Sunday, March 9, 2014

American Onion Soup with Ciabatta

March 2, 2014

American Onion Soup
No-knead Ciabatta Bread
Rodney Strong 2010 Sonoma County Merlot 

American Onion Soup from Food Wishes
No-knead Ciabatta from Food Wishes

I've had French onion soup many times in restaurants but never homemade. I've collected several recipes to try and chose one from Food Wishes for this Sunday dinner . The post on Food Wishes is titled "American French Onion Soup": American because it takes short cuts and French because of the way the onions are traditionally cut. (Like French Fries, the name refers to how the vegetable is cut rather than the country of origin.) To go along with the soup I made a loaf of Ciabatta bread using a no-knead recipe also from Food Wishes.

Thanks to the shortcuts, making the soup was not a lot of work, though it did take some time. Much of the work of caramelizing the onions occurs in the oven, rather than on the stovetop, with only occasional stirring. It was a bit of a risk making the soup using store-brought broths but the soup came out very good, Diane and I both enjoyed it. If anything the portions were too small. I had to use ramekins since I melted the cheese using the broiler and our other bowls are not broiler safe. The recipe calls for the optional addition of sherry vinegar. I like Chef John's suggestion to treat it like salt and pepper,  adding a small amount to suit your taste. I don't  have any sherry vinegar so I didn't add any.

Baking the bread turned into something of an adventure. I placed a square Pyrex baking pan on the bottom rack of the 425° oven to generate steam for baking. Just before I was to put the bread into the oven, I poured boiling water into the Pyrex. The dish shattered. It didn't shatter all at once into a lot of tiny pieces. It shattered into large pieces that then slowly shattered further, leaving a pile of glass on the bottom rack and floor of the oven. I turned the oven off and used tongs to remove the largest pieces of glass, leaving the rest on the oven floor to deal with later. I then put a metal baking dish on the bottom rack. I added boiling water to the dish and put in the bread to bake. However, when I went to check on it I found the oven was still off. I thought I had turned it back on, but apparently not. I turned it back on and monitored the bread closely and took it out when it reached an internal temperature of 210°.

Despite these problems, the bread is delicious! When fresh it had a nice crisp crust, soft, slightly chewy crumb, and nice, simple flavor. It is good toasted but, because of its shape, not so good for sandwiches. I used a coarse corn meal on the baking sheet which made the bottom crust a little too crunchy. The holes in the bread weren't as large as I was expecting, perhaps because of the lower initial oven temperature.

We are still working through the last of the ham. It has turned out to be a great bargain with all of the meals it has provided us. This week Diane made a great split pea and ham soup from Forks over Knives and a nice ham and potato hash from Simply Recipes, served with fried eggs.

We have more soup than we can use soon, so we froze about half of the onion soup. It's too early to tell but this should not harm the soup at all.

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