A Wicked Scoff...Recipes and Food with Newfoundland and New England Influences.

This blog is dedicated to bring recipes, photographs, anecdotes, reviews and other insights on everything food related. As the name suggests, "A Wicked Scoff" will have a regional flare, a fusion if you will, of both Newfoundland and New England perspectives of the culinary world around me. Thanks for visiting and please come back often as updates will be frequent. Oh yeah, I also like tasting and cooking with regional beers. Expect a beer of the month, often paired with recipes.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup

One of the tastiest, most comforting soups I can think of is French Onion Soup. With bubbling Swiss cheese covering a rich, beefy broth full of caramelized onions, it really hits the spot. All too often however I get a really bad version of this classic soup at restaurants. Sometimes the broth is like brine, and way too salty. Other times there is no broth to speak of, just big soggy croutons underlying a bland mild cheese that is definitely not Swiss or Gruyere...or even an aged cheddar.

I know when I'm eating a really good French Onion Soup. The broth does not have to be homemade from scratch (although that would be an excellent bonus), but it can not be from a bouillon cube. The onions do have to be cooked low and slow to get the proper canalization, and there should be a je ne sais quois, a little extra depth of flavor in the broth. In classic versions of the recipe, this extra body usually comes from the addition of dry sherry or cognac, but I've also seen red wine added instead. To make this dish my own as I often like to do, I used beer...and not just any beer. I chose the straggler from my Saranac Beer Fall variety pack, the Bavarian Black Forest beer. The carmel malts and the dark creamy texture of the beer were the perfect compliment to the sweetness of the onions and the richness of the beef broth. The overall flavor of the soup was spectacular. I served the soup to my wife and she did not know there was beer in there, but knew there was a secret something extra providing complexity to the soup.

Here is my recipe....enough to fill 4 French Onion Soup crocks.

In a large, heavy bottomed pot or Dutch Oven, heat:
3 Tbsp butter and 3Tbsp olive oil over a medium-low heat

5 medium sized yellow onions, sliced thin.
Saute slowly for 15 minutes, making sure the onions do not burn.

2 cloves of garlic minced
A pinch of dried thyme and summer savory

Continue to slow cook the onions and garlic over a low-medium heat until the onions develop a brown color, about another 20 minutes.

Deglaze the pot by adding 1 cup of dark beer.

Increase the heat to high to cook off the alcohol and bring the mixture to a boil.

Add 4 cups of beef broth (carton/canned is fine...low sodium) and simmer on low heat for 20 minutes.

While the soup is simmering away, grate a pile of good Swiss of Gruyere cheese (classic) and cut 4 slices of fresh French bread. Toast the bread before assembling the soup.

Once the soup is cooked, taste for seasoning. Add some black pepper and salt as needed. Distribute the soup amongst 4 crocks, top each crock with a piece of the toasted bread, and top off with a small handful of the grated cheese. Place in a hot oven or under the broiler until the cheese is browning and bubbling.

Serve right away and enjoy.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon

As promised, I am posting my attempt at classic French cooking, following Julia Child's recipe for Boeuf Bouruignon. This was undertaken after watching the movie Julie and Julia, in which this famous dish makes a cameo appearance. The day after the movie, I did a quick Internet search to find the recipe (see below), found a great site with scans from the cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking, made a quick trip to the market, and I was all set. I rarely follow recipes. I either come up with my own thing, based on what I have or what I am in the mood for...or I skim a few different recipes of something, get inspired and come up with my own hybrid version.

Here is the link to the recipe.


There are actually three recipes to follow, as the main dish contains "brown braised onions" and "sauteed mushrooms". I followed the recipes exactly, and the dish came out marvelous.

I would recommend trying this the traditional way the first time you make it...just so you can taste it. What I also wish I had the opportunity to do would be to make this with game..ideally moose or caribou. Maybe I can find some venison in these parts and try that. For those of you who have access to game, I encourage you try that, and let me know how it turns out. This would be an excellent dish to cook up at the cabin on a cold fall or winter day. A bottle of wine in the stew, and a few bottles on the table to drink and wash it all down would make for deliciously rich meal.

Brown-braised onions and mushrooms, combined and being reheated in a skillet

Monday, October 12, 2009

Sunday Breakfast. Poached Eggs and Chorico Hash

This past weekend, my wife and I watched "Julie and Julia", the new hit movie about the life and times of famous American chef Julia Child and the birth of her revolutionary cookbook "Mastering the Art of French Cooking". But that's only half the story. The other side of the movie follows the modern true story of Julie, a bored government worker who takes on the daunting mission of cooking every recipe from Child's book in a single year, posting the whole thing on her blog.

The movie was quite enjoyable. For foodies I'm sure it was especially fun. I found myself laughing and craving butter throughout the film, long after I had devoured my popcorn. When I woke up Sunday morning I was ready to cook. For beakfast I whipped up a quick potato and Portuguese chorico hash with a poached egg and toasted French bread. The poached egg was inspired from a scene in the movie, plus my wife loves them.

Later that day I tackled Julia's "Boeuf Bourguignon, a delicious rich stew with carrots, pearl onions, mushrooms and a lot of red wine. First I share the eggs and hash with you, and the boeuf will follow soon.

