Baking with Julia – Pizza with Onion Confit

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I really did not expect to be writing this post tonight. Today was a day. Just a day. One of those days where you just want to come home and cry or drink a bottle of wine or both. I didn’t cry, so that’s a bonus. The thing that made the day terrible was inventory-related which I have already talked about so I won’t go into it but just trust me, no bueno. But there are few things that some nice red wine and a huge skillet cookie won’t fix and since I had both of those, I’m feeling okay now.

So my dad came to visit for a few days after Christmas and though we had grand culinary plans, they didn’t all play out. Thankfully, this pizza totally happened while he was here and it was amazing. I made the dough while Tristan and Dad were watching some sort of sports game and then threw it into the fridge for an over night rest. It looked like this when I took it out to warm to room temp and I found the poufy yeastiness very comforting.

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Pouf!

Onions in a pan with some butter get the party started:

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While they were cooking in wine and making the house smell fantastic we indulged in a little marathon of Man vs. Food on the Travel Channel. Interesting show, but overall I felt like I had seen enough after a few episodes. For some reason I expected these to cook down more, like caramelized onions or something. Instead they basically look exactly the same, but purple.

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I tried to be all cool and flip the pizza dough like a pro but I broke out the rolling pin in the end and created this…shall we say “rustic” shape.

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I had some cheese odds and ends in the fridge and I decided to keep it simple with the toppings and just use those. So there’s a smidge of feta and then a small log of sun-dried tomato & herb goat cheese that I sliced and tried to place artfully across the wine-soaked onions.

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Mmmmmmmmm mmmmmm mmmmmmmm and like 15 minutes later, this was in my face:

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I really loved everything about this recipe. The dough was super easy to work with and simple to make and the toppings were delightful if a little messy to eat. Definitely a great way to start Baking with Julia in 2013! T0 have this in your face in a mere 3-4 hours, visit Paul at The Boy Can Bake for the recipe.

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French Fridays with Dorie – Cheese-Topped Onion Soup aka French Onion Soup

If you’ve followed my blog at all, you must be thinking “Jesus! Doesn’t she have any other placemats? Ugh I am so sick of these damn stripey placemats!” Well the answer is yes, I do have one other set, but they are beige and I can’t think of a more depressing color than beige so this is what we’re going with for now. I mean, they do look pretty good with my dishes, but I’ll be the first to admit, it’s time to change things up. Annnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnyways, let’s get on with the cooking, shall we?

So I am in a really cool group called Tuesdays with Dorie, but I also recently joined another group called French Fridays with Dorie which cooks/bakes out of Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan. I am a little late to the party on this second group but I think my general enthusiasm makes up for it, no? This group is a little more hardcore than my baking one because it makes a recipe every single week. We’ll see how I do. This week’s recipe was Cheese-Topped Onion Soup which seemed like an easy place for me to start. I mean, last week’s recipe was mussels with chorizo and while I do love them, I live in WI and those are a little out of my price range generally. A bag of onions, I can handle. I have caramelized onions before, so I know it takes time, but yet again I underestimated how much time this would take. A lot of cookbooks and recipes have a thing right under the title that tells you how long it will take to make. Dorie don’t roll that way. She is very hands-off if that makes sense. There is a part in the beginning of her book where she says basically that it would be ridiculous for you to follow everything she says to the letter because she has no idea what is going on in your kitchen at any given time and I frickin’ love that about her. I fully respect that there are definite techniques and right ways to do things, but cooking is a very organic and individual experience and I love that she says that upfront instead of saying that it’s her way or the highway. That being said, I could have used a little sentence that said, “This will take upwards of 2 1/2 hours – do not begin this at 6:00PM Maggie.”

The recipe called for 4 -5 large Spanish onions, but the ones I found were on the small side, so I used 6. See my awesome knife? It was a Valentine’s present from my husband about 4 years ago. There is nothing better in the kitchen than a really good quality, very sharp knife. Nothing!

Remember that part in Shrek where he talks about how he is like an onion because onions have layers and he has layers blah, blah, blah and then Donkey says something about parfaits? Well Shrek is totally right about the layers thing. Obviously, everyone knows that onions have horizontal layers that are slippery and weird and can make you cut yourself if you’re not careful and you don’t have a sharp knife (see above). But there are also very faint vertical lines on the onion and if you try your hardest to slice the onion along those lines, it will really help them break down and caramelize more easily. I learned this from my friend Susan over at The Little French Bakery. It must seem like I’m obsessed with her because I tag her in like every post, but I assure you, I’m not. She is just really smart and I learn something cool from her pretty much every time we talk and I feel like I should give her credit because it’s not like I’m just coming up with this stuff on my own people.

So, that there is a lot of onions. I’m not gonna lie, I cried a little. I know there are tricks galore to not crying while chopping onions but I never seem to think of googling them before I start the chopping.

I used my 5.5qt Round French Oven and I’d say it was about half to three-quarters full of onions when I started. It’s amazing how they shrink down though. This is what I ended up with after about an hour and 45 minutes of cooking:

It’s like magic! They’re like shrinky-dinks or something! If I’m being 100% honest (which I am pretty much all the time – other than on my baked goods, there’s not much sugar-coating happening around here) I should have let these go for longer. But it was already 7:45 and I had to cook it for at least another 40 minutes after this so I just went for it. They were a nice light brown and there was some serious brown goodness on the bottom of the pan so I thought I would be okay. The next part is where it gets fun.

When we bought our house, I was very, very excited that it came with a gas range. We had always only had electric in our rentals and I was sick of it. The very first weekend we lived here, I made a fritatta for my mom and one of my best friends who was helping me get things organized and put away and I discovered the sad truth that the broiler element for my awesome gas range is on the bottom of the oven. The bottom!!!! To broil anything I have to lay on my belly and slide it in and then stay down there and watch it to see when it’s done. It’s totally humiliating. I mean it does prompt me to keep my kitchen floor pretty clean, but it’s no life people. It is my dream to have my dad’s gas range from Kitchenaid. It’s really boss. It’s also really expensive so it will be on the wishlist for awhile. Back to the recipe though – I cranked up the broiler and shoved the bread in there to brown. I could have done some floor exercises while I was down there, but let’s get serious, exercise is not really my forte.

After the bread came out I put a splash of brandy in the bowls, topped it with onion-y deliciousness, then the crispy bread, then some buttery, grated Gruyere. I very carefully slid the baking sheet with the bowls under the broiler and hunkered down to watch the cheese get all melty. It’s actually kind of fun to watch the process from beginning to end but I’m only admitting that because I’ve had a few little glasses of wine. I want to broil standing up goddamnit! If you don’t own this book already, please buy it. The cover photo alone is worth the list price. Plus it is just so full of interesting things! Every single recipe has ideas about how you could modify it a bit or things you could serve with it. It really is the best kind of cookbook. The soup was really yummy and satisfying and worth waiting a few hours for. I’m really looking forward to working my way through this book!