Tag Archives: Beef Stock

Valentine’s Day Starter: French Onion Soup

With Valentine’s Day less than one week away, it’s time to start planning something scrumptious from the kitchen.  As a small portion, this classic soup is an intimate start to an evening of food with you and your honey.  The house gets filled with aromas that delight your senses and then you get to dig into this bowl of gooey goodness!  You’ll need to set aside some time to make the soup – about 2 hours – but you will be richly rewarded with the best little bowl of homemade French Onion Soup. The star of this soup is of course the onions, which cook and cook and cook until they have released their natural sugars, get soft and creamy, and develop a rich brown color.

I love that there are few ingredients in this soup but the resulting flavors are incredible.  The onions are thinly sliced and cooked low and slow, with a bay leaf and some fresh thyme to infuse their flavors.  White wine is added, then some roux (melted butter and flour mixture used to thicken), beef stock and then it cooks a little bit more.  The soup can be made a few days ahead of time and reheated before adding the croutons.  The croutons are the highlight of French Onion Soup, with melted Gruyère cheese; the top is crispy and golden, and underneath it’s slightly soft from the juices of the soup.

If you’ve only tried this delicious soup in a restaurant, I highly recommend that you give it shot in your kitchen.  It’s the perfect Valentine’s Day indulgence that is a feast for your eyes and your senses!

Eat well and share the love!

French Onion Soup
Recipe: Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two
Serves two foodies (makes about 4 cups)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 medium sweet onions (or yellow onions)
1 large shallot
Kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 stalks fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 large clove garlic, minced
½ cup good Chardonnay wine (one that you would drink)
3 cups low-sodium beef stock
Roux: 1 tablespoon melted unsalted butter and 1 ½ tablespoons flour, mixed together
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
2 to 4 baguette slices, toasted (season with a drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper)
¾ cup grated Gruyère cheese

Cut off the ends and peel the onions and shallot.  Cut each onion in half and then cut each onion half (and the shallot) into thin slices, about 1/8 inch thick.

In a Dutch oven or large, heavy soup pot, turn heat to medium-low and add the butter.  Let melt and add all of the onions with ¼ teaspoon salt.  Stir a few times to coat the onions with the butter and cook for about 20 minutes without stirring.  Stir in the sugar, and add the thyme stalks and bay leaf.  Cover with a lid and continue to let the onions cook for another hour, stirring every 15 minutes or so, until the onions are very soft and golden brown.

Remove the lid, increase the heat to medium and add the minced garlic, cook for 30 seconds.  Add the wine and cook uncovered until most of wine is evaporated, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the beef stock, roux, ¼ teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper and let cook for another 30 to 45 minutes until onions are very soft and soup has thickened.

To serve, turn the broiler to high.  Add ¾ cup to 1 cup of soup in an oven-proof ramekin, soup tureen or mug.  Add the toasted bread slice (or slices) on the top of soup and top with half the cheese. Place the ramekin under the broiler for 1 to 2 minutes until cheese is melted, golden and bubbly. Serve hot.

Zuppa: Minestrone with Gremolata Parmesan Croutons

With some cold weather (we have snow in the forecast tonight!) settling into our area, it’s the perfect time to make a heartwarming soup.  Minestrone is a classic Italian soup and has many variations, usually made with meat, vegetables and pasta.  This recipe is easy to put together and has tons of homemade flavors.  It starts with sweet Italian sausage and is built with sautéed onions, carrots and celery, and then fire-roasted canned tomatoes, beef stock, a bay leaf and a parmesan rind (see my tips & hints) are added for a rich, deep flavored broth.  It simmers for 45 minutes to three hours – the longer the better, which also gives the parmesan rind more time to melt into the soup.  Ditalini pasta (small tubes), cannellini beans, green beans and baby spinach finish off this rich and satisfying soup.  In my book, a savory crouton is a great way to dress up a bowl of soup; a flavorful gremolata mixture makes a delicious crouton topping to enjoy with the minestrone.  

The croutons are simple to make with just a few ingredients.  A gremolata is traditionally made with parsley, garlic, olive oil and lemon zest; I have added parmesan cheese to give a little crispy crust when the croutons are toasted. Slices of bread are lightly toasted, a garlic clove is rubbed on the bread, it’s topped with the gremolata and toasted until lightly golden.  For a pre-dinner nosh another time, you could enjoy these croutons on their own (or with some good prosciutto, thinly sliced) with a glass of your favorite wine, or cocktail. 

If you prefer, a flavorful turkey sausage can be substituted for the Italian sausage.  And if you are gluten-free, omit the pasta.  I hope your dinner table will soon include some heartwarming bowls of minestrone soup and unforgettable croutons.  Cheers.

Eat well and share the love!

Minestrone with Gremolata Parmesan Croutons
Recipe: Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two
Serves two foodies, plus leftovers

8 ounces ground sweet Italian sausage
½ cup diced sweet yellow onion (about ½ small onion)
½ cup diced carrot (about 1 large)
½ cup diced celery (about 2 stalks)
1 clove garlic, minced
(1) 14.5 oz. can fire-roasted chopped tomatoes
4 to 6 cups low-sodium beef stock
1 bay leaf
1 parmesan rind
1/3 cup uncooked ditalini pasta (small tubes)
1 cup packed baby spinach leaves
1 can of cannellini (white northern) beans, drained
   and rinsed
10 to 15 small green beans, cut into ¼ inch pieces
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Fresh cracked pepper
Gremolata & Croutons
4 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons finely grated parmesan cheese, plus some for topping
Pinch of kosher salt
5 to 6 grinds of fresh-cracked pepper
4 to 5 slices of French bread (or similar), cut on the diagonal
1 clove garlic, peeled

In a 4 or 5 quart Dutch oven (or medium stock pot), heat to medium and add a few drizzles of olive oil so the sausage won’t stick to the pan.  Add the sausage and cook until crumbled and browned, about 20 minutes.  Turn off the heat and transfer to a plate lined with paper towels.  Wipe out the pan. 

Return heat to medium-low and add 2 tablespoon olive oil.  Add the onions, celery and carrots with ½ teaspoon salt and 1/16 teaspoon of fresh-cracked pepper; sauté, stirring often, until vegetables are soft and tender – about 20 to 25 minutes.  Add the garlic and let cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly.  Add the canned tomatoes, 4 cups beef stock, the bay leaf and the parmesan rind. Let simmer on low heat for 45 minutes to 3 hours. 

About 30 to 45 minutes (45 to 60 minutes for high altitude) before serving, stir in the pasta, spinach, cannellini beans, chopped green beans, ¼ teaspoon salt and a few grinds of fresh-cracked pepper; let simmer on medium-low heat until pasta is just tender.  If needed, add more beef stock to thin out.  Serve soup hot with gremolata parmesan croutons (recipe follows). 

Gremolata Croutons:
In a small bowl, mix together the parsley, olive oil, lemon zest, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.  In the toaster oven or under the broiler, lightly toast croutons and then rub with the garlic clove.  Drizzle with olive oil and lightly season with salt and pepper.  Add 1 ½ teaspoons of the gremolata mixture to each crouton and spread out.  Top with a  light sprinkle of parmesan cheese and lightly toast until bread edges are golden and mixture is warmed through.  Serve warm.