Tag Archives: soup

french onion soup for one recipe

A delicious and fulfilling meal for one

For most of my life, I’ve lived with roommates. It started with my parents and brothers and continued through college, where I shared tiny rooms and decrepit houses with other young women. I didn’t mind the shared space. At times, I even enjoyed it. And there were funny memories, of course. One cold morning my junior year roommate arose early for a run. Pre-LASIK and without glasses, I half-woke to chat with her while she got dressed. At lunch that afternoon, she informed me that now she really knew how blind I was without contacts: she had been naked from the waist up throughout our entire conversation. The laughter that followed was worth the awkwardness of sharing your most intimate space with a friend.

After a year in Atlanta – and more roommates – I decided it was time to spread my wings and have my own place. When I moved back to Philly for post-bacc, I was excited to get my own apartment in Center City. It was awesome, as anticipated. I could watch TV in my underwear for hours. I didn’t have to clean up my dishes until I was good and ready to clean them. And I didn’t have to clean them after someone else had used them and left them dirty. There was no noise if I didn’t want noise. And if I decided to eat a pint of Ben and Jerry’s for breakfast, nobody judged me. The solitary life was pretty sweet. I wouldn’t have another roommate, I promised myself, until I moved in with the person I planned to be with forever.

Fast-forward a few years, and now I’m living with that person – and, as of last month, his daughter too. I’ve grown used to falling asleep next to a comforting presence, and to pretty much never being alone . Our little duplex is full of life, if you count the three of us and my puppy. I can’t pretend that the sounds of blasting pop music don’t annoy me sometimes, but I’ve gotten used to it.

That’s why the last couple of days were so weird. I had the house to myself while my roommates were on a school trip, and it was eerily quiet and lonely. Even Riley, the pup, seems bummed by their absence. We lay forlornly on the couch together all evening, shifting only to advance through Netflix episodes of “Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta,” a show that’s shockingly entertaining to watch in marathons when the house is man-free.

There’s another thing I can do when the house is empty, and that’s cook offensive things. One such thing is onions. Now, I love onions and many meals I prepare are completely based on them. Curry? Ecuadorian potato soup with cheese and avocado? Potato latkes? There’s a trend here.

Thyme and bay leaf perfume the broth

While my housemates enjoy the fruits of onion-fueled labor, they hate the process. Every single time those onions hit a hot pan and begin to sizzle, the roommates complain that it makes their eyes burn. Even when they’re in another room, the fumes apparently travel throughout the house and cause eye-scorching. I’ve never noticed this myself, but perhaps I’m immune after years of cooking.

Regardless, when I was left alone with a bit of beef broth, my dinner menu was clear. French onion soup for one: a worthwhile endeavor.

I began with a medium onion, slicing it into thin ribbons.

Onions, whole and sliced

I added those ribbons to a little pat of butter in my brand-new tiny saucepan.

On low heat, they cooked down and finally caramelized. Towards the end, I added a small clove of garlic that I’d minced fine. When the onions were soft and brown, I splashed them with dry white wine. It bubbled away immediately.

Onions, almost cooked down

I added about a cup of beef stock, a little sprig of thyme, and about half of a dried bay leaf. They came to a boil, then I turned the heat down low and let my soup simmer. With a few pinches of salt and a turn of black pepper, I had the perfect amount of soup for a solitary dinner.

Soup, almost ready to serve

Some love to top their French onion soup with croutons and cheese, broiling it until the cheese is crispy and gooey all at once. Personally, I’m not a fan. Even when toasted, croutons absorb lots of broth, turning a lovely bowl of soup into alternating bites of wet bread and onion. I prefer the complete soup experience. For this meal, I topped my bowl with a small handful of Emmenthaler cheese and stuck it under the broiler for a minute. Some of the cheese browned, some sank and melted – it was still tasty.

Soup and Emmenthaler, minus crouton

(I am not a fan of butane torches, since they can impart an odd gas flavor into the food. Yours might not – in that case, use it! If you don’t have a torch or a broiler-safe ramekin, you can still achieve the melted-cheese effect. Place a piece of toast on some aluminum foil. Pile the toast with cheese, and pop it under the broiler until the cheese is browned. Stick that cheesy toast on top of your soup and enjoy).

It is a hearty meal that brings comfort to solitude.

Nothing like a spoonful of French onion soup

(If you’re lucky enough to live with folks who enjoy the scent of cooking onions, feel free to double – or quadruple! – this recipe).

