Archive for the ‘Recipes – Soups’ Category

Beans and The Power Soak

On March 31, 2012, the FDA declined a petition to remove BPA from food packaging citing insufficient scientific evidence. The move is ‘not final’ and they support further research. Meanwhile, if you’d rather not use canned beans anymore here’s an excellent alternative.  We already know that presoaking beans overnight not only cuts down on cooking time by up to 25 percent, it also helps the beans cook evenly without splitting. However, if you don’t have the time to presoak consider the “power soak” method.  Others have described this technique and currently you’ll see it in Bon Appetite magazine (reported in their March 2012 issue).

Much faster than soaking beans overnight, power soaking breaks down more of the complex sugars that can make beans hard to digest. The simple process begins with placing beans in a pot and covering with water by three inches.  Bring to a boil and simmer briskly for two minutes, remove from heat, cover, and let stand for one hour. Drain, and your beans are ready to use in your favorite recipes (note that they are not fully cooked, rather brought to the same state as if they had been presoaked).

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Ode to Onions, Part 2

Infrared Thermometer

Thanks to Deb and Lois for requesting the caramelized Onion procedure and French Onion Soup recipe. Both are included below with pictures at the bottom of the post. Hover your mouse over each picture to see elapsed time.

Yellow onions are an all-purpose cooking onion and the best choice for caramelizing (reds are great for grilling, broiling or roasting; whites in raw applications to showcase their crisp fresh flavor).  Other recipes estimate the caramelizing process to range from 25 minutes to an hour, most of which involves patiently watching the onions and resisting the temptation to stir them.  I’ve minimized the baby sitting by covering the pan at the beginning of the process. This traps the heat and breaks down the onions faster, and captures the steam to provide needed water. I also watch the temperature closely. Notice the  infrared thermometer registering about 330 degrees Fahrenheit, in the range of medium heat (up to 350 deg.). Also notice the temperature dial on the stove set to ‘2’ (below, right). Imagine how hot it would be on ‘5’, which most people assume to be the indicator of medium heat.

Range Burner Dial

Caramelized Onions

1 pound yellow onions

2 Tablespoons pure olive oil

2 Tablespoons salted butter

¼ cup wine or vinegar (optional)

Step 1: Peel and halve the onion lengthwise then slice in about ¼” wide slices. Heat a heavy skillet to medium and when hot add oil and butter. Add onions to pan, stir to coat and spread them out evenly. Cover the pan for 10 minutes, stirring at the 5 minute mark, and again when the lid is removed. If you don’t have a thermometer you will need to peek occasionally to check for burning, and if so just lower the heat a little. It may just take a little longer.

Step 2: As the onion gives up its sugar it will begin to brown. Stir every 4 minutes or sooner just to prevent burning, for about 15 minutes or until you get the depth of color you are looking for. Here’s where patience comes in. The longer the onions stay in place the quicker they will brown, which should be about 25 minutes from start to finish.  Add a little salt to taste. Depending on how you plan to use the onions you can add a seasoning such as vinegar, wine, Worcestershire Sauce or fresh herbs within the last few minutes of browning.

Tips for success: Use a large pan so you don’t have to pile the onions on top of each other. We want them to be in contact with the hot pan so they will brown, otherwise you’ll be stirring a lot. A heavy pan reduces the chance of burning too quickly. A glass lid for the pan is recommended to let you see what’s going on.

French Onion Soup

Serves: about 6 (6 oz. servings)

Caramelized Onion Recipe (above)

1/4 cup Worcestershire Sauce

1 Qt. Beef Broth *

6 slices Provolone cheese

18 Crostinis or garlic bread (small slices)

Directions: In the last 5 minutes of the caramelized onion recipe add Worcestershire to onions and stir periodically to develop flavor. Add beef broth and bring to simmer for about 20 minutes and adjust seasonings: another pat of butter for richness, or Worcestershire for depth (be careful of the salt content at this point – the crostini and cheese will bring more salt). When heated through, ladle 1-cup portions into bowl and top with 2 or 3 crostini depending on their size (or small slice of garlic bread) then lay a slice of Provolone on top. Serve when cheese has melted.

*On Beef Broth – use the real thing. Make a well-seasoned crock pot roast with 4 cups of water so you’ll have enough broth then throw the roast away. Seriously, the most fabulous caramelized onions can’t overcome poor quality broth. Canned just won’t do.