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

Hollandaise and happiness

Hollandaise never lasts long in our household. Honestly, it takes about ten minutes to make, and half that amount of time had (barely) passed by the time we’d licked up the last stray flecks of this creamy, golden, buttery sauce.

I’d never actually had hollandaise until long after I’d met M…I tried it for the first time and could barely keep myself from making a second batch, and a third. If you’ve never had this sauce, it’s a creamy, buttery, smooth sauce with rich hints of egg, lemon and cayenne. The perfect hollandaise, in my opinion, strikes a balance where the acid of the lemon cuts through but doesn’t hide the smooth, full-bodied flavor that comes from egg yolks and butter.

There are a lot of things people like to do with hollandaise:

  • drizzle it over steamed asparagus
  • use it over poached salmon for an extra layer of flavor
  • on the infamous eggs Benedict

I, however, prefer it rather simply: with a piece of toast cut into soldiers* and a spoon. A cold winter afternoon with a small pot of hollandaise and a good book can really only be heightened with tea. Enjoy!

M’s favorite hollandaise

2 egg yolks

4-6 tbsp butter, softened

1 tbsp lemon juice (add more to taste if you like)

1/8 tsp cayenne

salt to taste

In a small, small pot (I use a sauce warmer) place the egg yolks, one tablespoon of butter, and the lemon juice. Whisk it all together and place it over low. Whisk continually, watching the butter. Once it’s melted, add another tablespoon and keep whisking.

As you can see, the sauce is very yellow when it starts out. The color will fade slightly as it cooks.

What you’re looking for in the sauce is a thick, almost mayonnaise-like consistency. I know some people like a thinner hollandaise, but M and I prefer it rich and thick like sour cream, or aioli. As the sauce begins to thicken, keep stirring. You will know that the sauce is done once you lift the whisk, letting some sauce drip back into the pot, and don’t see a slightly darker yellow ring around the droplet.

Once the sauce is done, take it off the heat and whisk in the remaining butter.

Taste it and correct for seasonings. Then, serve it up! This recipe makes enough for two hollandaise-loving people.

*Note: “toast soldiers” is a way of saying, toast cut into thin sticks for dipping.

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Filed under All things eggs, Sauces and condiments

Swiss buttercream chocolate bombs

*Names changed to protect the fabulous

For the past two months or so, I’ve been trying to conquer what I considered to be nigh unconquerable: the evasive Swiss buttercream. A simple enough concoction that’s essentially a meringue with a Paula Deen-approved serving of butter whipped into it, it’s notoriously difficult to master. I’ve seen professional bloggers finally post with glee about it. And pheasants, today, I have done just this: I am Mistress of the Buttercream! I’ve requested M call me this at least once a day for the next week.

From what I’ve seen (and tasted,) the big draw for real meringue-based buttercreams is not only the light and fluffy texture, but the high-gloss shine you get from it, and the fact that it doesn’t crust over the way normal frostings can. It tastes almost deceptively good for you in a light, airy sort of way.

On that note, I can tell you a little somethin’-somethin’ about these mini cupcakes and chocolate frosting: they’re rather addictive. The recipe I made creates two dozen of these little guys, and I’d been planning on a dessert night with our roommate Kamal* tonight. They may not last so long.

I was still making the buttercream when M came home today. As per usual, she immediately dipped a finger in and pronounced it edible. Edible?! I screeched, waving my hand mixer around like a child on speed. I’ve been working for twenty minutes on this! It’d better be tastier than “edible.” She then took one of the little cooling cupcakes from the plate beside me, dipped it in, and popped the entire thing in her mouth. This, she liked. I could see why; the evidence was smeared all over her face!

When it comes to the chocolate bombs, the chipotle puree and Nutella aren’t necessary, but they do bump up the flavor. The mini chocolate chips are also technically unnecessary, but they make the bomb itself very moist and smooth.

The bombs themselves can be made with any cake batter, but the chocolate-chocolate combination was a winner in this apartment.