Recipe: French Onion Soup for One

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium onion, sliced thin
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • Splash of dry white wine
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • 1/2 bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Small handful grated cheese (Emmenthaler, Gruyere, provolone, etc)

Method:

Melt butter in small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add onion and saute, stirring frequently, until soft and brown: 20-40 minutes, according to your taste. When the onions are almost ready, add garlic and continue stirring. Splash with white wine and adjust the heat to medium-high. Allow to come to a boil, and then add beef stock, thyme, and bay leaf. Let boil again, then turn the heat down to a simmer and let the flavors meld for at least 10-20 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

Top with grated cheese and enjoy!

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Alternatives to Panera Bread (Which I Still Hate)

Locro de papas, de mi casa

Since I posted about how much I despise Panera Bread, I’ve gamely attempted to try their food again. Unfortunately, it hasn’t worked. Every time I go in there, resolute in my decision to finally slurp up a bowl of soup, the indignity of it all just overwhelms me. I cannot pay almost five dollars for a ladleful of mediocre soup. For five dollars, I can make my own damn soup – five times as much as Panera’s serving offers – and it will taste infinitely better. So I leave, empty belly intact.

Last night, Xavier and I went to Hartsfield International Airport to hang out for a while. Not because we’re terrorists getting the lay of the land, or because we particularly enjoy riding Marta. It was because our friends were in town. Catae and Andre had a layover en route to their fabulous vacation, and we were very excited to see them for the first time since the summer.

It was a little bit like that movie “The Terminal,” I’d imagine, although I’ve never seen the movie. Xavier and I couldn’t go past security without boarding passes, so our friends had to come out to the atrium. After a while of chatting out there, we were somewhat hungry. There has been a lot of noise lately about airport food increasing in quality. Atlanta is apparently adding fine-dining restaurants for classy travelers. When you’re stuck in the atrium, though, these places are not options. After surveying the fast-food options, it became clear that the only reasonable place for us to dine was the Atlanta Bread Company.

The Atlanta Bread Company is a local rip-off of Panera Bread. It’s nearly identical from the business model (order at counter while being deluged with display of shiny pastries) to menu (you-pick-two served with a chunk of baguette ring a bell?). I was hungry and the only other option was Panda Express, so I decided to swallow my pride, hoist my sense of wonder, and check it out.

I settled on the you-pick-two, and the only obvious choices were French onion soup and a California avocado sandwich. The cashier seemed a little confused throughout the ordering process, so it was hardly surprising when my sandwich came out on the bread that Xavier wanted, and Xavier’s bread was completely wrong. Regardless, I opened my mouth and tried to judge the food on its own merit.

The baguette served with the meal was flavorless and cottony. There was no textural contrast between crust and crumb. Winner? Panera.

French onion soup? Passable. A little too salty, a little light on onion. It had body, but not too much. The Asiago cheese garnish, like that at any fast-food cafe, melted into the broth and stuck to the bottom of the bowl. Winner? There is none. Panera Bread and Atlanta Bread Company have tied.

My favorite part of the meal was the California avocado sandwich, a vegetarian option. It did not arrive in the condition it had been promised to me. Onion-tomato foccacia had been replaced with Asiago cheese bread, and although I’d requested no onions, a few limp rings lingered between the tomato and provolone slices. But the avocado  was plentiful and perfectly ripe, and its flavor cut perfectly with dill mayonnaise. This bread, unlike the baguette, was perfect. Winner? Atlanta Bread Company. By a long shot.

So in the bracket battle of chain cafe/bakeries, Atlanta Bread Company, because in what could have been a tie, ABC came out on top by feeding me an entire avocado smashed between two delicious slices of bread. A perfectly ripe avocado can beat pretty much anything edible, except perhaps bacon.\

I’m willing to review other establishments that are like Panera or Atlanta Bread Company. Anyone have ideas?

locro de papas receta/recipe

I was in Ecuador and, thanks to food poisoning, hadn’t eaten a solid meal for approximately 60 hours. Jello and crackers were all that I’d been able to keep down. When we arrived at Xavier’s dad’s house for lunch, I was toeing the fine line between real hunger and abject fear of eating.

