Burnt Flour Soup

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While growing up, my mother would occasionally make a simple soup, made by browning butter and adding flour that burned in the butter. I didn’t know this was how the soup was made as a youngster, I just knew I loved it. She’d always told me it was her mother’s recipe.

Many years ago I asked my mother for the recipe, and she wrote it down. It began like this:

My mother was born and raised in the city of Nancy, in the Provence of Lorraine in northeastern France. Unfortunately, because of the proximity to Germany, my mother experienced WWII first hand as an adolescent, even to the extreme of her family’s home overtaken by Nazi officers.

It was this reason that, after hearing my mother’s literal war stories, especially when it came to the lack of food, I always presumed that her mother’s burnt soup recipe was a classic “peasant” recipe, made with what little butter and flour could be purchased or bartered for at the black market.

Recently I was looking at cookbook called Savoie – The Land, People, and Food of the French Alps, which was published in 1989. (I bought the book after visiting the Savoie and Haute-Savoie regions of France, where I first discovered some of my favorite stinky cheeses, like Reblochon and Raclette.)

But there it was in the cookbook – Burned Flour Soup.

The author, Madeleine Kamman, wrote that the “soup is probably of Germanic origin since it is also a specialty of the southern Alsace and the area of Basel and several other cantons of Switzerland.”

Because Eastern France borders Germany, Switzerland, as well as Italy, it’s probably impossible to pinpoint the exact origin of burned flour soup. It’s a given that it was a peasant recipe, but obviously had a wider range than my mother’s home kitchen in Nancy.

The photo on the left shows the province of Lorraine, the one on the right, Savoie.

I recently asked my mother about the soup, and all that she could remember is that her mother made it.

The cookbook recipe is more involved than what my mother made when I was growing up; I don’t mind the upgrade of bacon and cheese! Here is the recipe from the cookbook.

Soupe À La Farine Brûlée
Or Burned Flour Soup

5 ounce slab bacon, cut into 1/4″ cubes
1 1/2 pounds onions, finely chopped
1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 quarts hot water or broth
1 teaspoon Maggi seasoning
Salt
Pepper
1 cup light cream
1/2 pound Tomme, or Gruyère

In a large sauté pan, render the bacon cubes slowly; let them color to a nice golden without crisping. When the bacon is ready, remove it to a plate.

In the bacon fat, slowly sauté the chopped onions until mellow and brown. Mix the bacon into the onions.


In another saucepan, heat the butter well. Add the flour and cook slowly – at least 20 minutes – until nice and dark brown (two shades deeper than a hazelnut shell).


Whisk in the hot water or broth, bring to a boil, and pour over the onions and bacon.


Add Maggi seasoning, salt, and pepper. Simmer approximately 45 minutes, or until tasty and reduced to 5 cups.


Add the cream and mix well.


Serve in hot plates or bowls with a dish of cheese slices “for your guests to help themselves.”


The tomme is to be slivered into the soup.

The Tomme really adds something to the soup. I think I prefer it over Gruyere.

Sadly, though, this is not my mother’s soup. It’s quite different, even though it’s “better” with the upgrades.

The recipe could easily be made with fewer steps, but it was fun to make.

Fresh and dried mushrooms would be an incredible addition, sautéed along with the onions.

 

 

Cabbage Rolls, Deconstructed

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I am completely aware that the term “deconstructed” is overused these days, but that’s exactly what innocently came to mind when I first thought about this recipe.

Cabbage rolls have always been a favorite of mine – mostly because of all the varieties of stuffings potentially hiding inside. Ground pork with rice and raisins, reminiscent of dolma, or sausage rolled in cabbage, smothered in red sauce – all delicious, comforting, and reliable.

There’s nothing tedious or challenging about making cabbage rolls, but it’s easy to run out of the nice big cabbage leaves.

So I was staring at a cabbage the other day, and thought I could simply parboil the cabbage, and create a layered “casserole” of cabbage and sausage. But I also needed a white sauce and cheese.