About the buttercream, I have several tips:

  • Check the egg whites every minute or so while they’re on the double boiler. They should never get hot enough to burn your fingers, or anywhere near, but they will end up an opaque, very meringue white at the end.
  • Once you’ve added the butter to the frosting, it WILL look like you’ve messed up when it falls, and it may turn to soup. Keep whipping. As you add the butter, it will solidify and become the fluffy, gorgeously silky frosting you were looking for.
  • Try out your favorite flavorings, food colorings and additions to it! Experiment, experiment, experiment. There’s really not such a thing as bad frosting, and as long as you aren’t adding heavy items to it, it should hold up just fine.

Pheasant’s chocolate bombs and Swiss buttercream

Yields two dozen chocolate bombs

For the bombs:

3/4 c flour (AP or whole wheat)

1/3 c cocoa powder

1 tsp coffee powder

1/2 c sugar

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 c mini chocolate chips

2/3 c milk minus 2 tbsp

1/8 c vegetable oil (I used soybean)

2 tbsp fat free sour cream

1/8 tsp chipotle puree (optional)

2 tbsp Nutella spread

1 tsp vanilla

2 tsp apple cider vinegar

Preheat the oven to 350°F (171°C.) Spray a 24-cup (or two 12-cup) mini cupcake tin(s) with Pam.

In a medium mixing bowl, mix all the dry ingredients together. Make a well in the center and add in the wet, mixing until combined. It should be a rather thick, almost cookie-like batter. Drop by the tablespoonful into the muffin cups. When the batter is all gone, stick the muffin tins in the oven and set your timer for 11 minutes.

Once the cupcakes are done, allow them to cool completely before popping them out of their tins and frosting.

For the buttercream:

2 large egg whites (reserve the yolks for Hollandaise!)

1/3 c sugar

10 tbsp butter, softened

1 tsp vanilla

1 tbsp cocoa powder (or other favorite flavoring)

In a large, heat-proof mixing bowl (I used our Pyrex bowls) mix the egg whites and sugar together. Set a medium sauce pot, half-filled with water to simmer on the stove. Once it’s hot and simmering, place the bowl of egg whites over the water and whisk gently until you can dip (very clean!) finger in and not feel the sugar granules when you test it between your fingers.

Once this is done, using a hand mixer, mix on medium-high until it’s doubled in volume, white, and glossy.

Once you've whipped it well, it should look thick, glossy and beautiful!

At this point, add the vanilla and half the cocoa, as well as one or two tablespoons of butter. Continue to mix until the butter is completely incorporated, then add in the second. The frosting will fall a little as you mix, but don’t despair! It will set up nicely as you beat it. Before adding the last few tablespoons of butter, taste the frosting. If you want it more cocoa-y, add the rest of the powder. If not, don’t!

Once all your butter is incorporated and you’ve got thick frosting, spoon it into a piping bag (or in my case, a zip lock with the tip cut off) and pipe it on! 

Try not to eat them all in one sitting ;D

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Spinach and cheddar quiche with roasted garlic

Note on my changes: After a little deliberation, M and I have decided that neither of us liked the crust enough to want to make the quiche with it again, so I’m omitting it. It still creates an amazing, crustless quiche 🙂 

Eggs are really popular in our household. M generally only cooks when eggs (or easy mac) are involved, our roommate loves to boil them and leave them out on the counter for us to find, and I think they’re pretty swell, too. Eggs, sunny-side up, served with toast and some sharp cheddar are by far one of my favorite ways to start off the day.

When it comes to egg suppers, though, M loves nothing more than quiche. She’s mad for eggs. And yet, as much as I love quiche, I don’t make it very often. The sheer amount of cholesterol in the number of eggs it takes to make quiche are generally enough to scare me off, not to mention the glut of butter and cream the recipes call for. So, when M requested quiche for tonight’s supper, I was a little hesitant. Quiche is quick, and since we’ve got an engagement tonight, that is a great thing. I did balk at the idea of it, until Pheasant stood up and said to me, “No! You will make the best quiche ever. And you know what? You’ll enjoy every. Last. Bite.”

