The room with indigo stained-wood cabinets and stainless steel appliances was where I discovered my passion for all things culinary. Our blue kitchen was where I learned most of my lessons in cooking and entertaining. It was where I had successes and occasional failures. That blue kitchen wasn’t just a place for food. It seemed to be everyone’s favorite room in the house. It was a place to talk, make food, eat, create, entertain, or do homework.
This summer, my parents decided it was time to embark on a new journey and sell the house. After the initial shock wore off, I told myself the move shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Mom often talked about wanting to move and design a new home, but time passed quickly, and before we knew it, we spent sixteen years living there. The move didn't happen until I moved out.
This week, I’m “home” visiting my parents. The city is the same, the address is different. But, it is as if they took our home with them — the kitchen is still blue! Many elements of home came with them: the Danish furniture, the handmade ceramics, the various potted cacti in the entryway. I quickly discovered, however, it’s not the building or the things that make a place home, it’s the people that seamlessly makes this new space feel cozy and home-like.
As a family, we love to entertain. Growing up, I learned a lot about entertaining from my parents, and it is apparent that our entertaining style is heavily influenced by mom’s Norwegian culture. We often host dinner parties for friends and family, and every time I’m home to visit, mom makes sure we invite guests over for a meal. After the move, that didn't change. This is the menu we tried last Saturday.
Wine Lover’s Evening
Inspired By: Williams Sonoma Entertaining Cookbook
Riesling Onion Soup with Herbed Croutons
Pear, Endive, Pecan Salad & Cheese Platter
Seared Duck Breast with Pinot Noir Sauce served over Sautéed Savoy Cabbage & Turnips
Potato & Apple Galette
Orange Butter Cakes with Creme Anglaise
We commenced the creation of our four course dinner in the early afternoon. Dad and I took on our traditional roles — Dad was in charge of meat; I was in charge of dessert. The operatic music of Pavarotti and Andrea Bocelli soared through the kitchen as we chopped vegetables and whisked together ingredients. The kitchen filled with an amazing blend of aromas — the scents of butter searing on the frying pan, pecans toasting on a skillet, and warm citrus cakes baking in the oven.
Making this meal was truly a family production. It's not every day we make a four course meal, but sometimes dedicating a day to cooking is necessary therapy. This because, as dad says, were created to create.
As with testing any new recipes, some become favorites, and others we decide to forgo trying again. I liked much of what we made, but didn't love it all. We discovered that we aren’t huge fans of duck meat. (Dad keeps saying that if we had grown up with duck instead of chicken, we would then think of duck as normal and chicken as slightly strange.) Our favorites from Saturday’s dinner were: the Riesling Onion Soup, the Herbed Croutons, the Pear, Endive, Pecan Salad, and the Creme Anglaise. Today I am sharing the soup recipe with you.
Riesling Onion Soup with Herbed Croutons
Adapted from Williams Sonoma Entertaining
Serves 8-12 as appetizer or 6-8 as main course
3 tbsp Salted Butter
4 Large (about 2lbs, 1kg) Yellow Onions, Thinly Sliced
2 Leeks with Green Tops, Sliced
1 Garlic Clove, Chopped
1 ½ tbsp Dried Tarragon Leaves
3 tbsp Flour
2 cups (16oz, 500ml) Light, Full, Dry Riesling (avoid a late harvest sweet Riesling)
6 cups (48oz, 1 ½ l) Reduced-Sodium Chicken Stock
Coarse Salt & Freshly Ground Pepper
½ Fresh Artisanal White Bread, Cubed or Sliced
2 tbsp Olive Oil
2 tbsp Salted Butter, Melted
1 tbsp Mixed Dried Herbs: Tarragon, Thyme, Marjoram, Sage, Rosemary
½ lb Italian Fontina Cheese, Grated
In a large, wide saucepan melt the butter. Add the onions, leeks, garlic and tarragon and sauté, stirring often, until the onions are soft and golden, about 15 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 3 more minutes. Pour in the wine, bring to a simmer and cook until reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Pour in the chicken stock, return to a simmer, reduce the heat to low and cook, uncovered, about 45 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
To make the herbed croutons, preheat the oven to 300°F.
Mix the olive oil, butter and herbs together in a small bowl. Lightly coat the bread cubes in the oil mixture and place on a lined baking sheet. Toast the croutons in the oven, turning once, until crisp and golden brown, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
Ladle the soup into the bowls. Top each bowl with croutons and cheese. Serve warm.
*Everything can can be made a day in advance. The soup should be stored in the refrigerator and reheated gently before serving. The croutons should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature.