a warm meal for a cold night

Yesterday evening, my sister and brother-in-law–Annie and Andrew–allowed Anthony and I the joy of cooking in their kitchen. Both of us share houses with a lot of people, so to work in a kitchen uninterrupted–and a kitchen as cozy and well-stocked as theirs–was truly a luxury. We put together a European bistro-inspired meal in hopes of combating the unwelcome winter storm that had suddenly befallen Ann Arbor earlier that day.

french red onion soup
Adapted from Gourmet.com
Serves 4

2 cups vegetable broth
2 cups water
2 whole star anise
6 black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 medium red onions, cut into 1/2-inch wedges
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup dry red wine
12 (1/2-inch thick) slices of baguette
2 cups grated Gruyere

Combine broth, water, and spices in a pot and bring to boil. Remove from heat and let steep for 15 minutes. (Note: I know not every kitchen is stocked with star anise, but if you can buy just a couple of them at a bulk foods store they are very cheap and look nicely whimsical floating in the broth. So I encourage you: go find the star anise!)

As your broth mixture is steeping, cook (almost caramelize) the red onion in olive oil in a heavy medium pot, covered and on medium heat, for about 15 minutes. The onions should be kind of purple-golden in color, and very soft.

Add wine (I used Cabernet Sauvignon) and boil, uncovered, for 1 minute.

Strain your broth mixture through a sieve (or just carefully remove star anise and peppercorns) into the onion mixture. Simmer briskly for 10 minutes, uncovered. Season with some salt.

Preheat the boiler! Make sure your baguettes are sliced and your cheese grated. This is where it gets fun: assembling the soup. Ladle soup into 4 ovenproof bowls set on a sheet pan.

Place baguette slices (artfully) on top.

Sprinkle (generously) with cheese–about 1/2 cup of cheese per bowl.

Broil until cheese is melted and bubbling, about 2 minutes.

Do you like the looks of that salad? Let me tell you how we did it!

roasted pear & candied pecan salad
Adapted from The Chic Life

First, I candied about a cupful of pecans. Then, I tossed them in a bowl till well-coated with:

1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon canola oil
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper if you have it, tin foil if you don’t.  Spread the pecans on the sheet and bake for 20 minutes at 300 F, turning them halfway through. You may also choose to sprinkle a bit more sugar on the pecans when you turn them. Let cool.

Next step in the salad making process was to roast some pear slices. This is EASY. Cut the pears into quarters and slice off a bit from the skin-side so they lie flat. Arrange on a sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 20 minutes at 400 F, again turning them over halfway through. Let cool.

Finally, place on each plate a bed of baby lettuce, two pear quarters, a handful of candied pecans, and some crumbled feta (or gorgonzola, if you’re into that). Drizzle with balsamic vinegar.

Ah, I see you eyeing those french fries! Unfortunately, I can’t tell you how those gems were created, since this guy was responsible:

I do believe yukon gold potatoes, olive oil, and about half of Annie and Andrew’s spice cabinet were involved.

What a pleasant way to spend a chilly February night! Though I must admit that while the majority of the evening was entirely cordial, tensions ran a little high when the Settlers of Catan (Seafarers Edition, no less) board was pulled out after dinner. I tell you, the Lewandoskis might seem like a nice couple, but just wait till ore, wood, brick, sheep and wheat get involved.

Stay warm and well-fed!

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Becky Cripps says:

    How fun, Claire! Thanks for a glimpse of your evening. Keep cooking& writing…& sharing!

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