I not only was thinking of traditional cabbage rolls, but also a recipe I made which was bacon and mushrooms in béchamel and wrapped in cabbage leaves – more of a side dish than a meal, and deliciously rich.

So here’s what I did, combining the components of both recipes.

Deconstructed Cabbage Rolls
printable recipe below

1 large head of white cabbage, about 3 pounds
1-2 tablespoons oil or bacon fat
2 pounds Italian sausage
1/2 pound ground pork
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
Approximately 4 cups of bechamel, double this recipe
Grated Gruyère, about 16 ounces

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Have a large pot of slightly salted water heating on the stove. Slice the cabbage in half and remove the core.


When the water comes to a boil, add the cabbage halves and keep them submerged. I used a plate with a weighted lid.

Cook the cabbage for about 6-7 minutes, or until the leaves soften a bit. Place the cabbage in a colander to drain and cool. When you can handle the leaves, separate them slightly and let them drip dry on a dish towel or paper towels.

Meanwhile, cook the sausage, pork and onion over medium-high heat, along with some oil, until barely any pink shows; don’t overcook.


Add the fennel seeds and white pepper. Taste for salt.

Lightly grease a 9 x 13″ baking dish.

Begin with adding cabbage leaves to the bottom of the dish.

Next add one-fourth of the sausage mixture, topped by one cup of bechamel, and sprinkle with about 4 ounces of grated cheese.


Repeat these layers three times or, if your baking dish is shallower, form only three layers, using thirds of the sausage mixture, bechamel, and cheese.

Bake for 30 minutes, until golden. Let sit for at least 15 minutes before slicing.


Serve with some buttered potatoes for a really hearty meal!


One could certainly add celery, carrots, and parsley to the meat mixture.

Or, go a different direction with seasoning the meat component to make it Italian-inspired. There are so many options.

note: This deconstructed cabbage roll casserole would be just as good with a red sauce instead of a cheesy white one, and definitely less caloric, if you worry about that sort of thing.

 

 

 

Mushroom Toasts

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My readers know that, maybe because of my advanced age, or perhaps because I’ve always been on the stubborn side, food trends turn me off. But I do know that stubbornness can get in the way of experiencing good food.

Case in point – avocado toast. Perhaps avocado toast didn’t excite me much because avocados are my biggest source of protein, not being a huge meat eater. I didn’t need to serve them on grilled bread to appreciate the wonderful food that they are.

Until I did have avocado toast, that is, and I have to say that they were thoroughly enjoyable!

Recently online I saw a headline for the “new” avocado toast – mushrooms on toast. I immediately envisioned sautéed mushrooms that I top my husband’s steaks with occasionally.

So that’s what I did to make my version of jump-on-the-bandwagon mushroom toast.

Mushroom Toast

Bread slices, like sourdough or French
Olive oil
Mushrooms, sliced, about 1 pound
Butter, about 1/4 cup
Olive oil, about 2 tablespoons
2 cloves garlic, minced
Cognac or brandy, optional
Garlic pepper
Dried thyme
Salt
Pepper
8 ounces Crème fraiche

Brush some olive oil on the bread slices and toast them, either over fire, in a skillet, or in the oven. They should be crispy. Set them aside.


In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and butter over fairly high heat until bubbling, then add the mushrooms.

Keep the heat high, and stir only occasionally while getting some color on the mushrooms. If they stick at all, add a bit more butter, but keep the heat high. This keeps the mushrooms from requiring an inordinate amount of fat.


Once there is good caramelization on the mushrooms, turn the heat to medium, and add the garlic. Stir well for a few seconds.

Immediately add a splash or two of cognac and let it ignite. Shake the pan until the flames extinguish.

Turn the heat to the lowest setting and cook until most of the liquid has cooked off, if there is any.

At that point, season the mushrooms to taste.

Remove the skillet from the heat, let it cool a bit, then stir in the crème fraiche. Heat through.

Place some mushrooms on the toasts using a small, slotted spoon, then pour a spoonful of cream over the top. Serve immediately.


If you want decadence, sprinkle a little finely grated Gruyere, Fontina, or Parmesan on top of the toasts.


