Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Where there's smoke, there's bacon.

If my senior year in college had been a soap opera it surely would have been entitled As the Smoke Detector Bleeps, because really, it was the soundtrack of our life. In the fall, the six of us girls quickly learned that the seemingly innocuous act of showering triggered the smoke alarm, bringing to our house a full complement of the city's finest firemen. All the while, we stood on the lawn in rather indecent states of undress waiting for the all clear. After a few weeks, the city doubtless informed the university that despite the increased job satisfaction ratings among fire fighters, they needed to fix the alarm. And so, by winter, we could shower without incident, but the smoke detectors would not be deterred. They went off frequently, interrupting all manner of hijinx, (most of which are best left to the imagination), but most importantly, they signaled the cooking of bacon. Remember that commercial for Beggin' Strips? The one where the dog runs around the house shouting, "bacon. BACON! BACONBACONBACON!!!" Oh, but we were not so very different. Cooking bacon meant that doors would slam, footsteps would echo down the hall, and all housemates would appear in the kitchen wiping drool and trying to look casual, like maybe they'd been on the way to the kitchen anyway. Bascially, all you really needed to make a meal in college was bacon. Tonight, in the spirit of a true college cook, I made quiche. With bacon. I know, I know, it doesn't sound collegiate, but truly, it is. College dinners tended to consist of anything you could scrounge up out of the fridge. Plus bacon. A quiche is no different. Gather leftover ingredients. Saute. Dump in crust. Cover with milk and eggs, and ooh, everyone thinks you're all gourmet. They don't need know that you're really the kind of person who has left the house on a crisp October morning in nothing but a towel.

QUICHE (with bacon)
all measurements are based on what I had in the house, not necessarily what I would have done, had I stocked pantry

1/2 recipe dough
2-4 pieces of bacon, chopped
1 small onion, diced
1/2 can of artichokes, drained, squeezed and diced
1/2-3/4 C gruyere cheese
3 eggs
1 C milk
fresh thyme
salt, pepper, nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 375.
Make the dough and set it in the fridge. Saute up the bacon in a medium fry pan. Fend off any scavengers. Take it out and set aside (watch the bowl carefully). Reserve some of the grease. Saute up the onion along with the thyme. Allow the onions to get soft and sweet. Set aside. Saute up the artichokes. Set aside. Roll out the dough, and put in a pie plate. Grate the cheese and spread across the bottom of the dough. Add the artichokes, bacon and onion, spreading them out to cover. Mix up the eggs, milk, salt pepper and pinch of nutmeg. Pour this over the rest. Pop in the oven and cook for 35-40 minutes. Let stand for 5-10 minutes before cutting in.
Depending on the appetites of your husband/roommates/children/local fire company, this recipe can serve quite a few, or two. Consider making additional foods to supplement. At all costs, make sure the bacon makes it past the initial cooking phase.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Bistro Fare: French Onion Soup

It's been awhile since I've posted, and for that, I apologize to you. In fact, I've had this recipe ready to go for probably a week or two now. Of course, by ready, I mean scribbled down in a cryptic fashion on the back of a torn envelope along with other great notes such as Buy Dixie Cups, Draw Groundhogs and at least two other things that resemble recipes. So heck, it may not even be a recipe for french onion soup. If it is though, it's damn good.

NB: Makes only 2-3 servings!!

2 sweet onions halved and sliced so as to create long arcs of onion
1.5 T butter
1 T flour
4-5 cups chicken stock
1 T worcester sauce
1/4 C white wine or vermouth
1/4-1/2 C red wine
salt and pepper to taste

1 C - 2 C grated Gruyere cheese
2-4 slices of bread from a baguette.
1-2 T butter

Add the butter to a saucepan larger enough to contain the soup, and heat until melted. Add the sliced onions, season with a bit of salt and pepper and cook on low heat 20-25 minutes until the onions brown and caramelize. They should be cooked slowly enough that they remain soft, not crisp. Add the flour and cook for 2-3 additional minutes. Do not worry if the onions have created some residue on the bottom of the pan, when you add the broth this will all come up. Add the white wine and allow to cook until liquid has reduced by half, about 3-5 minutes. Then add the worcester saue and the chicken stock. Cook 25-30 minutes or until soup tastes rich and oniony. While the soup is cooking, ready the topping. Cut the bread into large (approximately 1") cubes. Add the butter to a skillet and melt. Add the bread cubes and toss until coated, cook a few minutes until nice and toasty. Then check the soup, add more salt and pepper to taste. Add the red wine and raise heat to a boil. Boil for about 3 minutes, then spoon soup into oven proof bowls. Top with the toasted cubes, and about 1/2 C - 3/4 C of cheese (I use a microplane to grate the Gruyere, so it is very fluffy and not dense, thus seeming to be a greater volume). Put under a broiler until cheese is thoroughly melted.


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