Monday, December 31, 2012

French Onion Soup Noodle Casserole

I have to be crazy to caramelize four pounds of onions on New Year's Eve. But once you taste the result, I'd have to be crazy not to. Lovely supper for two accompanied by a glass of champagne. Plenty of left overs for later 'cause it only gets better.

Ingredients for French Onion Noodle Casserole


8 large yellow onions, halved, peeled and thinly sliced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 or 3 teaspoons dried thyme
1/2 cup white wine
2 cups beef stock
1 pound egg noodles
1-1/2 cup Gruyere or Swiss cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese


1. Cut off the stem and root ends of onions, halve lengthwise, peel skin and slice finely across the grain.

2. Heat olive oil and butter in a large, heavy-bottom stock pot over medium heat. When oil sizzles, add the onions and garlic, stirring deeply to glaze the vegetables. Add salt to draw out the moisture. Cook until the onions begin to wilt, stirring every 10 to 15 minutes to prevent sticking.

3. After 45 to 60 minutes, the onions will be swimming in their own juices. Add thyme and bay leaves. Reduce the heat and continue to cook, stirring often to prevent burning until they are tan and most of the juice has evaporated.  The drier they get, the more often you need to stir. This batch cooked two hours.


5. When the onions and garlic are tan and nearly dry, add wine and turn up the heat to deglaze the pan. Cook briskly and stir frequently until the wine has cooked out. Add beef stock, reduce the heat again and simmer 15 minutes or so more while you prepare the egg noodles. 

6. Cook egg noodles according to package directions under-cooking them about a minute.  Drain then combine with onions in a casserole dish. Top with both cheeses. Bake 30 minutes or until the cheese is brown and bubbly.

Serve with a salad of bitter greens and a glass of champagne to toast the New Year or raise a glass to the devotedl French cooks who have taught us the rewards of slow cooking with love and don't spare the butter.

~Thanks to Russ Parsons, food editor of the LA Times for a tutorial on how to caramelize onions and to Rachel Ray for the yummy French onion egg noodle casserole recipe.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Stocking Stuffers for Foodies

Sometimes little luxuries are the best. Consider these stocking stuffers for the food lovers on your Christmas list compiled by Virginia Wade, Austin Chronicle food writer.

Goat's Milk Caramel from Antonelli's Cheese Shop (4220 Duval). From Blue Heron Farm near Waller, try their cajeta plain or the bourbon-flavored over ice cream or pound cake, or as a dipping sauce for crisp, crunchy apple slices. Also look for the Original Goat's Milk Caramel and Salted Bourbon Goat's Milk Caramel from Fat Toad Farm ( in Vermont.

Seasonal jams and citrus salts by Stephanie McClenny of Confituras.

Chocolate by Cocoa Puro Kakawa Cocoa Beans are roasted whole beans tossed in white, milk and dark chocolate and dusted with cocoa. Get a 12-ounce bag for $28 and 2-ounce elf bags (perfect for stockings) for $7 at the Downtown Farmers' Market on Saturday, Dec. 22.

And if you're looking for kitchen gadgets, have a look at the list I developed last year. Cooks love us some toys!

Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Ratatouille Marinara

Sorry for the prolonged absence. I'm stretched 90 ways from Sunday. This means that Stuart and I are juggling dog care, housekeeping chores and kitchen duty. He whipped up this amazing ratatouille marinara to welcome me home last night. It's not seasonal, but man, is it ever healthy and comforting.

Eggplant Marinara


1 large eggplant, diced
2 medium zucchini, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, diced
1 can stewed tomatoes (28 ounces)
1 4-ounce can tomato paste
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 ounces of Greek olives, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon capers
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried thyme
Tony's Creole Seasoning
Red wine
16 ounces of pasta - penne, spirals or whatever you like
Freshly grated parmesan cheese
Fresh basil or Italian parsley for garnish


1. Peel, slice, salt eggplant for about 30 minutes. Rinse, dry, chop into bite-sized pieces.

2. Saute' onions, garlic in 2 tablespoons olive oil until they start to tan. Add eggplant and saute' 10 to 15 minutes until it begins to soften. Add zucchini and saute' another 5 minutes or so, remembering that "ratatouille" is the French word for "toss."

3. Add 1 cup or so of red wine and cook off the alcohol, 5 or 10 minutes.

4. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, seasoning. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 30 minutes or so.

5. Adjust seasoning to taste.  I'm lavish with oregano, light with other herbs and cautious with spicy creole seasoning. You can always add more.

6. Cook pasta according to directions and set aside.

7. About 15 minutes before you're ready to eat, add a couple hand fulls of chopped olives and a tablespoon of capers.  Simmer until heated through.

8. Garnish with fresh herbs - parsley or basil. Sprinkle with parmesan. Accompany with crusty bread.


(Hint: if you want your companion to cook, it's smart to have all the ingredients on hand. Otherwise, you never hear the end of it.)

~Adapted from Rachael Ray's 30-Minute Meals (which always take longer than 30 minutes)