Top the toasts with some fresh thyme, parsley, or chives, if available.

If you’re serving these for company, don’t put too many out; they must be warm. There’s nothing much worse than cold mushrooms.

Not only would these be good for hors d’oeuvres, they would be wonderful served with soup. So much better than plain bread!

Verdict: These toasts are fabulous, and any mushroom lover will love these. The toasts would work with finer chopped mushrooms, or even a duxelles.

Flamiche

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A flamiche is somewhat related to a quiche, but with the addition a a generous amount off caramelized onions. It is good.
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Unfortunately, I can not give you the source for the recipe, because it was from the days when I copied recipes out of cookbooks that I borrowed from the library.
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I changed the recipe by adding cheese to the quiche. Why not?!!
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Served with a green salad, it will definitely please you for lunch or a light dinner. You could always add bacon or ham to it.

Flamiche

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 yellow onions, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3 eggs
2 egg yolks
1 1/2 cup heavy cream
6 ounces Gruyère
Nutmeg, white pepper, salt
Baked pie shell

Heat the oil and butter in a large skillet or wok over medium heat. Add the onion slices and sprinkle on the sugar. Sauté the onion slices until they are caramelized. This should take about 20 minutes, trying not to burn the onion.

Set aside the onions to cool.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolk, and cream. Add your desired amounts of seasoning; I used 1/2 teaspoon of white pepper, approximately 1/3 teaspoon of nutmeg, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
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Place your pre-baked pie crust pan on a jelly roll pan. Place the grated cheese on the bottom. Top with the caramelized onions.

Add the seasoned egg and cream mixture.


Bake the flamiche for about 40 minutes, then turn down the temperature to 325 degrees and continue cooking for another 20 minutes. You can test its doneness by using a cake tester, which should come out clean.

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Let the flamiche rest for a bit, then cut into slices and serve.
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It’s good warm or at room temperature.

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You could use a dip-dish pie pan; the one I used is quite shallow.

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A Winter Potato Salad

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I absolutely love cooking with the seasons. It seems like the only way to cook, in spite of our modern American grocery stores supplying us year round with just about every fruit and vegetable that we demand. I’m so stubborn about this, I can’t even remember when I last bought a tomato, although I do purchase cherry tomatoes in the winter.

The concept is smart – stemming from the peasant way of preparing food, which involved using what you raised and what grew around you, whether you lived amongst olive groves in Italy, or on the coast of Greece. But it’s also a more fun way to cook. Cooking the same dishes using the same ingredients for me would get so boring month after month. It’s also less expensive using in-season produce.

I was recently at a hip, small-plates and shared-plates restaurant, and one of the vegetable offerings was asparagus. I, of course, had to make a comment about it not being in season, which was most likely met with silent snickers. In the end, I was outvoted. And it was terrible. Well, not terrible, but you could tell it wasn’t just-picked springtime asparagus. It may have been grown in a greenhouse nearby, but there’s still a difference.

In any case, because I cook seasonally, I bring you a winter version of potato salad. It contains red potatoes, Polish sausage, and Gruyere with a creamy vinaigrette, served at room temperature.

A few months ago I published a late summer potato salad with corn, because corn was abundant. I love creating seasonally different potato salads. Why not?!! In fact, they can end up being a meal, instead of a side.

So this is what I did.

Winter Potato Salad with Kielbasa and Gruyere

Salad:
8 small red potatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 ounces Polska Kielbasa, or Polish Sausage, sliced
1 large shallot, diced
8 ounces diced Gruyere, at room temperature
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Creamy dressing:
1 tablespoon of mayonnaise
1 tablespoon yogurt, sour cream, or half and half
Approximately 1/3-1/2 cup prepared dressing*

To begin, quarter the potatoes and steam them until they’re just tender, or about 8 minutes. This, of course, depends on the size of your potato pieces. You just don’t want them so soft that they fall apart.
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Let the potatoes cool in the steamer basket. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, half and half or whatever product you want to make the vinaigrette creamy.


Then whisk in the vinaigrette. You can make it creamier, with a smaller amount of the vinaigrette, or stronger with more. It’s up to you.