We sat down for the meal, beginning with a primero of ceviche de camaron: shrimp in a mixture of lime juice, tomato, and onion. It’s served with popcorn, which adds just a little bit more crunch. I ate tentatively, enjoying the food but still scared of retribution from the gods of food poisoning. Next came mellocos, tiny potato-like vegetables with a texture that can only be described as slimy at first and slimier still as you chew. They definitely weren’t my favorite. We also tried habas, boiled fava beans that are dipped in salt and squeezed out of their shells with your fingers.
Then came the next course, and all of a sudden my appetite returned with a vengeance. It was soup. But not just any soup. Steaming-hot potato soup and on top, a huge slice of avocado. Within, slivers of queso fresco melted into the creamy mixture of broth and potatoes. Is there a person in existence who can resist a bowl full of potatoes, cheese, and avocado? Avocado is like the bacon of the vegetable world. It makes everything better. And when the flavor of avocado is dancing around your mouth with little bursts of cilantro over a lush background of potatoes and melted cheese? It’s perfection. Locro de papas… a revelation.
I finished my bowl quickly and made a huge dent in a second before I was too full to continue. The soup was so good that I refused to let anyone take it away from me. For the next few hours, I waited impatiently for the feeling of fullness to subside; as soon as it did, I launched myself mouth-first at the remaining soup. It was that good.
Before we left Ecuador, I tried another version of locro at a restaurant in the Cotopaxi region. It was great, but much thicker than homemade soup I’d loved. It was more like loose mashed potatoes. In my opinion, locro de papas is best when its texture is distinctively broth, enriched with potato. When we got back home to Atlanta, I made it my mission to recreate the bowl of my dreams. Using what I learned from Xavier’s stepmom about her recipe and all the recipes I found on Google, I came up with a my own version. And after we had sampled my creation, even my Ecuadorian roommate agreed that it was a taste of home – “better, even.”
It’s not hard to make. Here’s what you’ll need.

There are two ingredients that might be unfamiliar: annatto seeds, and queso fresco. For the annatto seeds, if you don’t see them marketed by Badia brand in the spice section of your grocery store, you can definitely find them at an ethnic grocery. It’s also sold as a powder. Queso fresco, or fresh cheese, seems to be pretty popular these days. It’s in the Mexican section at the Kroger next to my house. But you can likely find it at an ethnic market.
You might also notice that those potatoes are of the ginormous mutant variety. Here’s one next to an iPhone to demonstrate how huge they are. Apparently potatoes are on steroids these days.

Anyway, you’ll make a pretty orange-red base for your soup by heating the annatto seeds in vegetable oil. After you strain the solids out, you’ll saute diced onions in that red oil.

Since the oil is so brightly colored, it can be hard to tell when the onions have changed color and are tender enough to proceed. Just wait until they start bubbling a little bit. That’s usually a good indicator that they’re nice and soft.
You’ll add cumin and salt to the mix, then water and potatoes. Lots of potatoes.

Having misjudged the quantity of soup you’d be preparing, you will find that the mixture threatens to overflow from the saucepan and sabotage your freshly cleaned stovetop, so you’ll have to curse loudly and switch to a huge Dutch oven at this point. Or… not.
The potatoes will simmer until nice and tender, then you’ll mash them against the sides of your pan with a wooden spoon. The idea is to completely pulverize some so that they dissolve into the soup, getting it nice and thick. But you’ll want some pieces to stay chunky, for texture.
Then you’ll add milk and cilantro. The soup will simmer for another ten minutes, thickening into amazingness from the effects of dissolving potato. I may have let mine simmer for about 20 minutes while we walked to the store to swap Redbox selections. The additional time really helped to thicken things. As it wasn’t even close to the loose mashed-potato texture of before, I loved it. But some might prefer their soup to have a clearer delineation between broth and potato. Keep an eye on your pot, and taste throughout so you can stop cooking when you like the texture.
Every recipe I’ve found in my research calls for adding cheese at this point as well. In Ecuador, we were always served cheese on the side so we could add as much as we wished. For your own soup, it depends how gooey you prefer your cheese. If it goes in now, it’ll be nice and melty. If you wait, it won’t be as soft, but there will be fun little nuggets of cheese in your bowl.
We have reached the most important part of the recipe. All of your work until now comes to fruition at this moment. Ladle the locro into bowls. Top with cheese (if you haven’t already) and sliced avocado. Enjoy!
Here’s the recipe.
Locro de papas
serves 4-6 as entree, 8-10 as appetizer

2 tsp annato (achiote) seeds
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 white onion, diced
1/2 tsp cumin
2 1/2 tsp salt
7c  water
3 1/2 lbs Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and chopped
1c milk
6 oz queso fresco, cubed
Small handful cilantro leaves, minced
Avocados to taste, for garnish


In a small saucepan over very low heat, heat the annato seeds and vegetable oil. When the oil turns red and simmers, remove from the heat and let it rest for 10 minutes. Strain out the seeds with a fine-mesh sieve; you can throw them away.

Heat the oil on moderate-high in a large saucepan. Add the onion and cook until tender, stirring frequently – approximately five minutes. Next, add the cumin and salt; cook for about a minute, stirring frequently, then add water. Bring to a boil. Add potatoes, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook until potatoes are tender – about 30 minutes. When tender, mash potatoes into the broth until potatoes are mostly dissolved, but there are still some small chunks; you want the broth to stay thick and creamy, but studded with pieces of whole potato.

Stir in milk, cheese, and cilantro. Raise the heat to medium high, letting it all simmer together for another 5-20 minutes (depending on how thick and puree-like you want it). 

