Butternut Squash Bread Soup (Panade de Butternut)

This dish could have fed an army. It was GIGANTIC.  I would describe it as French onion soup meets oozy casserole. Full-flavored, cheese-covered comfort food. The thinly sliced butternut squash and fresh herbs layered into the bread, caramelized onions, and cheese added a little bit of excitement as well as color and nutrition. 😉

This recipe was adapted from My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz. Lebovitz stated that this is one of those dishes that improves as it sits… thank goodness! We had lots of leftovers. 🙂 I added additional homemade stock to the leftovers, before reheating, just to make it a little bit soupier.

Yield: Serves 8 to 10

  • 3 T unsalted butter
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 4 large yellow onions, peeled and sliced
  • 8 cloves garlic, peeled (4 thinly sliced & 4 whole)
  • 2 T mixed fresh thyme and sage
  • 2-pound (900 g) loaf firm-textured sourdough bread, sliced
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 quarts (2 l) warm chicken or turkey stock, plus additional stock for serving, as desired
  • 2-pound butternut squash or other winter squash such as Kabocha, peeled, seeded and sliced into 1/8-inch slices
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups grated Comte, Gruyere, Jarlsberg, or Fontina cheese
  • 1/2 cup (1 1/2 oz /45 g) freshly grated Parmesan cheese (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)

  1. Melt the butter with the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. (I used an enameled cast iron Dutch oven.)
  2. Add the onions, 4 cloves of sliced garlic, and 1 teaspoon of the herbs. Cook for about 35 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are completely wilted and beginning to brown on the bottom and edges.
  3. While the onions are cooking, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
  4. Put the slices of bread on baking sheets in a single layer and toast in the oven, turning the slices over midway, until both sides are dry, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven.
  5. When cool enough to handle, rub both sides of the bread with the whole garlic cloves.
  6. Slice the peeled and seeded squash into 1/8-inch slices. (I used a mandoline.)
  7. When the onions are done, pour in the wine, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen up any of the flavorful brown bits. Cook for a minute or two, until the wine is absorbed.
  8. Add 2 cups of the stock to the onions and cook until the stock is mostly absorbed 10 to 15 minutes, and then add the rest of the stock and heat until the stock is hot. Remove from heat.
  9. To assemble the Panade, cover the bottom of a 3 to 4 quart (3-4 l), 3+inch (8 cm) deep, baking dish with a layer of bread, breaking any pieces so they fit in a single layer, but keeping them as large as possible.
  10. Ladle about half of the onions and some of the stock over the bread, and then cover with half of the squash slices. Season lightly with salt, pepper, and half of the remaining herbs.
  11. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup (40 g) of the Comte.
  12. Add a second layer of bread and ladle the rest of the onions and more stock over the bread. Cover with remaining squash slices. Season the squash with salt, pepper, and the remaining herbs.
  13. Sprinkle another 1/2 cup (40 g) of Comte over the squash layer.
  14. Cover the squash with a final layer of bread and then ladle the rest of the stock over the bread.
  15. Press down on the ingredients to encourage them to meld together.
  16. Top with remaining 1 cup (90 g) Comte, and the Parmesan.
  17. Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and tighten it around the edges. Don’t press it down on the surface or some cheese may stick to the foil during baking.
  18. Set the baking dish on a parchment paper or foil-lined rimmed baking sheet to catch any spills.
  19. Bake for 45 minutes, uncover the Panade, and bake for another 30 minutes, or until it is very well browned and crisp on top.
  20. Let cool for about 15 minutes before serving. Spoon portions into shallow soup bowls, making sure each serving is topped with crusty topping.

I’m bringing my dinner-party ready comfort food to share at Angie’s Fiesta Friday #164 this week, hosted by Jhuls @The Not So Creative Cook. Enjoy!

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French Apple Cake

I’ve had baking a French Apple Cake on my bucket list for a long time. A celebratory Valentine’s Day dessert was my excuse! ❤ This version was custardy and absolutely wonderful. We ate it with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream but it could also served with a dollop of softly whipped cream.

This recipe was adapted from Marie-Hélène Brunet-Lhotse, a top editor of Louis Vuitton City Guides (and a restaurant critic for the Paris edition), published in Around my French Table: More than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan, via Epicurious.com.

Greenspan emphasized the importance of using diverse fruit in the cake to include crisp, soft, sweet, and tart apples for the best result. I used a combination of Fuji, Granny Smith, Envy, and Opal apples. I also increased the vanilla, and substituted apple cider for the rum. Delicious!

