Category Archives: Autumn

French onion soup

Today, pheasants, was approximately as cold as Washington gets when there’s no snow involved. It was absolutely freezing and I was walking around in a skirt and heels down in the U district, looking for a job.

Coming home, M and I were nothing short of tired and cold, and very hungry. We’d picked up a loaf of my favorite French bread (crusty on the outside, light and fluffy as a dream on the inside) with which to dip, nosh and generally make merriment. This soup is brothy, light and satisfying. The recipe feeds two hungry people, three less hungry people, or four to six as an appetizer. In an effort to make the easiest soup known to man, I present now to you:

Pheasant’s easy onion soup

2 medium yellow onions

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp vegetable oil

1 tsp garlic mash

1 tsp ground, dried rosemary (measure after grinding)

2 tsp soy sauce (Aloha brand highly recommended)

2 c beef broth

2 c water

bay leaf

1/4 c red wine (optional)

salt and pepper to taste

In a soup pot, heat the oil on medium. As it’s heating, slice the onions very finely. Add them to the pan, stirring. Mince the garlic and add it, as well as the garlic mash, rosemary and some pepper. Stir this all together and allow it to sauté for a few minutes until everything starts to wilt and become translucent. 

Turn the heat up to medium-high and allow the onions to brown for a while. Once it’s beginning to brown and crisp, turn it back down to medium-low and let it go for 20-30 minutes, checking occasionally to adjust the heat, until the onions have become caramel-colored, soft, and reduced to 1/3 their original size.

Once reduced...voila!

The pan should have a nice, deeply-browned (but not burnt!) fond across the bottom (fond is the fancy French term for that brown crusty stuff on the bottom. And it’s better than gold!)

This is fond. You may now fall to your knees in worship.

Turn the heat up to medium-high. Add the soy sauce and wine to the pan to deglaze, making sure to scrape every last bit of that fond off the bottom. If you aren’t using wine, just use a little water. Once everything is all mixed together nicely, add the bay leaf, beef broth and water, then turn it up to a boil. When it boils, turn it down to a simmer and let it go for about ten minutes, or reduced to 2/3 its original volume.

A little taste-test during the process...

If you like, melt Gruyere cheese over crostini and float in the soup. M and I, however, prefer our French bread dipped into the broth. Enjoy!

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Filed under Autumn, Seasonal, Soup, Winter

Mushroom soup!

Now, isn't that pretty?

I really hate heavy meals sometimes. There are just some times where a heavy meal packed with butter and calories isn’t going to cut it. That’s why I invented this delightful(ly light!) yet filling mushroom soup: for those nights when something light and beautiful is called for.

When I realized that I needed something light, yet filling and delicious, I couldn’t help but reach for mushrooms. They’re meaty and tender, yet light and airy. With a few tweaks to the usually butter- and cream-laden creamy mushroom soup recipes littering the internet, I came up with a creamy yet not cream-filled recipe for mushroom soup. It goes absolutely stunningly with some baguette slices topped with broiled Parmesan, or a little swirl of cream to fill out the flavors.

Pheasant’s Creamy Mushroom Soup

6 medium-large Crimini mushrooms OR 2 medium Portobellos, diced

6 button mushrooms, diced

1 rib of celery, sliced thinly

1/4 boiled, peeled potato (optional), diced

1/4 small yellow onion, diced finely

3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

4 large walnut halves, minced

3 tbsp soy sauce (Aloha brand highly suggested)

4 1/2 c hot (near boiling) beef broth

 

In a small soup pot, saute the celery, potato if you’re using it, onion, garlic and walnut together. When the onion and celery are beginning to brown, move everything to a food processor. In the same pot, add all the mushrooms and saute until golden and wilted. Add those as well to the food processor. Start the food processor on low and process the entire mass until smooth and thick. While the processor is running, add the soy sauce.

Transfer the final, smooth blend to the original soup pot. Set the burner to medium and add in the beef broth slowly, stirring to combine. Taste and adjust for spices.

M liked this soup…granted, she preferred it once I’d added at least a half cup of cream and a tablespoon or so of butter to her bowl. She really likes her creamy goodness. For the rest of us, though, a nice swirl of heavy cream on top after the soup is dished up will do just fine. And, ah, a few drops of truffle oil never hurt it, either…enjoy!

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Filed under Autumn, Seasonal, Soup

Pumpkin-oat Breakfast Brûlée (ramekins, part III)

Last night was full of nice things, pheasants, but it was also full of Thai food. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love Thai food. I love it a little too much, if you know what I mean. And after nights of indulging like that, I enjoy nothing more than waking up and preparing a breakfast that is filling, light in calories, and simple, both in flavor and preparation.