Pour the olive oil into a skillet over high heat and brown the sausage slices on both sides. Using a slotted spoon, place the sausage in a small bowl and set aside.
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Just for fun and flavor, I gently tossed the cooling potatoes in the remaining oil in the skillet. Then I placed them in a medium-sized bowl.
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Add about 1/4 cup of the creamy vinaigrette to the potatoes and toss gently. Set the bowl aside so the potatoes can cool further. However, if later you see that the potatoes have absorbed all of the vinaigrette, add a little more, or a little olive oil and toss gently.
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When the potatoes have completely cooled, add the sausage and about half of the diced shallot and stir gently. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if necessary.

Regarding the Gruyere, you can toss it in to the potato-sausage mixture, or sprinkle the dice on top just before serving, which is what I did. Just don’t add the cheese too early or it will melt. The texture of the room temperature cheese is a nice texture compliment with the potatoes and sausage.


Then sprinkle the remaining shallots and some parsley, if desired, for color.
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* The vinaigrette I used I’d prepared with olive oil and a combination of apple cider and balsamic vinegars. It also contained a little Dijon mustard, which goes so well when sausage is involved. I don’t typically toss any kind of salads with balsamic vinegar, because of the dark brown color; I tend to offer balsamic on its own. However, because the balsamic was cut with the apple cider vinegar, plus the mayo and half and half, it wasn’t too brown.

Festive Pork Loin

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This pork loin isn’t festive in that it’s holiday-oriented, it’s just festive because it’s a perfect dish for a celebration. The more correct name would be Moscato-Braised Pork Loin with Prosciutto and Gruyère.

The recipe came from the book Rotis, by Stephane Reynaud. I had previously purchased his cookbook Barbecue & Grill, and enjoyed it, so I decided to try another one of his books. He’s quite the prolific cookbook writer if you check him out on Amazon. He has one book called Tripe. I might pass on that one…
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In any case, I’ve bookmarked many recipes from Rotis, and decided to make this pork loin first. It’s prepared quite simply – browned and braised along with white port. I couldn’t find white port, so I substituted a syrupy moscato I’ve used in sangrias, called Electra, by Quady Vineyards.

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I also really liked the addition of bacon and Comté in this roast, but American bacon isn’t the same as the European bacon, so I substituted Prosciutto. Canadian bacon would probably be a more exact substitution. Furthermore, I used Gruyère in place of the Comté.

The presentation is very pretty. It would be a good dish for company if you use an in-the-oven temperature probe. Then there’s just a melting of the cheese and you’re ready to serve.

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Moscato-Braised Pork Loin with Prosciutto and Gruyere
adapted from Rotis by Stephane Reynaud

4 tablespoons bacon fat, divided
2 purple onions, thinly sliced into rings
Pork loin, approximately 2 pounds 10 ounces
Salt, pepper
7 ounces Moscato, or any dessert wine
6 slices Prosciutto
12 ounces Gruyère, sliced into 6 pieces
Thyme, fresh or dried

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Farenheit.

First, sauté the onion rings in 2 tablespoons of bacon fat over medium heat in a large skillet until they’re caramelized. Set them aside.

Next, have your pork loin close to room temperature. Trim a little of the fat if necessary. Season both sides with salt and pepper.

Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of bacon fat in a roasting pan over high heat. Have your ventilation on. Roast the pork loin on one side. Then turn over and sear the other side until well browned.

I also brown the “sides.” After all the browning is complete, pour in the Moscato.

Place the roasting pan in the oven. Use an oven probe if you have one, and set it for 145 degrees. This took about an hour, but I would use a thermometer to prevent overcooking.

About 4 times during this hour I basted the pork with the ever-reducing Moscato jus.
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At the point where the thermometer registers 145 degrees, remove the pork from the oven and let sit for about 5 minutes. Have your slices of cheese and Prosciutto handy.
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Using a sharp knife, cut into the pork in 6 evenly-spaced crosswise slices, about 2/3 down.