To the internet!

I’ve sifted through countless recipes looking for the perfect quiche recipe. And, finding none, I decided to improvise. I took pieces of quiche recipes from two or three different ones, and ended up with this one.

I love herbs, and so I decided to play with the herbs in this quiche…generally, I feel like quiche is really bland unless there is a ton of cheese (read: fat) in it. I love the idea of flavoring the eggs themselves so that no only the cheese and vegetables have flavor, but the eggs as well.

So, I set out with this lovely recipe in mind. Because we don’t have a pie pan, I used an 8×8 inch brownie pan, and just cut the quiche into nine pieces for easy eating.

Quiche, squared

4 eggs

1 c 1% milk

1 tbsp sour cream

1/2 onion, sliced thinly

10 oz fresh spinach

1 tbsp garlic mash

1 c grated cheddar

1 tsp freshly ground pepper

parsley, paprika and rosemary to taste

First, preheat your oven to 350°F (171°C.) In a large skillet, place the onions and some oil to sauté. When they’ve become golden-brown, add in the spinach until it all wilts down.

Combine the eggs, milk, and spices together, whisking to form a thin scramble. Spread the spinach and onion across the bottom of the crust. Cover in cheese, pour the eggs in, and replace the pan in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until the eggs are set and a knife inserted comes out clean.

Let cool, then cut into squares and enjoy!

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Filed under All things eggs, Baking

Roasted garlic oil

A few weeks ago, my mom dropped by with probably the best gift M has ever received: a bottle of homemade roasted garlic oil. She’d never had it before, so I took the opportunity to serve it up the best way I know how: with a lot of crunchy, thinly-sliced crostini and small sprinkles of sea salt. M went mad. She consumed about half a loaf of bread herself before she caught me giving her that look. It was, however, officially decided that roasted garlic oil needs to be a main staple in our kitchen.

My mother’s garlic oil was given to us in the sweetest little pouring bottle, stoppered in glass. It’s quite beautiful. The golden oil is something like magic, the color of fairy dust and Cinderella’s golden slippers. It tastes and smells as good as it gets, too: lightly perfumed, with just the right amount of sweetness to make a soft sigh imperative.

Unfortunately, our oil as run low of late…we balefully watched as I poured the last bits of oil from our reserve bottle (also thoughtfully provided by my mom) into the little pouring bottle. We sighed with sorrow. I love it lightly drizzled over toast in the morning with a small dash of sea salt…served up with an egg, it’s about the nicest breakfast you can have on a cold day. Or any day, really.

Well, once I’d decided that I needed roasted garlic for those delicious sandwiches I made, I knew that I could put it off no longer: it was officially time to bring out the peanut oil I had in my pantry and get down to business.

But, my little Pheasant bleated, What if it isn’t as good as your mom’s? Oh no. No, nay, never, no nay never, no more…this oil will be the best. Ever. Just as good as mom’s, I said firmly. I nodded and set off to make the greatest garlic oil I’ve ever tasted.

There are SO many ways to use this oil, and it’s really only limited by your imagination. Here are some ways M and I like to use our garlic oil:

  • Drizzled into mashed potatoes for a more subtle garlic kick (paired with mashed roasted garlic, it’s always a winner!)
  • Use it to sauté onions and mushrooms before tossing with pasta
  • Open up a hot baked potato and spoon a bit inside before salting and continuing with your usual toppings (skip the butter.) It adds a great, subtle garlic flavor that kicks everything up a level.
  • Use it in place of olive oil for aioli…come to think of it, sub the roasted garlic for plain in aioli and you’ve got yourself a winner!
  • Use it on little crostini with sea salt…it’s by far our favorite thing to do!

