For Those Perpetually Snowy Days
February 7, 2011, 12:26 am
Filed under: Appetizers, Food and Recipes, Main Dishes, Side Dishes | Tags: , ,

Snow is forecasted. Again. Really beginning to wonder if I still live in the mid-south. But then I’m reminded that I do, because the day after single digit wind chills and snow, it will be in the 50’s, cloudy, and perfectly mild temperatures like the normal winters of my southern childhood.

After working a good bit this week, and feeling a bit puny, I was searching for something easy and comforting to make for dinner. I’ve been really into watching Kelsey Nixon on Cooking Channel lately. Her show is so informative and visually appealing; I remembered her making this soup on the show a few weeks ago, and teaching about knife skills. It looked so comforting and delicious.

Made mostly of pantry staples: onions, stock, butter, and dried herbs, this soup is fairly straightforward to make. You will need a sharp knife to get through those 6 onions without crying too terribly much. After that, it’s a cake walk. And, what’s not to like about a lovely soup topped with bread and lots of oozing cheese? Nothing…that’s what I thought too! Unless you don’t like cheese, of course.

When I ate this soup, I pictured the old Campbell’s soup commercial of the snowman coming in from the snow to a bowl of steaming soup. After he begins to eat, the snow melts, and you realize it’s a small boy. So, come in from the cold, sit by the fire, and enjoy a fairly effortless dinner with your loved ones and let the snow melt away.

French Onion Soup
Recipe courtesy of, and slightly adapted from, Kelsey Nixon from Kelsey’s Essentials

1 stick unsalted butter
6 medium spanish yellow onions
1 tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
4 cups low sodium beef broth
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 cup dry white wine or cooking wine (if you use cooking wine, be careful with salt content! taste before adding additional salt)
1 tbsp flour
1 tsp worchestershire sauce
1 package meunster slices
Grated gruyere cheese
1 loaf ciabatta bread
salt/ground pepper

1. Half all your onions, peel them, and slice them lengthwise. You will need a sharp knife and good cutting board for this task! The sharp knife will hopefully keep your crying to a minimum!

2. In a large dutch oven over medium-low heat, melt your butter. Add onions, thyme, bay leaf. Cook your onions for around 30 minutes on medium-low heat, until they have cooked down, turned brown, and taste extremely sweet.

3. Add 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, and the flour to your onions. Stir, cooking 2-3 minutes, cooking the raw flour taste out. Add wine. Stir to combine, scraping any brown bits off the bottom of your dutch oven. Allow to the onion and wine mixture to reduce and thicken slightly.

4. Add both chicken and beef stock and worchestershire sauce and stir to combine. Increase heat to medium-high. Bring your soup to a bubble and allow to cook, uncovered, for about 30 minutes.

5. At the 30 minute mark, taste soup and adjust seasoning as needed, adding more salt or pepper as necessary. Turn the heat off on your soup, preheat your broiler to high. Ladle soup into oven proof bowls and place on a foil lined baking sheet. Cube ciabatta, grate gruyere. To each bowl, add as many bread cubes as you like, covering the top of the soup. On top of the bread cubes, per each bowl, break up one slice of meunster cheese, and then top with desired amount of gruyere. You can make it as cheesy and bread-y as you like.

6. Place under the broiler and broil until cheese is melted, bubbly, and turning slightly brown. Remove, allow to cool slightly. Serve with a side salad with a homemade vinaigrette for a real French flair!


Sunday Proper

I love watching Nigella Lawson’s cooking show, Nigella Kitchen, on Food Network. Something about the way she hovers in the kitchen makes everything seem so serene. Not to mention, I just love the way she loves food. Watching her on weekend mornings, with a cup of coffee, is my happy place.

I have the whole series saved to my DVR and am very hesitant to delete any of the episodes, lest not being able to enter my happy place at any point or time. However, I decided on New Year’s eve, to have a marathon and write down the names of the dishes that I simply had to make.

In her very first episode this season, she made her mother’s version of chicken dinner: Praised Chicken. Since watching that episode, I haven’t forgotten how good that chicken looked, and after re-watching it, I finally settled on making it that weekend. Folks, after making it, I can’t believe I sat on that recipe so long. I should be shamed.

The chicken dinner starts with a whole chicken in a pot, vegetables, spices, and water added, and simmered at a slow bubble until tender. Half between braising and poaching (thus, praised, haha) the chicken is so moist and succulent, the stock rendered so flavorful and bone warming. The scent draws you to the kitchen, especially on these cold days we’ve been having. My suggestion: have on a cold day next to the fire. It’s supposed to snow here soon in Memphis, this would be perfect to fit your snowed in blues! It’s truly a heart-warming dish.

Praised Chicken
Recipe slightly adapted, only slightly, from Nigella Lawson
Around 8 WW points plus a serving, including 3 ounces of chicken and 1/2 cup brown rice, add a side salad with low-fat dressing for a total of 9 WW points plus.

1 whole roasting chicken, innards removed
1 bunch green onions
1 bag baby carrots
1 bulb fennell
2 stalks celery
1 bunch parsley
1/2 cup vermouth
cold water
italian seasoning
garlic powder
olive oil
yellow mustard and brown rice for serving

1. After removing innards, pat dry your chicken. On a flat surface, place chicken breast side up. Placing your palm firmly on the middle of the breast portion, press downward until you hear the breast bone crack. This will help your chicken lay more flat in your pot. Season the outside of the chicken liberally with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.

2. In a large dutch oven, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil on medium-high heat. Place chicken breast side down in the pot, and allow to brown for a few minutes. Turn chicken over so it’s breast side up and allow to brown a few more minutes on the other side.

3. While chicken is browning, prep vegetables. Remove fennell top and bottom, and slice into large chunks. Chop celery and green onion into large chunks as well. Remove stalks from the bottom of the parsley bunch, and tie together with kitchen twine. Reserve the tops for later use.

4. Return to the stove, add vermouth to the bottom of the dutch oven. Add all vegetables around the chicken. Add parsley stalks. Sprinkle the whole pot with a tablespoon or so of dried italian herbs and another generous sprinkle of salt. Add cold water until you almost fill the pot. Leave about an inch to inch and a half of the top of the bird exposed.

5. Cover, bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for around 1 and 1/2 hours to 1 hour, 40 minutes on medium-low, or until bird is fork tender.

6. Remove chicken from the pot, cover with foil and allow to rest. The chicken may fall apart slightly, that’s ok.

7. Cook a pot of brown rice according to package directions and make a green salad for the side. Shred chicken off the bone. Serve on top of brown rice with a ladle of stock and vegetables on top. Garnish with yellow mustard and reserved chopped parsley tops. Trust me on the mustard, it’s delicious! Enjoy!