Stuff the prosciutto into the openings.
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Then stuff the sliced cheese, and top everything with the caramelized onion rings.
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Return to the oven until the cheese melts, which took about 15 minutes.
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Remove from the oven, place the pork on a cutting board, and drizzle on any remaining jus from the roasting pan.

Let the pork rest for at least ten minutes, and then cut the 7 slices of pork loin for serving.


Because of the more involved recipe of this pork loin, I served it simply with steamed Brussels sprouts.
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Make sure the serving of pork includes some Prosciutto, Gruyère, and onions. Sprinkle the servings with fresh or dried thyme, and add a little more black pepper.

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note: The above doesn’t show the pork quite like it was when I first prepared the serving on the plate, because I had to keep microwaving the cheese to get it to re-melt for the photos! It was a cold evening, and I guess I just wasn’t fast enough with the camera. Plus it had already gotten dark outside; lesson learned. But if you don’t allow pork to cook beyond 155 degrees, it will be moist, and slightly pink.

A Chopped Salad

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The first time I learned about a chopped salad, it was because of Wolfgang Puck. I don’t know if this is fact or fiction, but in my cooking lifetime, he was the chef with whom I first associated the concept of a chopped salad. Coarsely chopped deliciousness, topped with a vinaigrette. Oh, and with cheese!

I only have only one of his cookbooks; he wasn’t a chef I admired greatly, but I didn’t have anything against him, either. He popularized pizzas way back when, and was one of the first to fuse cuisines, like French and Asian.

Once on our way to Hawaii, my family spent the night in Los Angeles, and we went to Spago for dinner, which was his first restaurant. And that’s where I had my first chopped salad. For reasons unbeknownst to me, that restaurant closed, so I feel lucky to have had that dining experience. But he still has restaurants everywhere, endorses products, and seems to be pretty active on television as well. So bravo to him for his tenacity!

So, what is a chopped salad? The one I remember having was crunchy, because of endive and crispy salad greens. Plus it contained lots of different similarly-sized pieces of vegetables, either fresh or blanched, and also feta cheese crumbles. It’s the perfect salad to play with, because the ingredient options are basically endless.
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So for my chopped salad today, I’m using endive, radicchio, raw zucchini, cherry tomatoes, and gruyere, for a more chewy cheese option than feta.

For my vinaigrette, I’m including parsley and basil. Easy and fresh. A perfect salad for late spring and summer.

A Chopped Salad
inspired by Chef Wolfgang Puck

Romaine lettuce, chopped
Endive, chopped
Zucchini, chopped
Cherry tomatoes, because those are the highest quality in existence right now, sliced in half
Gruyere

Vinaigrette
Apple cider vinegar
Olive Oil
Dollop of Greek yogurt, if you want a creamy vinaigrette
Fresh garlic cloves
Fresh parsley
Fresh basil
Salt

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To make the salad, toss all of the ingredients into a serving bowl. I have not listed an exact recipe, because the ratio of vegetables is completely up to you.

I’ve had chopped salads at restaurants, where the ingredients were very finely chopped. And those were good as well. You just don’t get the same crunch as you do with larger pieces. It’s all a matter of personal preference.

If you are throwing this salad together ahead of time, I would add the tomatoes at the last minute, or just leave them whole.

For the vinaigrette: In a small blender, add an equal amount of vinegar as olive oil, the garlic, herbs, and salt. Blend, and then add the desired amount of yogurt. Blend again until smooth.

Just before serving, pour in the desired amount of vinaigrette and toss the salad. I’m constantly writing “desired amount” because I like very vinagery vinaigrettes, and I also like a lot of vinaigrette in my salads. Many people do not!
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Save any remaining vinaigrette and refrigerate.

note: Think about all of the fun ingredients that can be used in a chopped salad. Protein like chicken cubes, pieces of shrimp, or avocado. Different veggies, of course, croutons, and even chick peas. You could also make a vinaigrette containing goat cheese, so you get that flavor, without the crumbles. So many choices!

Gougère Tart

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You’ve all probably heard of gougères – those fabulous bite-sized, savory choux puffs that are a Burgundian French classic.

