Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Soup and Salad Classics

Onion soup is one of the simplest French dishes, of course made famous because people went to the old Les Halles market to eat it in the wee hours of the morning to get over whatever they had been drinking in their night in Paris. Zola? Hemmingway? Anais Nin and Henry Miller? I don't know who was responsible for this fable from the distant past.

Originally, I made onion soup according to Julia Child, but I no longer add wine or cognac. Tonight I used somewhat dried out French bread, toasted with cheese on top for the garnish. It needs to be dry so it will soak up the soup just the right way. I've never used any other recipe except that of Julia Child, so I claim this is one more dish that I have internalized, and make it, despite the now-proverbial view that no one really makes any recipes from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Ha again.

The key ingredient in onion soup, in my opinion, is the best possible chicken stock. (The onions are obvious: no onion, no onion soup.) Tonight's stock came from the roast chicken we had 10 days ago, including all the wonderful brown bits that were in the roasting pan and all the bones and so on, cooked in the slow cooker overnight.

This salad is a trendy American classic. In the recent obits for the author of the Silver Palate Cookbook, the recipe was mentioned as having been one of hers; however, I have never used that cookbook. I first saw this salad in the early 1990s at a restaurant in San Juan, PR and at the Common Grill restaurant in Chelsea, MI -- both places served modern American style food. Our nephew Jason used to make a very nice version. The total classic has pears, blue cheese, pecans, dried cranberries or cherries, and lettuce with a raspberry vinaigrette, often served on a flat plate with the pear fanned out artistically, and skimpily. The type of restaurant that served it also tended to identify at least some of the ingredients by brand name or terroir. For instance, Maytag blue cheese, Michigan dried cherries, Vermont maple syrup....

Tonight's version had lots of apples, pears, raisins, toasted pine nuts, and a lemon-maple vinaigrette with St. Andre cheese. I think I've made this one my own as well. Some of the ingredients were local, too.

1 comment:

Jeanie said...

I finally got Julia's Mastering for my birthday. On a visit to Canada this weekend, I had awesome onion soup and thought I had to make some. Now I know which book I should go to!