therefore Byron doesn’t usually eat bread and I thought we would be hungry. I didn’t think a salad would be enough, but I forgot how rich French Onion Soup can be. These pears seemed like the perfect accompaniment.

Now, I don’t know what kind of magic oven Ina is using, but these pears do not even begin to cook in a half hour. If I were to make this dish again, and I might, I would cut about ¾ of an inch, length wise, off the back of the pear. This is the side that the pear will lean against in the pan. Be careful –  remove the core, making the well for your filling before you do this. You want to make sure you have a noticeable dip in the pears; otherwise your filling will melt right off! By losing some of your surface area, the pears should be cooked through and easy to cut within a half hour.

I uber indulged last night, and on a whim bought Fois Gras which I quickly seared and served with my pears.

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