The problem is, I’ve never been able to make these for a get-together of any kind at my house, or when I catered either, because they’re really only good just out of the oven. Similar to a soufflé, they will deflate, so they’re not as pretty, and even if they’re kept warm, the texture will change.

I present to you another gougères option, more easily served as a first course or even as part of a lunch; thin slices can be served as hors d’oeuvres as well.


This version utilizes the same dough and cheese, but it’s a whole tart, and not individual puffs. There’s no outside crust that dries out, and the inside stays nice and moist. The dough will deflate a little after the tart is out of the oven, but the tart itself maintains its integrity, so you can let it cool a little, slice and serve.

If you’ve never made a choux dough before, don’t worry. It’s not as involved as making something like a dough for croissants. All you need is a strong arm, in fact, because there is a lot of stirring involved. I’m pretty sure you can make the dough in a stand mixer, but I make it the old-fashioned way.

My husband actually remembers the last time I made this tart, which proves how memorable it is. And I hadn’t come across the recipe till recently. You can see by the stains how many times I used it. I’d love to credit the source, but I looked online and found nothing. I think it’s funny on the recipe card that I actually changed the ingredient amounts not just once, but twice. But there’s no mention of the pan I used. Since I wasn’t sure which column was the one to follow, I went with the numbers on the very left.

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As with classically-shaped gougères, the secret to this gougère tart is the cheese. Really good Gruyère – diced as well as grated for this tart.

Gougère Tart

3/4 cup whole milk
1/3 cup, or approximately 5 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon butter
1 cup white flour
4 eggs, at room temperature, broken into a small bowl
7 ounces diced Gruyère
2 1/2 ounces grated Gruyère
1 egg mixed with 1/8 teaspoon of salt

Turn the oven to 375 degrees.

Generously butter a 10″ tart pan; a pan with a removable bottom is not necessary.
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Have all of your ingredients on hand, and read the recipe through before you begin.
Begin by melting the butter into the milk in a medium saucepan.
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Add the flour, and vigorously stir the mixture for about one minute over the lowest possible heat.

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It will look similar to a roux – kind of crumbly.
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Let the pan cool slightly, then beat in one egg at a time, beating vigorously. There should be no heat involved any more.
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By the time the second egg is added and incorporated, you can see the dough getting smoother.

When you add the fourth egg, don’t beat it in completely. Then add 2/3 of the diced Gruyère and stir to just combine.

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Plop the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth. Then coat the top with the egg wash.

Add the remaining diced cheese as well as the grated, and place the tart in the oven; I put my pan on a baking sheet for easier handling.

Bake for 35 minutes. You will see it rise in the oven as it puffs up.

Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. It should be set enough to slice easily after just about 5 minutes. The tart is cheesy, but it’s also bready.

I enjoyed my slice without even a green salad on the side. Mostly because I couldn’t wait. But it would be fabulous with a salad of tomatoes or spring greens, and it would certainly be delicious served as a first course, just a matter of minutes out of the oven.

This gougère tart would pair perfectly with a light fruity red, or a pinot grigio. No white that is too tart or too oaky.

Baked Cauliflower Risotto

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There is a lovely book written by a food blogger, Yvette van Boven, called “Home-Made Winter.” Photographs are by Oof Verschuren. The book was published in 2012.

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Not surprisingly, they also published “Home-Made Summer” together in 2013, which I also own.

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The whole idea of the summer and winter cookbooks really swept me off my feet, because I am so seasonally oriented. This isn’t just with the case of food. I change everything with the seasons, from my home decor to the lipstick I wear. And I’m not talking holidays. I’m talking seasons. I take them very seriously.

The Winter cookbook is inspired mainly by Yvette’s native land of Ireland; her summer book inspired by her love of adopted France. The recipes run the gamut from breakfast through dessert, plus drinks. There are also some holiday dishes included. The photos are a real delight, especially the ones featuring Yvette herself. She definitely doesn’t take herself too seriously.

Now, you may wonder why I chose this recipe out of Home Made Winter? There are two reasons.