With that in mind, I woke up and stared at the surplus of baked pumpkin we have sitting around and decided to whip up some pumpkin oat cakes, with a little touch of brûlée. It’s tasty, good for you, and fun to make! Little kids will love this recipe, I’m sure, topped with a little maple syrup and cream. Served as a dessert with some of my special hot cocoa (recipe to come) it would also make for a great dessert!

Pheasant’s Pumpkin-Oat Breakfast Brûlée

1 c pumpkin puree

4 tbsp oats, divided

butter to coat

1/2 tsp sugar

In a food processor or spice grinder, grind the dried oats until they form a flour. Lightly butter two ramekins and, using about 1/4 of the oat flour, dust them to coat. Move the remaining flour to a bowl and mix in the pumpkin puree. Divide the mixture bewteen the ramekins to bake, at 350°F (177°C) for 10 minutes.

Once the cakes are done, sprinkle sugar over the cakes and, using a brûlée torch or your broiler, melt the sugar until a thin crust forms. Let cool, and enjoy!

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Filed under Autumn, Baking, Pastas, grains and oatmeal, Seasonal

A gratin is a terrible thing to waste

You guys, I made this for my family for Thanksgiving. And I didn’t even have time to snap a photo of it.

Pheasants, my family loves Thanksgiving. Who wouldn’t? Family gathered, happiness at the holiday season, and the chilly, pre-Christmas nip in the air that brings people together. Also, who could forget the food? Everyone in our family has a dish that they traditionally bring to the literal and figurative table.

My aunt J brings her pineapple-roasted ham, which is a big favorite with most everyone but me (I don’t eat pork.) My GUE (greatest uncle ever!) brings his take on the classic green bean casserole: green beans, mixed into a creamy, mushroom-y base, sprinkled throughout with garlic and bacon. My dad, bless his soul, brings his roast oyster stuffing. You know, if I ever had a last meal, I would definitely request this. It’s smoky, it’s savory, smooth, crunchy, and just delicious. Dad also usually makes the turkey, because he’s a bird-roaster extraordinaire.

As for me?  I’m usually asked to bring a pecan pie. Nothing more. Years back, my GUE was the pecan pie-bringer, because his were always spot-on: crunchy, sweet, and just delightful. One year, however, I challenged him to a pecan pie-making contest, with the winner bringing the pie the next year. I won, but sometimes, now, I wonder if the contest was rigged…

Anyway, this year, being my first year on my own (as an…adult?) I want to bring something killer. Something delicious, heart-poundingly tasty that will make everyone who takes a bite say, “Mmmm….oh yeah,” from sheer happiness. And I know of only one recipe in the entirety of my autumnal retinue that deserves such high honors.

Imagine, pheasants, a gratin: what is it made of? It can be onions, leeks, celery, or any root vegetable you can imagine. But think of this: sweet onions and leeks, layered together with thinly-sliced potatoes and sharp, aromatic onions, layered in a thick, creamy, cling-to-everything sauce. Sage, Pecorino, Parmesan and garlic perfume the whole of it, turning the potatoes into a fragrant, herb-scented dish that you just want to inhale. It makes your entire home smell like fresh cooking and beautiful days in the French countryside.

I made this dish (all for myself…) a month back. It was better than anything I could ever imagine: the cream melded with potato, onion and leek to exalt and praise one another to the fullest extent. It was beautiful. It was amazing. It was heavenly. I guarantee, you will find no other recipe like this. It’s as close to perfect, I think, as a recipe can get.

Make sure that your ingredients are good ones. Regular store-bought rubbed sage will work, but don’t skimp on the cheeses: you want something aged at least a year, although two is better.

Serve it up with grilled or roasted meat, placing the freshly-sliced bits on top so that their flavor and juices can trickle down and beautify the dish further, if that’s possible.

A Very Pleasant Potato, Onion and Sage Gratin

1 russet potato, cleaned

1 cup cleaned, sliced leek

1/2 a medium yellow onion

1/2 a sharp, white onion

1 block of Pecorino

1 block of Parmesan

1/2 c heavy cream

3 tbsp butter

3 garlic cloves

2 tbsp or more rubbed sage

pepper to taste

Using either a mandolin set to its thinnest setting or a sharp knife, slice your onions and leeks as thinly as possibly. Mince the garlic.