Roasted garlic oil

1-2 large, tight heads of garlic (depending on whether you want just oil, or garlic mash too)

3 tbsp olive oil

2 c peanut, olive or corn oil

 Using the directions for my best-ever roasted garlic, roast your one or two heads. 

Once they are cooked and cooled, pour the 2 cups of your oil of choice into a non-reactive saucepan or small soup pot. Carefully peel every clove of roasted garlic from one head and drop it into the oil. Set the pot on low heat and let it go for 2 to 3 hours, checking every so often to make sure it isn’t simmering. A few small bubbles here and there are fine, but nothing big. Once done, take it off the heat and leave it to cool.

If you’re making two heads for garlic mash, take the cloves from the second head and smash them all in a small jar. Cover and place it in the fridge.

Garlic mash made easy!

After you’ve let the oil cool, scoop out all the garlic from it and place them into the small jar along with your garlic mash. Place oil in the jar just until it covers all the garlic; replace in the fridge.

In a small glass jar with a lid, or some kind of cap (ours is just like a tiny doorknob with a silicone cap on the bottom for a seal) pour your oil. Pour any excess into a glass bottle (either recycled or new, it doesn’t matter as long as it seals.)

Both bottles will keep in the pantry for about three months. Granted, ours never lasts so long. Keep the garlic mash refrigerated well, and use it for antipasto, in garlic mash potatoes, as a flavoring in tomato and cream sauces, or anything else you like!

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Filed under Sauces and condiments, Seasonal, Summer

The greatest beef sandwich I’ve ever eaten

I really, really, really dislike cold sandwiches. There’s really no way to put it gently. The mushy bread, and all sorts of  cold filling makes it really unpleasant for me. Hot sandwiches, on the other hand…hot sandwiches are something I can get down with. Anything with flavorful, warm ingredients accompanied by crunchy, crusty bread is definitely on my good side!

To start with, there are a few things to know about this recipe:

  • It isn’t fast if you do it all by hand, but it will definitely pay off. You can always thinly slice the meat using a food processor attachment, or even buy it pre-made if your grocer or butcher offers it, but I prefer to pick a hunk of good meat with little fat to slice thinly and marinate.
  • If you’re in a hurry, or just looking for an easy way to tweak the recipe, use leftovers! Flavorful pot roast, leftover grilled chicken or even steak, provided your knife is sharp enough to slice it thinly, would be amazing flavor additions
  • Don’t skip the roasted garlic spread. I swear, it will make these sandwiches SO much better (although they’re pretty good as-is, better is always better, right?)
  • Although you can use toasted French bread, or even regular sandwich bread for this recipe, a lightly-flavored artisan bread, with a thick crust and rugged crumb, will do these sandwiches their best for taste and presentation. M and I just headed to our local QFC and picked up a nice rosemary and olive oil loaf from their “artisan” line. It was great!
  • This recipe serves two (very hungry) college students, but you can easily double it for family meal night.

More than anything else, don’t be afraid to experiment. Sandwiches are meant to be delicious and hold whatever’s in the fridge. Make use of leftovers and change this up to form whatever amazing sandwich you can think of!

Shaved beef sandwiches

8 oz eye of round roast, completely frozen

1 medium yellow onion

2 large crimini mushrooms, cleaned

1 clove garlic

2 reserved cloves of garlic from my amazing roasted garlic recipe

2 tbsp sour cream (I used fat free and it was great)

2 tbsp olive oil, divided

Lettuce, tomato and cucumber for topping (optional)

Cayenne, paprika, salt and pepper to taste

First things first: take your roast out and let it thaw on the counter for about an hour and a half. When it’s just beginning to sweat, where the outer layer of meat is softened but the inside is still frozen solid, take a sharp knife and begin shaving. I know it’s a tedious process, but the end result is well worth it. Each shaving should be thin enough that you can see light through it. Yes, you read that right. Good food takes time.