First of all, even though it’s March, spring has not sprung where I live. I’m not running around outside in shorts planting tomato seedlings, and my strawberry plants don’t even look perky. It’s cold.

Secondly, I’ve never baked a risotto, so I decided this was a good time to start!

This recipe is probably not representative of the recipes in Ms. van Boven’s book, but it jumped out at me, not just because the risotto is baked, but because it includes cauliflower and Gruyere.

Baked Risotto with Cauliflower and Gruyere
adapted from Home Made Winter

1 small head of cauliflower
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
7 ounces Arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine, I used a Sauvignon Blanc
2 1/4 cups strong-flavored chicken broth
8 ounces grated Gruyere, or Fontina or even a white cheddar
Bread Crumbs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Trim the cauliflower by removing the core. I usually make about 5 slices into the center of the cauliflower, slicing inward, until it comes out on its own.
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Remove excess leaves, then break up the cauliflower into florets.

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Steam the florets until they’re just tender, about 10 minutes over boiling water. Let cool, then place them on the cutting board and chop them coarsely.
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Heat a 12″ cast-iron skillet on the stove over medium heat. Add the onions and saute them for a few minutes.
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Then stir in the garlic and saute for barely a half of a minute.
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Weigh out the rice. I used arborio, but any risotto rice would work in its place.
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Pour the rice into the onion-garlic mixture.
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Stir well for about one minute. All of the grains of rice should be glistening.
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Then pour in all of the liquid.
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Add the chopped cauliflower.
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Add the grated cheese.
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Bring the liquid to a boil, then carefully place the skillet in the oven. Top with a tight fitting lid, and bake for 25 minutes.

It will look like this when it’s fully baked. Individual oven-proof dishes would have been very pretty for serving purposes, but it would have really been challenging to divide everything equally, when the rice to liquid ratio needs to be correct.

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I actually left the lid on the skillet for another 15 minutes, to insure that the rice was fully cooked. Then I removed the lid from the skillet.

The original recipe called for a large amount of bread crumbs, in my opinion. I just used a couple of tablespoons of my home-made bread crumbs to add some texture. If desired, the breadcrumbs can be mixed with dried herbs, or even fresh parsley, before being sprinkled. I left things plain for the purpose of testing my first baked risotto.
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At this point, the skillet can be placed under the broiler for browning purposes, but I left it as is. Truth be told, I got out my little butane torch for this purpose. It wasn’t working well so I refilled it. I thought I waited long enough, but somehow some butane leaked and the whole thing caught on fire. I screamed and did what any intelligent person would do and threw it on the floor, nearly missing my dog. Fortunately, the flames retarded quickly. It’s good I have a non-flammable floor. But I was more worried about my very inquisitive dog, as well as my one hand that’s now as smooth as a baby’s bottom.

Note to self: make sure to ask for a new butane torch for Christmas.

To serve, I sliced a wedge of the baked risotto because I thought it would be pretty, but there just isn’t enough cheese throughout the risotto to keep things stuck together.
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Nonetheless, I served the wedge alongside a fresh tomato salad.
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I must say it was delicious. It helps if you love cauliflower, of course.
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verdict: The top of the baked risotto looks a bit anemic – I think I probably should have taken the time to brown the top. But the looks of it doesn’t reflect the full flavors. However, I’m not really sure what purpose the arborio rice served. I think it could have been any white rice, or even brown rice, given a longer cooking time. But it was fun, and as a side dish it went very well on subsequent days with both steak and chicken. I would call it a rice-cauliflower gratin.

If I have one complaint about this book, it’s that the author doesn’t go into many details, such as pan dimensions, or number of servings. So novice cooks might be a bit challenged. If you want to check out Yvette’s blog first, here it is. She’s adorable, and has published other books than these as well.

A Basic Omelet

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There was a summer many years ago when I taught cooking classes to four little girls. They were two sets of sisters who were homeschooled. Their mothers, who were friends of mine, thought that cooking classes would satisfy many interests and teach quite a few skills to the girls. And indeed, I’ve always thought that cooking classes for young people are fabulous for not only learning about food, but also grasping important applications like math and chemistry.