Prepare a large bowl with cold, salted water. A large mixing bowl will do. Slice your potato, unpeeled, very thinly with a sharp knife. You want them as thin as you possibly can. Quickly transfer the potato slices into the water to keep them from browning.

Once they’ve all been sliced, line an 8×8 inch pan in foil and spray with Pam; put down a spoonful or two of cream. Sprinkle a little sage over it, and then set down a layer of onion and leek. Set a single layer of potatoes over that, arranging them so they overlap slightly on all edges which touch other potatoes. You want them to be snug, with nary a hole showing through. Spoon on more cream, sprinkle some pepper, sage, and garlic over it all. Using a microplane, grate cheese enough to cover sparsely the cream. Place nine small dots of butter across the whole thing, spacing them evenly. Start again with a thin layer of leek and onion, followed by potatoes, then more cream and spices, followed by cheese.

For your last layer, you want potato on top. Make sure to carefully arrange the slices so that they’re pretty, overlapping, and look good. Spoon the last of the cream over it, sprinkle some sage and garlic, and dot it again with small bits of butter. Grate some cheese over, covering it evenly and carefully. Cover the pan with tin foil.

In an oven preheated to 400°F (204°C) place the dish. Bake for 35 minutes. Halfway through this, take the gratin out, uncover it, and tip the dish slightly to the side. Spoon cream across it, making sure to cover the whole of it with a new layer, then recover it with foil and place it back in the oven.

After the timer goes off, take the foil off, and test the potatoes with a knife or fork. If they give easily and seem done, replace the gratin. If not, bake, covered, for another 10 minutes. Once they’re soft, return the uncovered gratin to the oven. Bake for another 20 minutes, or until the cream is mostly soaked up, the top is golden, and the entire thing smells like heaven. If you like your gratin more brown on top, crank the broiler, and do not leave the oven until they’re as browned as you like them. No one likes a burnt gratin.

Once it’s browned and cooked, take the gratin from the oven. Let it cool for about seven to ten minutes, then dig in. This recipe supposedly feeds four people…but if it only feeds two…who are we to judge? It’s delicious!

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Stewed apples, and why you should make them

Note: I have no picture for this, because they literally disappeared as soon as I took them out of the pan. Trust me, these are amazing.

Ahhh, fall. Just thinking of it brings to mind such beautiful sensations: brown, red and gold leaves; the nippy chill of late October and November; cinnamon sticks in apple cider. These are wonderful things, pheasants.

Another wonderful thing about autumn is stewed apples. I love them. Why? They’re sweet (but not too sweet,) soft, cinnamon-y, and fragrant. They go with just about anything: use them to top oatmeal or an English muffin, as a side to ham and eggs in the morning, or on pork chops, with onions. Toddlers and children of all ages love these for their sweet, subtly spiced flavor, as do adults! You can use them as a pre-made apple pie filling, or for apple galette. You can use them to stud an applesauce cake, for the vegans out there. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination!

As for me, I like using mine as a topping for angel’s food cake, with a little whipped cream on top. It’s a delightfully light, deliciously autumnal dish.

The greatest thing in my mind about stewed applies is that they’re easier to make than you could possibly imagine. It just takes a knife, a chopping board and a pan to make them! Cleanup is a breeze.

Stewed Apples

2 1/2 to 3 apples (using apples of different types ups the interest level)

2 tbsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp mulling spices (optional), ground

1 tbsp honey

2 tbsp brown sugar (optional)

3/4 c water, divided

Slice the apples thinly; you can peel them if you like, or leave the skin on. Place them in a pan with 1/4 cup of water and sprinkle with some cinnamon. Cover and bring to medium heat. Allow this to cook for about fifteen minutes. When the apples have softened, add in the brown sugar, honey and spices. If you like it more soupy, add in 1/4 cup of water at a time until you reach your desired consistency. If not, leave it as is! Use them to top whatever you feel like. Enjoy!

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Filed under Autumn, Seasonal

Whole roasted pumpkin

How was your Halloween, pheasants? I’d like to tell you that I had the best Halloween ever, but I’m not sure that’s true. It wasn’t bad, though. M and I went over to her parents’ house to hand out candy and generally not be alone.

On the plus side, though, I roasted a pumpkin.

Pumpkin mania has finally hit this household, pheasants, and it started pretty innocently: we went to the pumpkin patch (at my behest) and collected two medium pumpkins, as well as one large and one (very) small. Then, we took them home, and I opened up supper down there to clean him…and I roasted the seeds. M had never eaten roasted pumpkin seeds before, and I had to practically pry the bowl of them from her in order to eat two or three. She’s been hooked ever since…she’s even taken to staring dreamily at the pumpkin displays whenever we go to the grocery store. And I’m not sad for this, pheasants, but far from it. I’m ecstatic!

