Croque Monsieur and French Onion Soup

Croque Monsieur and French Onion Soup

Croque Monsieur and French Onion Soup

Croque Monsieur and French Onion Soup

Cold rainy days always make me want soup.  I love the way the house smells with a big pot of soup simmering on the stove and I love the delicious, piping hot result even more.  I was having visions of French onion soup from the moment the rain on the window woke me up.  French onion soup is one of my favorite things in the world.  I’m on a quest to find the best one;  I order it every time I see it on a menu.  One of my favorite memories ever was exploring Paris with Brian in the snow, going from cafe to cafe ordering soupe à l’oignon gratinée (they leave the “French” part off there because you can take that for granted) and croque monsieur.  We’d get a bottle of wine and sit for a couple hours and revel in the Parisian-ness of it all.  I can’t think about it too much without reaching for my passport. 

I have to say, I think one of the best versions of the croque monsieur comes from Tartine in the Mission.  The problem is that if you go early enough to avoid the ridiculous and infuriating line that usually stretches halfway down the block, you’re too early for croque monsieur.  I found a similar recipe on food.com and made some adjustments.  I ended up using Swiss cheese instead of gruyere because that’s what was in the fridge, the key is the béchamel sauce.  To round it out, I pickled some carrots to go on the side.  The soup started from a recipe I found at All Recipes.

French Onion Soup 

  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 5 medium yellow onions, sliced
  • 5 1/4 cups of rich beef stock
  • 2 Tbsp dry sherry
  • 3/4 cup red wine
  • 1 Tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup Swiss cheese, grated
  • 1/2 Parmesan cheese, grated
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  • 4 slices of rustic bread, toasted

Directions

  1. Melt butter with olive oil in an 8 quart stock pot on medium heat. Add onions and continually stir until tender and translucent. Continue cooking on medium-high heat until onions begin to brown (about 45 minutes).
  2. Add beef broth, sherry, wine, garlic  and thyme. Season with salt and pepper, and simmer for 30 minutes.
  3. Heat the oven broiler.
  4. Ladle soup into oven safe serving bowls and place one slice of toasted bread on top of each. Layer each slice of bread with a mixture of the grated cheeses. Place bowls on cookie sheet and broil in the preheated oven until cheese bubbles and browns slightly.

Weight Watchers Points Plus Value: 12

Croque Monsieur

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup 2% milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 Tbsp pastis (I used absinthe)
  • 1 cup Swiss cheese, grated (divided use)
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 4 thick slices country French bread
  • 4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 6 ounces applewood-smoked ham, thinly sliced
  • 2 tomatoes

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400.

To Make Bechamel Soubise Sauce

  1. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and sweat the garlic and onions over low heat for 15 minutes, stirring often.
  2. Add the flour all at once, whisking with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes. Stir in the hot cream and cook, whisking constantly, for 5 minutes or until sauce is thickened.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in the salt. pepper, nutmeg, Pastis, 1/4 cup grated Swiss and the Parmesan; set aside.

To Assemble the Sandwiches

  1. Brush Dijon mustard evenly on one side of half the toasted bread slices. Slather each piece with the béchamel sauce.  Divide ham evenly between the slices, top with sliced tomatoes and remaining cheese.
  2. Bake for 5 minutes at 400 degrees F. Turn on the broiler and broil for 3 to 5 minutes, until cheese starts to brown.
  3. Cut in half and serve hot.

Weight Watchers Points Plus Value: 6

If you have leftovers, store them in the fridge over night, then heat them in the oven at 400 for ten minutes and top with a poached or fried egg for breakfast and you have croque madame.

Broccoli Kale Soup

Broccoli Kale Soup

Broccoli Kale Soup

Broccoli Kale Soup

As promised, here is the recipe for the broccoli kale soup that we paired with our pan bagnat.