During those classes we had a session on eggs – how to appreciate them for the wonderful little package of food they are, and how to treat them with respect in the kitchen. And one thing we made together were omelets.

Now, it may not seem that creative to put an omelet on my blog, but on the contrary, I think that an omelet teaches quite a few skills. Plus, there are a lot of terrible omelets out there, so perhaps I’m doing a community service with this post. I’d like to think so.

To me, there are a few criteria for making the perfect omelet:

1. good eggs
2. good cheese, for a cheese omelet
3. the right skillet
4. a lid
5. patience

Of course it goes without saying that the ingredients that you choose for your omelet have to be good. If you’ve ever had bad, old eggs, you know how wonderful and important it is to have access to farm-fresh eggs – the kind that are almost impossible to break open because the shells are so hard. And once you’ve emptied the egg into a bowl, you see a dark, almost orange yolk sitting high atop a firm white. That’s a fresh egg, and you will undoubtedly taste the difference, guaranteed.

The right skillet is important because you want your omelet to end up a decent thickness. Place your whisked eggs in too large of a skillet, and you will get a crepe-like omelet. Unless you like that kind, I don’t recommend too large of a skillet.

The skillet I use for my one-person, 2-egg omelet, is actually a crêpe pan. It’s got a flat bottom and flat sides. The outside diameter is 8″; the inside diameter, or bottom, measures 6″ in diameter.

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A perfect-fitting lid is also important for making a good omelet.

And then the most important aspect of making an omelet – patience. As Rome wasn’t built in a day, an omelet can’t be prepared in one minute. I know everyone likes fast food, but if you rush your omelet, it will taste and feel like something purchased at a fast food restaurant. Which would make me wonder why you’re even bothering to cook an omelet at home in the first place…

For today’s omelet, I chose butter, 2 eggs, Gruyere, and a little leftover diced ham. And here’s what I did.

A Basic Cheese and Ham Omelet

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 eggs
Cheese of choice – grated, or sliced fairly thinly and uniformly – I used Gruyère
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Diced ham (optional)

Have your cheese sliced or grated, and whisk the 2 eggs in a small bowl before you begin heating the skillet.
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Place the butter in a pre-heated skillet over medium heat. It should begin melting immediately, but not burn. If you think the skillet is too hot, remove it from the heat source for a minute. Cooking is a lot about common sense.
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You need to work fairly quickly at first, but don’t worry. It’s not a race. Just have all of the ingredients available, as well as the lid for the skillet. And don’t forget to adjust the heat on the stove. That’s why there are knobs.

Pour the whisked eggs into the skillet. You can see that the hot skillet has begun to “grab” the eggs and the cooking process has begun.

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Immediately place the cheese over the top of the eggs.
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If you’re using any accessory ingredients, add those immediately as well.

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Then place the lid on the skillet, and reduce the heat under the skillet to the most minimum available to you.

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Let the omelet cook slowly, with the lid on, over low heat, for about 4-5 minutes. At one point, the top of the omelet will look like this:

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Most of the cheese is melted, but there is still a bit of egg that need to cook through. At this point, remove the skillet completely from the heat source, but leave the lid on. After about 1 minute, the omelet should be ready.

I didn’t have enough hands to take the picture of the omelet coming out of the skillet, and, in fact, my husband only has one working arm/hand after bicep surgery last month, so I had to make do with simply showing you the omelet after I put it on the plate.

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Because there’s a generous amount of butter on the bottom of the skillet, the omelet should slide out easily. Do it slowly, and once half of the omelet is on the plate, simply use the skillet to flip the other half of the omelet back over itself. If you don’t care what your omelet looks like, keep it open-faced.

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The egg part of the omelet was cooked fully, although not nearly to the point of rubberyness.

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And the cheese was fully melted inside as well. I also like a little bit of browning on the outside of the omelet, but you can adjust this based on how hot the pre-heated skillet it.

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What’s important is that in spite of the fact that this omelet took a little time, the result is superb.