In a large non-stick skillet or wok pan, heat:

1 Tbsp of olive oil
Dice 2 medium potatoes, and saute over medium heat.
When cooking hash browns like these from raw potato, I find that it is best to keep the heat on medium so the potatoes have a chance to cook through....about 10 minutes. Once they are nearly cooked (taste one), add
1 2-3 inch piece of Portuguese chorico sausage, diced.

Saute together for a couple of minutes, season with salt, pepper and a few shakes of paprika and a dash of cayenne if you like some extra heat. Keep the hash warm while cooking the eggs.

Poached Eggs
For the eggs, fill a flat bottom pan with two inches of water and bring to a simmer. Crack eggs individually into a small bowl, and slide one at a time into the simmering pot. It is important to use fresh eggs so they do not spread throughout the pan. Gently give the water a swoosh to create a slight whirlpool action and the eggs will begin to set and gather themselves. Some of the whites will escape, but don't worry. Using a spoon or spatula, gather the edges of each egg to encourage it staying in one place. Keep a gentle motion in the water so the eggs swim to doneness. In no time, you will have a delicate, runny egg. By all means cook longer for preferred doneness. Remove with a slotted spoon and pat let air dry for a few seconds. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve atop the hash with a nice slice of toasted bread and butter.

Bon appetit!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Meatball and Tomato Soup

Last weekend I kicked off my fall soupfest. This tomato-meatball soup was a great way to start, as it was fresh, hearty and very satisfying for a cool Sunday evening meal. Crushed canned tomatoes with dried herbs, tiny homemade meatballs, onions, garlic, peppers, chicken stock and white beans combine in an experimental creation that I can't wait to make again for family and friends.

The first step is to make the meatballs. You can use whatever ground meat you desire for this soup, turkey, chicken, beef, pork or veal. I used turkey.

In a large bowl, combine and mix well:
2 lbs lean ground turkey
2 TBSP olive oil
2 tsp garlic, minced
1/4 cup onion, minced
1 Tbsp Italian herb mix (dried)
1/2 cup dried Italian breadcrumbs
1 TBSP Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
1 tsp each of salt and pepper

Using a teaspoon, scoop meat mixture and make small, golf ball sized meatballs.

In a large Dutch oven, heat a little olive oil over medium high heat, and brown the meatballs.

While the meatballs are cooking, prepare the following vegetables, which will be sauteed after the meatballs are browned.

1 large onion, diced small
1 red bell pepper, diced small
1 green bell pepper, diced small
1 carrot, diced small
2 cloves garlic, minced
Once the meatballs are browned, reserve to the side and saute the vegetables. Add the onion, peppers and carrot, reserving the garlic until near the end so it does not burn. Season with a touch of salt and pepper. If you need to, add a tablespoon of olive oil to the dutch oven. Saute the vegetables until they are tender and the onion is translucent, but not browned. Add garlic, and the meatballs, and cook together for a couple of minutes.

Next, add a splash of white wine, two large cans of crushed tomatoes, and use a wooden spoon or spatula to scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Add 4 cups of chicken stock (canned/carton or homemade), 1 tablespoon of the dried Italian herbs, 1 teaspoon of dried savory (optional) and reduce heat to low. Throw in a bay leaf for good measure. Let simmer for 30 minutes or longer is you can wait. Taste for seasoning and adjust salt and pepper. If you want a little heat (in addition to the spicy meatball) add some more red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper. Add one drained can of northern white beans, drained and rinsed, and cook for another 10 minutes, until the beans are warmed through.

Served in warm bowls with some good bread and wine.


Friday, October 2, 2009

Fall is here at last.

Fall is my favorite season, and it has most certainly arrived here in New England. The days are shorter and the days are a little more crisp. Hockey has started and leaves are turning the brilliant reds and oranges that New England is famous for. From a culinary perspective fall inspires me to cook the many fruits of the harvest, notably root vegetables, apples and squashes. These afford extremely well to warm hearty meals like soups, stews and roasted meats, as well as spiced desserts like apple crisp. This past week alone I've been out apple picking at one of many local orchards, enjoying my wife's apple crisp and making rich soups.

Another thing I have been doing with the onset of fall has been sampling some of the great autumn themed beers available. Not only are Octoberfest and Pumpkin Spice beers delicious seasonal brews, but they are also excellent to cook with.

My selection for beer of the month for October is actually a variety of beers, specially packed by the Mack Brewing Company's Saranac Beer, out of Utica New York (http://www.saranac.com/home/).

This "12 beers a falling" variety pack features six wonderful beers great for fall refreshment (http://www.saranac.com/page/12-beers-a-falling). Included in the variety pack are the seasonally available Octoberfest and Pumpkin Ale, in addition to their IPA, Irish Red Ale, the Bavarian Black Forest, and the Carmel Porter. Each is distinctively excellent. I actually made a French Onion Soup last night with the Black Forest beer that was very tasty. This coming weekend I will be using the Pumpkin Ale in a butternut squash soup recipe I'm deveoping, and lastly the Octoberfest will be part of my brined and roasted pork rib roast for this coming Sunday. All of these recipies will be posted in the coming days.

In the meantime, enjoy the cool, crisp refreshing fall air. Get outdoors and hike in the woods, and prepare your firewood for winter. Work up and appetite, quench your thirst with a cold ale or warm mulled apple cider, and fill your belly with a hearty bowl of soup or stew.
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