With the leaves changing and the temperatures dropping (maybe for good this time), we've decided to start whipping up some of our favorite Fall comfort foods.
I personally like to wait until I'm pretty sure we're headed for consistently colder weather before I start making the foods that cause my inevitable 10 pound "winter weight" gain, but with the forecast saying we're looking at a high of 49 degrees on Saturday, we couldn't resist trying our hand at Tyler Florence's French Onion Soup and Martha's (Stewart, of course) Croque Monsieur.
For some reason, whenever I'm following a recipe, I always end up feeling like the directions are out of order. There's always that moment when I have 4 pots boiling at one time that I need to be simultaneously stirring, while I should be taking something else out of the oven. With that said, we've included a few tips that will hopefully make things a little easier for you.
I typically get all my ingredients out prior to actually starting. That way I don't end up in some sort of a panic when I can't find the paprika or apple cider vinegar and have to leave my post to track some down. Plus, if I've forgotten anything, I'll notice before I start cooking.
Once you've got everything out (if you can, I know counter space is a luxury some of us don't have), you'll want to preheat your oven to 450 degrees and then get a stock pot out and begin melting your stick of butter. Yes, an entire stick.
While your butter is melting, slice up your onions. The recipe calls for 4, but I think you could get away with 2-3 depending upon the size of the onion. It always seems like I end up with WAY more onion than necessary....
Once your butter has melted and your onions are sliced, you're going to throw the onions in a stock pot with 2 cloves of garlic chopped, 2 bay leaves and 2 sprigs of thyme. We didn't realize we'd be removing the thyme later in the recipe so we chopped ours up. So, you can either put in two whole sprigs or cut it up. Your choice. This will all cook on medium heat for about 25-30 minutes until the onions are tender and caramelized.
While the onions are caramelizing, get out two medium saucepans. Put one burner on medium low heat and start warming the milk for the Croque Monsieur. Once the milk is warm, not HOT, warm.......melt your butter in the second saucepan and add your flour, whisking constantly. Martha's direction have you melting the butter and whisking the flour prior to telling you to warm the milk. We almost burnt the butter/flour mix waiting on the milk to heat up.
Once you've whisked the butter/flour mix into foam you'll gradually add your warmed milk to the mix. Keep whisking to keep it smooth. It will look really chunky when you first start adding the milk. DON'T PANIC. It's supposed to. Follow the rest of the directions as written as far as adding the cheese, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Just ,make sure to have a spoon on hand to taste as you season. But blow on it before tasting......it's HOT!
At this point, you'll have what looks like gravy that you can pour into a bowl, set aside, and allow to cool. The rest of the Croque Monsieur recipe is spot on and EASY.
Once you've finished with the "cheesy gravy", it will probably be about time to add the wine to the onions.
The directions say to add the wine, bring to a boil and cook off the alcohol until the onions look dry, about 10 minutes. I'd say you'd be safer to plan for 15-20 minutes for the wine to burn off. I eventually turned the heat up to try and speed up the process and almost burnt the onions. Also, the onions won't look "dry" per say.....there just shouldn't be any liquid left in the pan.
After the wine cooks off, it's smooth sailing. Add the broth to your onions and let it simmer. While your soup simmers, you can go ahead and finish up your Croque Monsieurs. Simply butter a baking/cookie sheet, lay your bread slices on the pan and spread each slice with a decent layer of the cheesy gravy. The recipe calls for Brioche bread. Brioche was not available at the store where we purchased our ingredients, so we used Sourdough - it worked out just fine.
After you've put the gravy on, divvy up your ham and sliced Gruyere on half the slices of bread and use the other halves as the sandwich tops (gravy side up). Sprinkle with more Gruyere and pop them in the oven for 10 minutes.
Once your 10 minute time goes off, flip on your broiler (which you'll need for your soup anyway) and place them under the broiler for 3-5 minutes until golden and bubbly.
Once the soup itself is done, simply lay your baguette slices on top, sprinkle with cheese and put under the broiler for 3-5 minutes.
Sidenote: Yes, we know these really aren't the proper/ideal bowls to serve this soup in. They are the only bowls we had that are oven safe. Gotta work with what you've got people. Period. If you are offended by these bowls in some way I suggest you purchase some and contact us for our shipping address. ; )
This should resemble your finished product.
Hopefully you'll enjoy these recipes as much as we did (it even got the male thumbs up from Randall which is a HUGE accomplishment)!!! This is the first of many recipes to come, so if you're ever in a bind for what to cook for dinner or need some ideas for what to bring to your holiday potluck, come back and see what culinary masterpieces or disasters we've created.