Why would anyone buy a cook book these days (other than as a gift) when there are so many great cooking websites with copious free and detailed recipes, videos, pictures and more?
Personally, it never even occurs to me to crack one of the many I have. Why? Because of the comments. Yes, a written recipe is great… but what I really want to read is how other people have modified said recipe.
What works? What doesn’t? Because you know you never have all the listed ingredients. Or at least I don’t. How did other people improvise, alter and personalize a recipe? That’s the section where I do most of my research.
Today is a particularly cold day in Austin. OK..it’s 42 degrees.. but in our defense that is cold for us. Plus, the whole Midwest and Northeast is literally snowed in; -11 in Chicago (lake effect), -6 in Minneapolis, something like 10 degrees in NY and Boston. Ugh.
So in solidarity (and as an excuse) I decided to make onion soup. Also, I bought a huge bag of onions (accidentally not sweet. shit.) at Costco and I don’t know what the hell else to do with 18 huge onions.
So what did I do? Googled “onion soup” of course.
Now, I have a few restrictions. I am allergic to cheese (i.e. no “French” in that onion soup). And I don’t eat beef so no beef broth for this girl.
Of course there are like a million recipes for onion soup online so I scoured the comments, ratings and reviews to look for one that cookers like and had successfully modified with chicken stock. It was quite easy and I quickly selected one from Food Network of all places… courtesy of Tyler Florence.
My modifications: add sugar to the onions and sub chix stock. Then, thanks to the reviewer comments, I cut the butter, was guilt-free about using dried thyme instead of fresh, and most importantly I cooked the onions longer to caramelize as the “community” universally said the listed time was inadequate (and they were totally right).
Oh, and I also simmered the finished soup longer to reduce as I found 2 Q stock too watery.
The best part though (if I do say so myself), was the addition of a spicy Pangrattato rather than the traditional French bread and cheese.
What’s Pangrattato you ask? Well.. I learned just yesterday so I am kind of showing off. In fact, I learned from an Englishman about this traditionally Sicilian savory breadcrumb topping onJamie Oliver’s new show about cooking dinner in 15 minutes. On it he made this fantastic-looking garlic breadcrumb topping for a pasta (read: paaasta), but I thought it could be a delightful topping for onion soup.
Holy hell was I right. To. Die. For.
How to make Pangrattato? Again I Googled and found some crazy English cooking blog about a cauliflower sidedish with spicy Pangrattato that sounded great (and sure enough… it was the topping all the comments were raving about).
I mean, how can you not want to make something titled “Crumbs on Crack”? That said, I couldn’t be bothered with converting from the metric system, and I didn’t have any cashews (sounded too over-the-top rich anyway). Other modifications? I used crushed garlic vs adding and removing the cloves, and cut the coriander a bit and OMG.. this is a HIT. I will be using this topping on everything in the future.
And as I suspected, atop what turned out to be a rich, savory, and delicious bowl of onion soup I can promise this will satisfy even the most die-hard French Onion Soup lovers. You won’t even miss the cheese.
Now.. with a belly full of warm, comforting onion soup I guess I’ll go out and go for a walk..cuz it’s about 50 degrees now and Moxi sure looks ready to go.
If you are up for it, here are my final, modified recipes. Highly recommend whether it’s cold outside or not.
4 T unsalted butter
4 large onions, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 bay leaves
2 fresh thyme sprigs (or 1 T dry)
1 T sugar
S and P
1 cup red wine
3 heaping T AP flour
2 Q chicken stock
grated parmesan cheese to taste
- melt butter in large pot over medium heat.
- add onions, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, s&p and cook over low heat till onions are soft and caramelized (about 45 min)
- add wine, bring to boil and simmer till wine evaporates (about 10 min) and onions are dry
- discard bay leaves
- dust onions with flour, stir and turn to med and cook 10 min to cook out raw flour taste
- add broth and bring soup back to boil for 10+ min to reduce
- season with s&p
- top with grated parm and spicy pangrattato
2-3 T butter
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 t chili flakes
1 cup breadcrumbs
zest of ½ a lemon
1 T cilantro (says coriander in recipe but its English so I assume they mean cilantro)
sea salt to taste
- Heat butter in nonstick pan over med heat
- add garlic
- when begins to color add chili flakes and cook for 1-2 min
- add breadcrumbs and stir to soak up butter
- cook 4-6 min stirring frequently till breadcrumbs are toasted
- remove from heat and stir in lemon zest, coriander and salt