Yield: Serves 8

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch of coarse salt
  • 4 large apples (if you can, choose 4 different kinds)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons dark rum or fresh apple cider
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • whipped cream of ice cream, for serving
  1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, preferably on convection.
  2. Generously butter an 8-inch springform pan and put it on a baking sheet lined with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper and put the springform on it.
  3. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in small bowl.
  4. Peel the apples, cut them in half and remove the cores. Cut the apples into 1- to 2-inch chunks.
  5. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk until they’re foamy.
  6. Pour in the sugar and whisk for a minute or so to blend.
  7. Whisk in the rum/apple cider and vanilla.
  8. Whisk in half the flour and when it is incorporated, add half the melted butter, followed by the rest of the flour and the remaining butter, mixing gently after each addition so that you have a smooth, rather thick batter.
  9. Switch to a rubber spatula and fold in the apples, turning the fruit so that it’s coated with batter.
  10. Scrape the mix into the pan and poke it around a little with the spatula so that it’s evenish.
  11. Slide the pan into the oven and bake for 45 to 60 minutes, or until the top of the cake is golden brown and a knife inserted deep into the center comes out clean; the cake may pull away from the sides of the pan. Transfer to a cooling rack and let rest for 5 minutes.
  12. Carefully run a blunt knife around the edges of the cake and remove the sides of the springform pan. (Open the springform slowly, and before it’s fully opened, make sure there aren’t any apples stuck to it.)
  13. Allow the cake to cool until it is just slightly warm or at room temperature. If you want to remove the cake from the bottom of the springform pan, wait until the cake is almost cooled, then run a long spatula between the cake and the pan, cover the top of the cake with a piece of parchment or wax paper, and invert it onto a rack. Carefully remove the bottom of the pan and turn the cake over onto a serving dish.
  14. To Serve: The cake can be served warm or at room temperature, with or without a little softly whipped, barely sweetened heavy cream or a spoonful of ice cream. Marie-Hélène’s served her cake with cinnamon ice cream and it was a terrific combination.

Note: The cake will keep for about 2 days at room temperature. (The flavor may even improve with time!) The cake is too moist to cover completely; leave the cake on its plate and just press a piece of plastic wrap or wax paper against the cut surfaces.

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Crème Brûlée

My son wanted a dessert that he could “light on fire” to celebrate his 12th birthday. I hope that this is age appropriate. 😉

After rejecting my suggestion of Bananas Foster, he chose a classic crème brûlée. andyes, with close supervision, he torched his dessert!

This recipe was adapted from Barefoot in Paris by Ina Garten, via Food Network.com. I used large eggs, Cointreau instead of Grand Marnier, slightly adapted the method and increased the baking time. Special and delicious.

Yield: Makes 6 ramekins/servings

  • 1 large egg
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for each serving
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon orange liqueur (such as Cointreau or Grand Marnier)
  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the egg, egg yolks, and 1/2 cup of the sugar together on low-speed until just combined.
  3. Meanwhile, scald the cream in a small saucepan until it’s very hot to the touch but not boiled.
  4. With the mixer on low-speed, slowly add the cream to the eggs. (I transferred the hot cream to a liquid measuring cup to ease adding it into the mixer bowl.)
  5. Add the vanilla and liqueur and pour into 6 to 8-ounce ramekins until almost full.
  6. Place the ramekins in a 9×13 pyrex baking pan (I placed a square silicone pot holder underneath the ramekins so that they didn’t shift in the pan.)
  7. Glide the oven rack out of the oven cavity and place the pan on the rack. Carefully pour boiling water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. (I used a tea kettle.)
  8. Slowly glide rack into the oven and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the custards are set when gently shaken.
  9. Remove the custards from the water bath, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate until firm. (I refrigerated them overnight.)
  10. To serve, spread 1 tablespoon of sugar evenly on the top of each ramekin and heat with a kitchen blowtorch until the sugar caramelizes evenly.
  11. Allow to sit at room temperature for a minute until the caramelized sugar hardens.

and…

Of course, it wouldn’t be a birthday in our house without also having Number Cookies. 🙂 I had to make a couple of numeric “12’s” to go along with my son’s Roman Numeral “XII’s”. 🙂 They were swimming pool blue for my swimmer this year. ❤

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Baked Rice with Chicken & Mushrooms

I’m home with my kids for their second consecutive snow day today! 🙂 It seems like the perfect time to share one of my new favorite comfort food dishes- baked rice. It’s a full-flavored, complete meal in one pot. Delicious.

This version was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by David Tanis. This dish was different that others that I’ve made in the past because after the rice is baked, it is garnished with a sautéed vegetable topping. Loved it. I used cremini instead of trumpet mushrooms, and increased the amount of mushrooms, garlic, and peas. We ate it with roasted broccoli on the side. It would also be wonderful with a green salad.

