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the miracle of 5-hour onions

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By Jen White · March 7, 2013 · 0 Comments ·

French onion soup, a la Bouchon, made with 5-hour onions

Paul had been requesting French onion soup for, I don't know, about 2 years? And I kept putting it off, partly because I knew there were so many different ways to make it and I had no idea which to try first. But Paul was pretty adament about trying Thomas Keller's version in the Bouchon cookbook. Two things about this recipe stood out at once: there's no alcohol involved in the cooking--no wine, brandy, or sherry, which nearly every recipe for French onion soup calls for (he does call for sherry vinegar at the end, but that's different).  And the onions for the soup cook for 5 HOURS.  Much, much longer than your typical formula for caramelized onions. But these are not your typical caramelized onions. Oh, no. These are onion butter.

All it takes it about 8 large onions, a stick of butter, a little salt, 5 hours, and a heat diffuser, aka simmer mat or flame tamer. Above is the one I got off amazon.com for about 10 bucks. The heat diffuser is a little disk that you place directly on your burner (gas, electric, ceramic, whatever) in order to evenly distribute the heat, so you don't get "hot spots" in the pot which lead to burned food.  Only with a heat diffuser, and a very sturdy pot, can these onions even withstand the torture of 5 slow, hot hours. Being in the pot without a heat diffuser would be like going on a five-hour bike ride in Joshua Tree National Park and putting sunscreen on only half of yourself. Hot spots.

Start out by slicing about 8 large onions, or 7 quarts' worth. Throw them in a big heavy pot (this is our 8-quart Le Creuset) set on top of the heat diffuser and turn the heat to low. Toss in a stick of butter and a tablespoon of kosher salt. 

The onions will give off a lot of liquid and start cooking down quickly. You'll need to stir them about every 30 minutes or so. This is after about 1.5 hours...

and this is after hour 4.  If by the fifth hour they aren't dark brown and wine-scented, turn the heat up a bit and stir them more frequently. They'll color up and become the richest little devils you've ever tasted.

Like so. The amazing thing is that what started as 7 quarts of onions is now a mere 2 cups, but the same amount of butter is still in the pot.  It's gotten acquainted with the onions and melded together so what you have now isn't really onions. It's like flavor magic.  Truly, these do taste like they were cooked with a bottle of red wine.  At this point, do whatever the heck you want with them. I'm no one to boss you around.  But here are a few suggestions:

Use them on a pizza. We made this one with 5-hour onions, smeared around sort of like a pasty sauce, sauteed squash, prosciutto, and smoked gouda. Oh. My. Goodness.  

Or, use them on a sandwich--they spread like jam once heated up a little bit (if you take them cold from the fridge, they're stiff because of all that butter).  This was the beginning of a beautiful sandwich: 5-hour onions, roasted pork tenderloin, vinegary greens.  Very good stuff.

Or, stick with a more classical use, and make good 'ol onion soup. Thomas Keller's recipe really is pretty simple: Place 1.5 cups of the cooked onions in a pot and sift a tablespoon of flour over them, cooking on low heat for a couple of minutes. Pour in 3 1/2 quarts of very rich beef stock. Add a sachet of 2 bay leaves, 12 peppercorns, and 6 thyme sprigs, tied together inside cheesecloth. Simmer for about an hour or so, until reduced to about 2 1/2 quarts.  Season with salt, pepper, and a few drops of sherry vinegar.  (The complete recipe, including croutons, can be found here.)  You will be very pleased with yourself.

5-hour onions (adapted from Bouchon)

  • 7 quarts peeled, sliced onions (about 8 large yellow or white)
  • 1 stick unsalted butter (8 tablespoons)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  1. Place a heat diffuser over a burner, and a large heavy pot (8 quarts at least) on the diffuser. Melt the butter over low heat.
  2. Add the onions and salt, and cook over low heat for 5 hours, stirring every 30 minutes or so.
  3. Use as your heart desires.

makes about 2 cups.

love and pasta at domenica

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By Jen White · January 24, 2013 · 0 Comments ·

passing the plates at Domenica

I have a serious, life-long, nearly debilitating crush on handmade pasta.  I love its freshness, its tender bite, and the way just a little sauce elevates it into the highest form of art.  When I see it on a menu, at places like La Petite Grocery or August, I'm done. Take the menu away, just bring me the pasta, please. Pronto. So Domenica, whose menu features handmade pasta at every turn, among other authentically prepared Italian delights, naturally holds a place very dear to my heart--my almost Italian, highly dramatic, pasta-loving heart.

