Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sick Day Sandwiches and French Onion Soup


We both ended up sick over the holidays, so soup sounded good to me, but soup is never enough for filling the Taste Tester's gullet, so I made him one of my favorite heavy sandwiches to go with, from the first restaurant I worked at.  Beef sandwiches + french onion soup = awesome excuse to dip your sandwich like an Arby's Au Jus.

French Onion Soup, quickie version:
3 red onions, sliced
2 cloves garlic
4 cups water, mixed with whichever beef boullion you like according to its instructions
a stringy cheese, gruyere or swiss or provolone, in slices
baguette bread, preferably stale
1 cup sherry cooking wine
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

In a deep, heavy bottomed pot, saute sliced red onions in olive oil, throwing garlic in once they are very soft, then adding sherry before garlic burns.  Let sherry burn off the alcohol for ~5 min, then add the beef boullion and let simmer until the onions are soft enough to bend like noodles but not disintegrating.  Salt to taste.  When served, put a thick slice of baguette in bowl and top with slice of cheese, then spoon soup over it so it melts.  Gooey soggy cheesy bread wonder.

Beef and Baguette Sandwiches
2 small french bread rolls
mayo and A-1 or another steak sauce
sliced roast beef
provolone or swiss cheese
onions (unless you're already worn out on them, see above)
worcestershire sauce

Saute onions in a little oil, add a couple dashes of worcestershire sauce, and warm beef in that pan while bread toasts.  Melt cheese atop the beef and onions.
Spread toasted bread generously with mayo, then 1-2 tsp of steak sauce on top of the mayo.  I was not generous enough with ours and regretted it!  Plate open faced with beef.  Serve with multiple napkins, this is awesome but messy.

Schlotsky/Schmaltz's Have Been Hacked

In my hometown, there's this great sandwich joint called Schmaltz's, and for rookies it could be perceived as a Schlotsky's knock-off.  But in fact, the only thing in common is the funny sounding name and somewhat similar bread.  The family-run Schmaltz's is a gem (can't believe I said that) makes delicious sandwiches and amazing soups, my favorite being Wisconsin cheddar cheese soup.  It's so thick and rich I can hardly handle a cup of it.  And their bread, either in a little muffin-size bun with your soup or a larger 6 incher for sandwich, is amazing.  It's got the perfect thin but tough crust, a chewy crumb that never gets soggy when smeared with mayo or dipped in soup.  Seemed like sourdough to me, only no sour taste.

I think, however, that I've begun to hack their recipe.  We rushed home after Christmas, Taste Tester unexpectedly ill, and stopped by Schlotsky's to get him some soup.  I asked for bread on the side and began to rethink the recipe, did some research, and hit the key: the dough is 1) overmixed so the gluten is thick and creates that spongy tug to it, and 2) it's more batter than dough, heavy in water AND milk content.  That also helps the gluten.

And it was superfreakineasy to boot.  Which means 1) I need to buy more flour and 2) Taste Tester will be eating a lot of bread and sandwiches as I perfect this.  Currently, my crust isn't tough enough and my crumb needs to just be a little more chewy and white.  So I'm thinking I'll reduce the hydration ratio a little, mostly by the milk, then find a smaller loaf pan since it's risen and baked in a pie round.  And, I need to convert it to a proper ratio of lbs or oz.

So far, it's
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup milk
1 packet or 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp sugar, but I'm leaving the sugar out next time
Mixed in a blender till smooth, runny, and sticky, then split into 2 small pie rounds to rise for an hour (or till to the edge of the pie tin, depends on the temperature) and then baked at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Cornmeal on the base of the pie tin and a spray of oil on top helps the crust.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Test Post From My Itouch

I bought a new gadget that I'll be able to use when I'm cooking and posting, all while listening to podcasts about cooking and music!

This is my 1st post from it, after a failure at making apple cinnamon rolls. Turns out butter melts in a hot oven and puff pastry boiled in a puddle of cinnamon butter tastes like a dumpling.

I'll spare you the photos.