I’ve got to say, whole roasted pumpkin is one of my all-time favorite holiday dishes. It’s something that just screams autumn to me: a whole squash, orange and shiny, fading as it roasts down to a burnt sienna with a gorgeous, burnished skin. M was quite pleased with the mini pumpkin I roasted a week or so ago, mainly because, once finished, it was so small and the skin so thick that it was practically an ornament, not just a cute pumpkin. She wanted to keep it, but keeping it…would have been really gross. So, we threw it away. By the way, we christened all the pumpkins we got from the patch; the pumpkin top left was named Gene, and the one below was named simply, Supper. There were also Ricardo and Harvey, but Ricardo was turned into M’s carving pumpkin and Harvey is way too big to cook.

This is Supper. Isn't he just clever?

Anyway, roasting a pumpkin is not only fun, but it’s easier than many people seem to think. Really, it’s so much easier than carving a pumpkin. Then, you just clean out the seeds (another reason to serve pumpkin for supper!) and stick it in the oven. Boom, done. Easy, wasn’t it? Well, you have to oil the skin, but that’s all of, what, two minutes, tops?

Anyway, pheasants, I am shamelessly endorsing my love of pumpkin and urging you to try a whole, roasted pumpkin sometime. There are so many things you can do with them, both sweet and savory. My personal favorite is a simple roasted pumpkin, flesh scooped out and topped with a little kosher salt and brown sugar. The salty/sweet mixture is delightful with the pumpkin, and really brings out that squash-y flavor, I think.

Try layering mushrooms of any kind (porcini, buttons, chanterelles, etc) together (try a mix!) and add a little truffle paste to make a truly scrumptious, sumptuous supper. Or, for a truly fascinating new take on a Thanksgiving pumpkin pie, try my pumpkin pie within a pumpkin recipe!

Within Supper up there, I layered tomato, celery, garlic, onion and spinach, placing about a quarter cup of chicken stock inside before capping him and placing him in the oven. When using vegetables like that in a pumpkin, go with smaller ones; they don’t have nearly as much water in their flesh, so you’ll end up with a stuffed roast pumpkin as opposed to vegetables swimming in a pumpkin water soup.

I can imagine that fruit would be good inside a pumpkin, too…maybe place an orange studded with cloves inside, and grate some nutmeg and cinnamon in there. Flavors are good, and pumpkin is just so healthy that it’s impossible to not look at it and think, I will love eating this. A pumpkin is a beautiful thing, pheasants!

Pheasant’s Roast Pumpkin

1 medium or small pumpkin (2-8 pounds, tops)

2 tsp vegetable oil

1/8-1/4 c. chicken stock or water

Set your oven to 375°F (191°C) and carve up your pumpkin. To do this, insert a sharp knife (facing away from you) into the flesh of the pumpkin 2-3 inches away from the base of the stem. Then, keeping your knife at a 45° angle, carve a circle around the stem. If it doesn’t pull away once it’s completely cut, go back again and make sure you’ve cut through all the flesh between the pumpkin and its cap.

Pull the cap off, and cut off the stringy bits (but NOT the meat.) Proceed to clean the seeds from the pumpkin itself. You don’t need to scoop out the strings…they’ll just cook down and they taste exactly like the pumpkin anyway. Once you’re done with that, place the pumpkin on a foil-lined baking sheet and dribble the oil over the skin, rubbing it around until the entire pumpkin is coated and shiny. Don’t forget to oil the cap! It may not seem like it, but those two teaspoons of oil will indeed cover the entire pumpkin. Once the oven is preheated, pour the water into the pumpkin, stick the whole thing into the oven(capped!) and let it roast in there for about 1-2 hours, checking at the 1 and 1 1/2 hour points to check the flesh. To do this, take the cap off and prick it with a knife. If the knife slides in easily and the flesh seems very soft (mashed potatoes consistency) then it’s done! If not, let it go for a while longer.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

1 pumpkin’s worth of seeds, cleaned of orange goo

salt

garlic powder

Spread out the seeds on a Pam’d cookie sheet, and sprinkle with garlic powder and salt. Stick them in the oven with the pumpkin, taking them out every ten minutes to toss, until golden. If you have a convection roast option on your oven, this is a great time to break it out!

Questionable content: 

What types of stuffed or roasted pumpkin recipes have you created?

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