Soup & Sandwiches

It was a VERY cold few days here in NC. It was Denver cold, but in NC. It was also been pretty damp, the kind that goes right to your bones and doesn’t let go. All we wanted was hot and hearty food. I had been itching to try to make a French Onion Soup from scratch, but I have never actually tried French Onion Soup. My in-laws are huge fans of a good French Onion Soup and have tried it in many different restaurants. They said mine was pretty bang on. SCORE! And who doesn’t love a grilled cheese sandwich, even better a grilled cheese with bacon? So I decided, for this particular VERY cold evening to do French Onion Soup and an amped up grilled cheese for hubby and in-laws and then I made a grilled sandwich for me that didn’t include cheese. All turned out delicious! When I got home from work hubby and father-in-law had a fire going in the woodstove to combat the frigid temps and strong winds outside. We were tucked up inside the house, with a large pot of soup on the stove and grilled cheese sandwiches getting all toasty and golden brown. This meal was fairly easy, not greatly time consuming and made for a cozy evening.

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French Onion Soup
4-5 smallish onions
1 can beef consume (adds that really beefy flavor)
32 ounces beef stock
1/2 cup white wine
2 tbsp. flour
2 tbsp. dried thyme leaves
Salt & Pepper to taste
Olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced finely
4-8 ounces of gruyere cheese
1/2 loaf crusty bread
4 individual soup crocks (see picture)

1) Peel and cut the onions into half, then slice to a medium thickness (not too thick and not too thin). (I did this the night before, but it made the fridge & freezer smell like onions so perhaps the thinking ahead was not the best plan in the particular instance).
2) Put the onions in a dutch oven, one layer at a time, sprinkle with salt & pepper, then add another layer (mind the amount of salt, because you are going to be adding salt later in your consume and stock).
3) Cook the onions on about medium-to-medium-high heat for about 30-40 minutes until they are well sweated down and caramelized, stirring only occasionally.
4) While the onions are cooking, grate the gruyere cheese and slice the bread into thicker slices and to the size of the opening of your individual crocks and set all aside.
5) Once the onions have sweated and caramelized, add garlic and cook for just a minute or so. Enough to cook the garlic and get that great flavor, but garlic will burn quickly.
6) Add two tablespoons of flour (this will help it thicken) and stir in well and let cook for just a minute to cook off the raw flour flavor.
7) Add the white wine, deglazing the pan and scraping all the deliciousness up from the bottom. Cook that for just a minute until the onions have absorbed and the bottom of the pot is scraped pretty well (those brown bits are good flavor).
8) Add the beef consume (most cans will say to add a can full of water, not needed here unless its super salty), the stock and thyme leaves. Bring to a simmer. Give a taste and see if the and pepper needs to be adjusted. If it is too salty, add some water.
9) Let simmer for about 20-30 minutes and reduce just a bit.
10) While the soup is simmering brush the bread with a little olive oil or butter and toast just a bit.
11) Turn the heat off and ladle the soup into the soup crocks.
12) Place the bread on top and cover with the grated gruyere cheese.
13) Put under a broiler (we used a toaster oven) until the cheese is melted and bubbly. (I would also suggest placing the crocks on a sheet pan lined with foil in case the cheese bubbles over).

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Grilled Cheese & Bacon Sandwiches
1 loaf good bread, something hearty. I used a loaf of some sort of several grain bread. It was a big round.
Provolone cheese slices
Your favorite hardwood smoked bacon
Gruyere cheese
Alouette Garlic & Herb Spread

1) Spread butter or margarine on one side of the bread slices.
2) On the other side, spread some of the Alouette spread)
3) Layer a slice of provolone, cut in half, layer of bacon and a layer of the grated gruyere cheese.
4) Put in a pan or on a griddle until golden brown on that side, then flip to the other side until golden brown.
5) Wrap the sandwiches in foil, pop in a toaster oven for a few minutes until the cheese is completely melted.

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The variation I made for me was a take on something one of my roommates used to make. Spread a thin layer of butter on the bread, same as the others. Instead of the Alouette spread, spread a layer of roasted garlic hummus. Add slices of bacon, thin’ish slices of avocado and thin slices of a tomato. Add a little freshly ground pepper. Toast the sandwich same as the others. If you are not adverse to dairy things, the Alouette spread would be VERY good with the hummus and all the other stuff.

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