Left: octopus carpaccio. Right: tagliatelle with rabbit and porcini

I met the chef of Domenica, Alon Shaya, last year at the Tabasco event I attended on Avery Island, where he proceeded to make fusilli by hand, torture shrimp into a beautiful stock, and generally wow us all with his homemade cured meats and warm olives.  He's a master at his craft, and the restaurant reflects his easy-yet-professional style.  Vegetarians and vegans have nothing to fear here: just tell them, and they'll please most eagerly.

roasted brussels sprouts with pancetta</p> <p>with your cheese and/or salumi board, you get these savory "beignets", little puffs of crackly, buttery bread

At Avery Island, Shaya prepared a 5-course tasting menu featuring different Tabasco sauces. The meat course was a slow-roasted porchetta, but for the vegetarians, he offered a whole roasted cauliflower.  You can order this at Domenica, along with the most fantastic whipped feta cheese as a sauce.  Hint: try this whipped feta on everything you possibly can.  It never fails!

whole roasted cauliflower with its accompaniment of whipped feta (looks like hummus, but is so not hummus)

This is a great place to bring a bunch of friends and order many small plates so everyone can have a taste of the good life. Be warned that it will be a little on the noisy side, so save your important discussions for another time and place. Also, though they have a wine list, you can bring your own bottles with NO corkage fee.  True!  Plus, they're making some smashingly good king cakes these days.  Check out their happy hour, 3:00-6:00 daily, and be on the lookout for their Seder Menu, which promises to be special.

5 easy pieces: smoked salmon breakfast pizza

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By Jen White · November 27, 2012 · 0 Comments ·

Folks, I've got a backlog of food photos I took near summer's end, and even though I don't have time to scratch out full-fledged posts for them, they're still worth sharing. So this week, a stretch of 5 easy recipes to make--so easy they barely warrant a recipe at all, but I'll include one anyway. Check back every day through Saturday for a new post!

This super-easy tortilla pizza is a spin on a quick snack we make often around here, usually with pepperoni and mozzarella, but it makes a tasty breakfast when you've got some lox to rock out.  To make a pepperoni or other kind of pizza, use the tortilla-crisping method described here, then return to the oven after topping the pizza until the cheese melts and everything's hot.

<strong>smoked salmon breakfast pizza


  • 1 large (10") flour tortilla
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • goat cheese, about 1/4 cup, softened
  • a few slices of gravlax or other smoked salmon
  • capers
  • green or red onion slices
  1. Place a baking sheet in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 for about 10 minutes.
  2. Remove baking sheet and lay the tortilla on it. Brush lightly with olive oil, then return to the oven for 5 to 10 minutes, until it's crisped and toasty (it may get some air bubbles in it but you can flatten these with your hand).
  3. Spread tortilla with goat cheese and layer with salmon, capers, and onion slices. That's it!

serves 1 to 2

the crust is your canvas: steak pizza with blue cheese

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By Jen White · April 2, 2012 · 0 Comments ·

Last week, when I wrote about sharing more recipes using leftovers, I had no idea I was going to get to eat some yummy steak pizza this weekend! Paul cooked steaks on Friday night, while I sauteed mushrooms and made a salad.  I love Paul's steaks: they're simple but so delicious, rubbed with olive oil, seasoned with salt, black pepper, and thyme, and cooked in a lot of butter and olive oil in the pan.  If you find yourself with one leftover steak but two or three people to feed, a pizza is a great way to go. Nothing stretches leftovers like a big ol' piece of bread. Plus, you can put all sorts of colorful veggies and cheese on there; make it beautiful and it will be good.

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Tagged with: blue cheese, leftovers, steak, pizza

what to do with so much goodness: peaches & herb fruit crisp

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By Jen White · August 3, 2011 · 0 Comments ·

This week was our first visit to Hollygrove Market and Farm, right in the city.  Hollygrove offers a CSA (community supported agriculture) box filled with freshly picked goods from farms within a hundred-mile radius of New Orleans, and I'm sure many of you are taking advantage of these types of boxes in your own areas.  They really are a great way to support local food growers and to learn how to cook with what's in season.  Two things I love about Hollygrove's operation are that they offer two boxes each week, on Tuesday and Saturday (sometimes slightly different), and you don't have to subscribe--just come get it when you want it (or order home delivery).  Also, you can pick up other vegetables and fruits a la carte at the market, as well as organic meats, coffee, dairy products, and some interesting pantry items.

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