Oh, the weather outside is frightful. A winter wonderland is my landscape at the moment. Icicles adorn the barren trees and glistening drops illuminate the pathway to our “open to all” curbside bench. Pine trees bend down with the weight of winter’s elements. It’s a pretty sight. Signs of winter are everywhere. A cold environment is here to say. And with that, so is food to keep us warm, both physically and emotionally. We invite soul food to keep the appetite alive and the spirit calm.
My friends at Sargento (they know full well what winter wonderlands look like in Wisconsin) and I decided to gather our collective ideas of soul food to create a robust menu to satisfy an evening of good eating this holiday season. From appetizers, to cheesy desserts, my blogging friends, all whom have also been delving into different culinary trends with Sargento, and I designed a fantastic lineup of dishes for anyone to enjoy.
Since I’ve been tinkering with Peruvian cuisine this year, I decided to step completely out of the box in many ways and dish out a French onion soup. It’s the quintessential fall and winter soup to keep you warm and full. Until recently, I’d not been a fan on any level. A brown, dingy looking soup full of onions? Not so much. But, from a culinary perspective, it’s so refined. The combination of cheeses, stock, quality onions, herb choices, and crusty Cuban bread, qualify it a soup for distinct palates. The general consensus I took confirmed it’s a pretty amazing soup in all its awesomeness. It’s common, but not ubiquitous.
That makes it special.
My version, set out to challenge my own tastebuds and aptitude to new flavors, ended up being tastier and more satisfying I could ever imagine. I mixed recipes from Julia Child and a few others I tried out until I found a perfect combination that worked for my tastes. See, I don’t like all cheeses I’m not a fan of Swiss in the least. That wasn’t going to work. But, I figured a soft Jarlsberg could suffice and still create the distinct taste. Sargento‘s Natural Muenster to top it all off is what caused this beautiful soup to sing all the way to my stomach. I had other options in mind, but I wanted to create something close to classical.
Interestingly, my parents took full pleasure watching me play — they both love French onion soup — as I contemplated what I was getting myself into. But, they know as a working chef, I have to explore and expand my boundaries. This was definitely a point of growth. There’s nothing Cuban (or Latin) about this sopa, but I embrace the newness I wasn’t previously open to in certain foods.
Paired with the other dishes the ladies of Sargento‘s Flavor Journey produced, the onion soup serves as a magnificent main dish or starter, depending on how robust your appetite lends itself. Each dish embodies concepts and ideas we’ve each explored this year, painting a colorful look at the endless options we all have with cheese.
Some of us went with shreds, others with slices, but all in all an elaborate and varied use of the different flavors.
From the cheese family in Wisconsin and happily tastemakers dispersed around the country, and particularly from my cocina, I invite you to enjoy this soup and the girls’ lovely creations. I’m particularly excited about trying out Cara’s cheesy mushroom crostini. Simple enough, filling for a party, and hearty to prepare the appetite for the main dish. And even though I don’t eat pork, Bree’s ham and cheese pinwheel’s sound too fun for parties. I could easily go for pastrami!
Cheers to a well-rounded dinner table, replete with hearty foods, all made with love! After all, that’s the purpose of the season.
Enjoy the rest of menu by my cheesy blogging friends:
Cheesy Mushroom Crostini from Big Girls Small Kitchen
Ham and Cheese Pinwheels from Baked Bree
Wild Rice and Sausage Casserole from The Fountain Avenue Kitchen
Savory Rosemary and Bacon Bread Pudding from The Naptime Chef (link coming soon)
Eat well, love unapologetically, pray with true intention, and take care of yourself.
Follow the sexy & delicious fun on
FRENCH ONION SOUP (ADAPATED FROM JULIA CHILD)
- 5 white onions, thinly sliced
- 1 Tbsp. canola oil
- 2 Tbsp. butter
- 3 Tbsp. flour
- 6 cups beef stock (homemade is best — I used stock from my ropa vieja)
- 1 cup red wine (I like Syrah)
- 1/2 tsp. sugar in the raw
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 tsp. oregano
- 1/2 tsp. thyme
- 8 oz. Jarlsberg cheese, grated
- 4 oz. Parmesan cheese, grated
- 4 oz. Muenster cheese, slices
- 8 slices of Cuban bread (French is suitable)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 4 sprigs of thyme, for garnish
In dutch over or large pot, sautée onions in canola oil and butter until translucent. Add sugar and continue cooking on medium heat until onions are browned, but not burned. When onion mixture is reduced, whisk in flour. Stir for a few minutes until mixture is browned. Stir in beef stock, blending all ingredients really well. Add herbs, bay leaf, salt, and wine. Cover, turn heat to low and simmer for 30-40 minutes.
Butter the bread and toast in oven on 325F until browned. Once done, remove and set aside.
Add Jarslberg cheese to soup and stir. If you can find, remove bay leaf. Transfer soup into individual serving soup ramekins. Top each ramekin with grated parmesan. Add slices or chunks of toasted Cuban bread. Top each ramekin completely with muenster slice. Place each ramekin in oven and bake at 350F for 30 minutes or until cheese melts over edges. Garnish each ramekin with small thyme sprig.
Yields 4-6 servings.