Remove from the heat, top with avocado, and enjoy!

And as always, all photos are mine (but a couple were snapped by the ever-supportive and helpful Xavier!).

How To Be a Domestic Rockstar for Under $12, Part 2

Things are excellent in your life right now! You just made delicious roasted chicken that everyone enjoyed very much. Now that your group is full and satiated, you’re ready to make stock for tomorrow’s soup. This will largely happen slowly and stealthily in the background while you’re doing other things. Here’s what to do.

You saved the bones from the chicken feast, and from the chicken that you cut up earlier. Rinse those off. Try to make sure they’re free of skin, but don’t go too crazy with it.

Place your bones in a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Don’t forget the backbone and wing tips that you removed earlier! Add water to the pan, enough to cover the bones by a few inches.

Then heat the pot over medium-low until it reaches a gentle simmer. Some foamy stuff might float up to the surface of the pot while this is happening. Try to skim it off using a spoon or strainer. When the stock simmers, lower the heat to the absolute lowest setting on the stove. You do not want this pot to boil. You want it cooking for a long time.

As soon as you turn down the heat, cover the pot and leave it alone for a few hours. You’ll know it’s ready when your house smells amazing and the stock has turned a pale golden color. If that doesn’t happen, give it three hours minimum on the stove. I’ve been known to fall asleep and let mine go for eight. As long as the pot is covered and not simmering, this is just fine.

If you know a little bit about cooking, you might be wondering why we didn’t add any aromatics to the stock. You should absolutely feel free to add carrot, onion, leek, celery, peppercorns, etc. But for the soup we’re making with the stock, which will be heavily flavored with spicy peppers, garlic, and onions, it’s not completely necessary.
When you’re finished cooking the stock, use tongs to extract the bones and wing tips as soon as you can. Let it cool for a while on the stovetop, then in the fridge. Try not to agitate the broth; let it settle so all the gunk stays on the bottom. When it looks very clear, it’s time to separate the gunk at the bottom from the clean broth that will become your soup. There are a few ways to do this, but you should pick what’s most comfortable. You can use a ladle, or by carefully pouring out the good stuff without disrupting the bottom waste layer. Be as gentle as possible and don’t worry too much about the last inch or so of cloudy stock; focus on getting out the good stuff. Throw out the rest.

You can put the stock in the fridge overnight so that fat rises to the surface and is easier to remove, but there shouldn’t be much, so don’t feel guilty about making soup straight from here!

DAY TWO: TORTILLA SOUP

Making soup from scratch is incredibly easy and incredibly satisfying. You might have five minutes of hands-on work. All you do is cook some veggies in oil, add seasonings, and then add your homemade stock to let all of the flavors blend together into happy harmony. Here’s how.

In a large saucepan, heat up a little bit of olive oil over medium. Mince two cloves of garlic and an onion, then saute them in the oil until softened and browned.

Then, add some chopped peppers. Use bell pepper, jalepeno, serrano, roasted poblano, or any combination that reaches your spice level. For this batch, I used what was on hand: a green bell pepper and a jar of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. The adobo adds a smoky kick to the finished soup.

Add tomato paste and season with cumin, chili powder, coriander, and salt.

Add tomatoes and stock. Bring to simmer, then turn the heat down to low. Add all of the chicken pieces that you reserved – shredding or chopping them to the size you’d like. Let it simmer for at least twenty minutes, but as long as an hour if you want – let the flavors mingle!

Boom. Tortilla soup.

Half the fun of this is in garnishing the soup with delicious toppings that add crunch and creaminess! While delicious and filling as an appetizer, this soup can be bulked out to make a meal if you add rice, corn, or black beans.

Can you believe all of that took just forty minutes? Congratulations, you’re a chef.

Next-Day Chicken Tortilla Soup (serves 3-4 as entree, 8 as appetizer)
Two quarts chicken stock
1 medium onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup peppers of your choice, chopped (bell, jalapeno, serrano, roasted poblano, ancho, etc)
1/4 c tomato paste
1 cup tomato, chopped, from about 2 tomatoes (or one 14.5 oz can fire-roasted)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp chili powder
1 cup chopped cooked chicken
Salt
Garnishes (cilantro, lime, avocado, tortilla chips, cheese, sour cream, etc)

In a large saucepan, heat a splash of canola oil over medium. Add onion and garlic, stirring often until browned. Add peppers and saute for a couple of minutes until soft. Toss in the tomato paste and spices, stirring until fragrant. Add tomatoes and stock. Let the mixture come to a strong simmer. When it does, add chicken. Lower heat and let it simmer gently for as long as you can stand it.

Ladle into bowls, garnishing as desired!

As always, thanks to Xavier for photographing the kitchen madness!