I’m bringing this dish to share at Angie’s Fiesta Friday #158 this week, co-hosted by Ai @Ai Made it For You and Petra @Food Eat Love. Enjoy!

Yield: Serves 8

  • 2 1/2 pounds skinless boneless chicken thighs (about 10), cut into 2-inch chunks
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 large sprig thyme, plus 1 teaspoon freshly chopped leaves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 cups white Basmati rice, soaked for 20 minutes, rinsed and drained
  • 20 ounces king trumpet mushrooms, cremini mushrooms, or a mixture of mushrooms, sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 4 cups hot chicken stock
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen peas, thawed
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced or smashed to a paste with a little salt
  • 3 tablespoons roughly chopped parsley
  1. Put chicken pieces in a 9×13-inch pyrex baking dish and season generously with salt and pepper. Set aside. Heat oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Pour olive oil into a 4-quart enamelware Dutch oven or similar heavy pot and set over medium-high heat.
  3. Add onions and cook, stirring, until nicely browned, 5 to 8 minutes, then season with salt.
  4. Add chicken, thyme sprig and bay leaf, and continue to cook, stirring, for 2 minutes more.
  5. Add wine and simmer briskly until reduced by half, about 5 minutes.
  6. Add rice and a large handful of mushrooms and stir to combine. (Reserve most of the mushrooms for garnish.)
  7. Add broth and bring to a simmer. Check broth for seasoning and adjust.
  8. Cover pot and cook for 10 minutes over medium heat.
  9. Transfer pot to oven and bake for 20 minutes.
  10. Finally, remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes off heat.
  11. While rice is baking, sauté remaining mushrooms: Melt butter in a large skillet over high heat. Add mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and cook, rapidly stirring, until they have softened and browned, 5 to 7 minutes.
  12. Add peas, if using, and heat through.
  13. Turn off heat, then add reserved chopped thyme, the garlic and the parsley. Toss to coat well.
  14. Fluff rice, then top with sautéed mushrooms and serve.

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Gougères

I have wanted to try making gougères for what is starting to seem like forever. As they are dangerous items to have around, I needed a crowd to share them with! When we were asked to bring an appetizer to a friend’s birthday party, I finally had my chance.

Of course, the next issue was selecting a version to try. There was a cheese-topped choux pastry from Food and Wine, a version incorporating milk and less cheese from Ina Garten, or this super-cheesy version adapted from Bon Appetit, contributed by Mimi Thorisson. My description reveals how my final decision was made. 😉

Elegant and addictive.

Yield: about 50-60 cheese puffs

  • 6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • 6 ounces (about 1½ cups) grated Comté cheese or Gruyère
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large egg yolk
  1. Preheat oven to 400°, preferably on convection.
  2. Bring butter, salt, nutmeg, and 1 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring until butter is melted.
  3. Remove from heat, add flour, and stir to combine.
  4. Cook mixture over medium heat, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon, until mixture pulls away from sides of pan and forms a ball, about 2 minutes.
  5. Continue to cook, stirring vigorously, until a dry film forms on bottom and sides of pan and dough is no longer sticky, about 2 minutes longer.
  6. Remove pan from heat and let dough cool slightly, about 2 minutes.
  7. Mix in whole eggs one at a time, incorporating fully between additions.
  8. Mix in cheese and pepper.
  9. Scrape dough into a piping bag fitted with a ½” round tip (#1A) (alternatively, use a plastic bag with a ½” opening cut diagonally from 1 corner). Pipe 1” rounds about 2” apart onto 2 to 3 parchment-lined baking sheets, as needed.
  10. Whisk egg yolk and 1 tsp water in a small bowl; brush rounds with egg wash.
  11. Bake gougères until puffed and golden and dry in the center (they should sound hollow when tapped), 20–25 minutes.

Note: Dough can be made 4 hours ahead. Cover and chill.

Make Ahead: Gougères can be baked 2 hours ahead and kept at room temperature; reheat before serving. Alternatively, the baked choux can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days; recrisp in a 325° oven for 10 minutes.

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Cauliflower Gratin

My husband refused to let me simply roast the special heads of cauliflower we received in our CSA share. When he agreed to eat this indulgent cheesy cauliflower celebration as a main dish, we struck a deal. I added a little bit of pasta to make it more substantial.

We enjoyed this dish with roasted potatoes, roasted carrots, as well as Toscano kale and watermelon radish greens sautéed with garlic, onions and leeks on the side. It truly was a CSA box feast. 🙂

This recipe was adapted from Barefoot in Paris: Easy French Food You Can Make at Home by Ina Garten. I used one and a half heads of my small CSA cauliflower, about two pounds total. The original recipe called for three pounds, so I added pasta to the gratin. I also drizzled olive oil over the top of the dish instead of butter.

