Tuesday, February 07, 2006
Saturday Night Soup and Salad
For Christmas, my vegetarian sister hooked me up with La Bonne Cuisine de Madame E. Saint-Ange. This book, first published in 1927, is considered the bible of modern French home cooking, and was referenced by Julia Child as one of her inspirations. It was recently translated into English by Paul Aratow (one of the founders of Chez Panisse), and its chapters delight the reader, yet challenge the cook--this food is not simple.
I decided to start with something simple: Soupe a l'Oignon (Onion Soup). Her recipes focus heavily on technique, with strict instructions such as, Under no circumstances should you cut the onion while holding it up in the air between your fingers. Also, ...it is absolutely essential to understand and establish that the onion, butter, and flour should never go beyond a light blond tint. Yes Ma'am!
Madame also recommends that for the perfect stringy, melty cheese on top, you must get a good Gruyere cheese, fresh and with a high fat content. I followed her instructions, and the cheesy croutons were the best part of the soup. However, she would be disappointed in my impatience with my onions. I added my water/stock before they were fully cooked (but I was so worried about overbrowning!), and the soup wasn't as rich as it should have been. Now, I feel ready to conquer her more complex recipes.
The soup was complemented by a very non-Madame grape, blue cheese, walnut salad with maple dressing. I had my first maple dressing at Cafe Surfas last week, and I was determined to make my own. It's very simple, and works wonderfully with the sweet grapes and tangy cheese.
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
3 tbsp. olive oil
3 tbsp. maple syrup
In a small bowl, slowly emulsify the olive oil into the apple cider vinegar. Then slowly stir in the maple syrup. Add salt and pepper to taste, and enjoy.