1 T olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
3 celery stalks, diced
1 T Sherry Vinegar
1/2-1 t kosher salt
1/2 t red chili flakes
1/2 t dried thyme
1/2 t dried oregano
2 small potatoes, diced
3 stalks of broccoli, stems peeled & diced, florets broken
approx. 4 c good vegetable or chicken stock
2 bunches kale, rinsed and chopped
1 T dijon mustard
1/3 c grated parmesean cheese 

In a large pot, saute the onions, garlic and celery over medium heat in the olive oil until soft. Deglaze the pan with Sherry.  Sprinkle in the salt, chili and herbs and stir in the potatoes and broccoli. Pour in enough stock to cover all the vegetables in the pot (don’t add in too much!), put a lid on it, and let is simmer away until potatoes are tender. Add in the kale and stir in the mustard. Blend well using an immersion blender or pour soup in batches into a blender to get it very smooth. Stir in the cheese and blend well. If you find your soup is too thick, add in more stock or add in a bit of milk. Makes 4 large portions.

 

 

Pan Bagnat

Pan Bagnat

Pan Bagnat

Pan Bagnat

Working in the Richmond District of San Francisco, one of my favorite places to go for lunch is Cafe Rigolo.  The French do lunch (and really, all food) so well, it’s hard not to turn to a little French bistro for lunch to remind you that there’s beauty in the world.  It always makes things better.  Every time I go to Cafe Rigolo, I order the same sandwich, so when I saw a version of it on Food 52, it seemed like a sign.  I had to make it.  I’m so glad I did.  This is one of the best things we’ve made in a long time.  So light and delicious and wonderful.  We served it for dinner with a broccoli kale soup (which I’ll be posting in a minute).  It’s one of those things that you make where you plan when you’re going to make it again while you’re eating it.  Sooooooo GOOD!  Good company and a glass of chardonnay knocks it out of the park!

  • 1/2 loaf crusty French baguette (being San Franciscans, we used a sourdough baguette to great effect)
  • 1 clove garlic, cut in half
  • 4-6 basil leaves
  • 1 (6oz) can tuna
  • 3/4 cups Nicoise or Kalamata olives, sliced
  • 1/2 cup red bell pepper, seeded and sliced thin
  • 1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup Italian flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 jar or can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped (optional)
  • 1/4 cup blanched French green beans, sliced into thirds (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. PREP THE BREAD: Slice the loaf of bread in half lengthwise. Remove some of the insides of the bottom half to create a trough into which the filling will go. Brush both halves with a little extra virgin olive oil. Rub each with the garlic. Line the half with the trough with the basil leaves. Then mince the garlic and sprinkle it over the bread.
  2. MIX THE SALAD: In a mixing bowl, combine the tuna, olives, red bell pepper, onion, parsley, artichoke hearts (if using) and green beans (if using). In a measuring cup or small bowl, whisk the lemon juice into the olive oil until it is emulsified/combined. Pour the vinaigrette into the tuna mixture and stir to combine. Season to taste with sea salt and pepper.
  3. ASSEMBLE: Spoon tuna mixture into the trough of the baguette over the basil leaves.
Joe's Special

Joe’s Special

Joe's Special

Joe’s Special

There are a lot of theories as to the origins of Joe’s Special.  My favorite is the one where a hungry musician stopped into New Joe’s in San Francisco late one night and ordered a spinach omelette which was then beefed up with some extra hamburger left over from dinner.  You can read a more detailed account on the Original Joe’s website.  No matter the origin, it’s a delicious thing to eat: breakfast, lunch, dinner, it doesn’t matter.  I used the recipe from last month’s Saveur.  It goes really well with a fresh baguette and a little Frank’s hot sauce.  Joe and Frank get along great as it turns out.

SERVES 4
Weight Watchers Points Plus Value: 8

INGREDIENTS

1 tbsp. olive oil
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
8 oz. ground chuck
1 (10-oz.) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry in paper towels
8 eggs, lightly beaten
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
¼ cup finely grated Parmesan
Crusty Italian bread, for serving

INSTRUCTIONS

Heat oil in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and onion; cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add chuck; cook, stirring, until browned and all moisture evaporates, about 10 minutes. Add spinach; cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. Add eggs; cook until eggs are cooked and mixture is slightly dry, about 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper; sprinkle with Parmesan. Serve with bread.