Cheesy deliciousness. 🙂

  • 1 (3-pound) head cauliflower, cut into large florets (I used 2 pounds of cauliflower supplemented with 1 cup orecchiette pasta)
  • coarse salt
  • 2 T unsalted butter
  • 3 T all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups hot milk (I used whole milk)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Gruyère, divided
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan (I used Parmigiano Reggiano)
  • 1/4 cup panko or fresh bread crumbs
  • 1 to 2 T extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F, preferably on convection.
  2. Cook the cauliflower florets in a large pot of boiling salted water for 5 to 6 minutes, until tender but still firm. Drain.
  3. Cook the pasta, if using, about 2 minutes less than the package directions for al dente.
  4. Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add the flour, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes.
  5. Pour the hot milk into the butter-flour mixture and stir until it comes to a boil. Boil, whisking constantly, for 1 minute, or until thickened.
  6. Off the heat, add 1 teaspoon of salt, the pepper, nutmeg, 1/2 cup of the Gruyère, and the Parmesan.
  7. Pour 1/3 of the sauce on the bottom of an 8 by 11 by 2-inch baking dish or another equivalently sized baking dish.
  8. Place the drained cauliflower on top (and the pasta, if using) and then spread the rest of the sauce evenly on top.
  9. Combine the bread crumbs with the remaining 1/4 cup of Gruyère and sprinkle on top.
  10. Drizzle 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil over the gratin.
  11. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the top is browned. Serve hot or at room temperature.

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Buckwheat Crepes with Asparagus, Gruyère, & Prosciutto

This is another yummy dish that I made while visiting my mom over spring break. It was a special recipe to try during our visit because my dad made amazing breakfast crepes every Sunday morning during my childhood and also because my grandfather was from Brittany; this is a classic dish from that region. I also absolutely love using my dad’s perfectly seasoned crepe pans! 🙂

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by David Tanis. Due to technical difficulties, I substituted whole wheat flour for buckwheat flour in the crepes- they were still delicious! (I would make them with buckwheat flour, if possible, next time though.) I also substituted prosciutto for ham in the filling.

According to Tanis, these crepes are traditionally served with a glass of sparkling cider. We gobbled them up with red wine and green salad. Spring-time asparagus heaven.

Yield: Serves 6

  • 1 cup/120 grams buckwheat flour
  • ½ cup/60 grams all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 ½ cups buttermilk
  • ½ teaspoon coarse salt, plus more as needed
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 ½ pounds medium asparagus, trimmed and bottom parts peeled, if desired
  • 12 slices (about 5-6 oz) prosciutto or 6 cooked ham slices
  • 2 cups grated Gruyère or Comté cheese
  • canola or other vegetable oil, for the pan, as needed
  1. Make the batter: Whisk together flours, eggs, buttermilk and salt until well combined. Put the batter in the fridge for at least 2 hours or, preferably, overnight. Check the consistency after the batter has rested. If necessary, thin batter with a little more buttermilk or water, to the consistency of heavy cream prior to cooking.
  2. Heat a crepe pan or well-seasoned cast iron skillet, about 8 inches in diameter, over medium-high heat. (I used 2 pans.)
  3. Using a pastry brush, apply a light coating of vegetable oil to the pan(s), then quickly ladle in about 1/4 cup of batter. Swirl the pan to spread the batter all the way to the perimeter. Let crepe brown on one side for a minute or so, until crisp. Flip it over with a spatula (or carefully with your fingers) and cook one minute more. Don’t worry about browning the second side. Adjust heat if crepe browns too quickly; the pan needn’t be scorching hot. Remove from heat if crepe is cooking too quickly.
  4. Remove the crepe from the pan and set it aside while you continue to cook the remaining batter. Stack crepes on top of each other as they are finished. (Crepes may be made in advance.)
  5. Bring a medium pot of generously salted water to a boil. Cook the asparagus for 1-2 minutes, or just until it is firm-tender, then drain and spread on a clean kitchen towel to cool.
  6. Heat oven to 400 degrees.
  7. On parchment-lined baking sheets, fill the crepes by laying each one top-side down (the prettier side), place a slice of prosciutto on top, sprinkle generously with cheese, and lay 3-5 asparagus spears on top, off to one side. Fold over to make a half-moon.
  8. Drizzle the folded crepes with a little melted butter, then bake until they are crisp and the cheese is melted, about 5 to 7 minutes. Serve immediately.

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