Once you’ve shaved the entire hunk of beef, place the shavings into a bowl with one tablespoon of olive oil, and spices to taste. Toss it all, cover with plastic wrap, and let it sit while you finish everything else.

Cut the crimini in half horizontally, so that they’re flat hunks of mushroom patty. In a ridged skillet, or in your panini-maker, place the mushrooms with about half of the remaining olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and allow to cook. Turn over once they’re rather browned on the bottom. While they cook, cut the onion into 1/2 inch slabs, as if you were making onion rings. If the pan is big enough, add them in with the mushrooms. Drizzle some olive oil and salt over them, and allow them to cook until they have nice blackened grill marks, or are a caramelized brown.

In the meanwhile, cut two thick slabs of bread from your loaf (ours were about 2 1/2 inches wide.) Turn them on their sides, so the crust side is pointing out instead of up and down, and cut them in half using a downward motion, to make two small sandwich loaves.

To make the roasted garlic spread: crack some pepper into a small bowl. Add in the roasted garlic and mash until smooth. Blend in the sour cream, and set aside.

Once all the vegetables are done cooking, toss your beef and place enough pieces in the pan that they aren’t crowded, but cook well. Turn, if you like, or if you prefer your meat rare, just move them from the pan once one side is nicely browned.

After the meat has cooked, turn up the heat to medium-high and find another heavy pan that will fit inside your skillet. If you have a panini press, use that. Place your mini loaves, cut side down, into the pan and add the weight on top so they brown nicely. You can repeat on the other side if you please, or just leave them browned on the inside.

Once you've cooked all the components, it's time to assemble!

Once everything has cooked, spread some of the garlic spread inside the toasted bread, followed by lettuce, tomato, cucumber, onion, mushroom and meat. Sandwich them together, pat yourself on the back, and go eat the best sandwich you’ve probably ever tasted!

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Filed under Miscellaneous, Red meat

Roasted garlic

I love garlic. Everything about it: it’s taste, the texture, the sharp, heady smell of it. It’s beautiful. M loves the smell of my fingers after I’ve sliced into a clove of garlic. She says the smell is sexy. I disagree; I think everything about garlic is sexy. It’s the ultimate flavoring when it comes to soups, sauces and roasts. It can add a sharpness to a vinaigrette like nothing can, and it makes pasta approximately fifteen times better just from basking in its presence.

There is something, however, that regular garlic cannot add that roasted, it does…the sweet, caramel-y flavor of roasted garlic is unmatched. Spread on toast and drizzled with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar, it makes for an amazing antipasto treat. Crushed into mashed potatoes, it drives such a comforting American dish up to a level it had never before attained!

I think that roasted garlic can go on or in absolutely anything your mind can dream up, but, more than anything, I love it piping hot from the oven, sweet and warm, spread on a piece of crusty, crunchy crostini. There’s nothing like sitting around on a hot day with your lover eating little swipes of this caramel-colored, sweetly-scented roasted garlic with a nice cup of black tea.

Remember that, when picking heads of garlic for roasting, you want to choose firm, heavy heads with tightly-closed cloves. No sprouts!

Roasted garlic for one

1-2 heads garlic

Olive oil for drizzling (not extra-virgin)

Preheat your oven to 350°F (171°C.) On a 12×12 inch square of foil, drizzle about one tablespoon of olive oil. On a chopping board, cut off the top of the garlic head so that just the tops of the cloves are exposed.

Set the garlic cut side down onto the oil. Drizzle another tablespoon of oil over the garlic and close the foil in a tight package. Set the garlic in the oven and set your timer for one hour.

It is your duty to enjoy the lovely smells as they waft from your oven. Bask in it. Bathe in it!

Once the timer goes off, take out your little packet. Let it sit for ten to fifteen minutes (if you can resist!) Eat it just like that with toast, or let it cool and use it in any recipe you can come up with. Don’t forget to save at least two cloves for my next post, though…or just make two heads. That’s generally what I do 🙂

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Filed under Ethnic, Miscellaneous