A snowy Fat Tuesday

February 17, 2015

The cure for what ails a snow day.

The cure for what ails a snow day.

Early predictions were that this would be the Mother of All Winters, with wave after wave of snow crashing down upon us, with polar vortices that would make normal Minnesota winters look tropical.

The average temperature in January was 47.  This did not abate the hysteria that reigned in advance of the first frozen precipitation of the year, which fell on northeastern Arkansas on the evening of Feb. 15.

The winter scare was just delayed, they told us. We were going to get ALL this saved-up winter weather at One Time. We were going to get from 6 to 12 inches of snow, and maybe some ice, too, for good measure. It was going to be frigid for at least a decade, and the ice in the streets would never, never melt. Dinosaurs would return. Civilization as we know it would vanish. Quick, go buy all the milk, bread and eggs you can, because the only way to stave off the frozen holocaust is French toast!

Yeah, right.

We got between two and three inches of mostly sleet Sunday night, extending into Monday morning, which was enough to lock Northeast Arkanas, where snow and ice removal equipment consists of a box of ice cream salt and a windshield scraper, down. That was OK. I didn’t really want to go get my ultrasound at 7:15 a.m. Monday. Most everything was either closed or opening late, as well, but a few hours of bright sunshine and rising temps has served to clear the bulk of the streets.

And to get me into the kitchen.

I made banana bread yesterday; had bananas that needed to be used, and the other makings around. Quite excellent banana bread, too; it’s something I don’t want often, but enjoy when I have it. I made mine with walnuts, and it’s quite delectable to warm it up with a schmear of butter.

Today, I am trying my hand at French bread; amazingly enough, in four or five years of making homemade bread, I have never made the standard French baguette, the simplest of all breads. So I figured it was time. Because I had a craving for scalloped onion dip, and that goes SO well on French bread, and that was a good enough reason.

First, the bread. I used the recipe and process from Steamy Kitchen, here, for the simple reason it promises a perfect loaf of French bread, and it’s the first one listed in the Google search for French bread recipe. (The recipe in both my bread cookbooks called for starters and long wait times, and I was neither about starter nor wait times.)

I mixed up the four basic bread ingredients — flour, salt, water, yeast — and set them to rising in the microwave, which makes a primo rising chamber if you will boil a cup of water in it for 2 minutes, then take it out and stash the bowl of dough inside. The warm, steamy environment is perfect. That done and the dough doubled, I punched it down (breadmaking is SO satisfying; I name each batch, and enjoy slugging and pummeling it), halved it, and made a couple of baguettes. Those rose for another 40 minutes, and into the oven they went.

Onion dip, ready to bake...

Onion dip, ready to bake…

Meanwhile, the onion dip. I do not recall if I found this recipe online or if I made it up; I have no recollection of finding it online, so I’m going to say I made it up. It calls for:

  • 8 oz cream cheese, at room temp
  • 1/2 cup grated melting cheese of some description (I used Emmenthaler, because I had it)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano
  • 2 medium onions, sliced and caramelized, with
  • six cloves of garlic confit
  • four or five slices of bacon, cut up into small pieces, browned until crisp, and then crumbled even more.
...and baked.

…and baked.

Caramelize the onions, with the garlic cloves (you could use raw ones if you don’t keep confit in your fridge) over low heat. When they’re golden brown, dump them, along with everything else, into the bowl of your stand mixer. Mix until it’s all nicely blended and the onions are shredded up by the mixer into tiny bits.

Put this into a baking dish or dishes. I used two small ramekins, as Child A and I will be enjoying this for dinner, maybe with tomato soup, tonight, and I did not want to have to deal with one big dish of it. This way we can each have our own. Sprinkle them with a bit more Parmigiano, and bake in a 375-degree oven until it’s lightly browned.

People. This stuff is freakin’ marvelous. Serious Sweet Baby Jesus territory, I am telling you. It can be made well in advance and baked right before you eat it. I put it in about as soon as I took the French bread out, figuring I would give the bread that much time to cool before I tore into it.

You could eat this on crackers, or spread it on a slice of bread as a sandwich spread with some really good ham or pastrami, or you can do like I love to do and slice you off some slices and use them to dip into the warm dip. To do that, you need a crusty loaf. It ain’t half bad on a Ritz cracker, either.

Child A finished up the King cake yesterday, and I have not yet made the second two. Guess I’ll see if they still want their cake at her office, even though Lent will have started. I do think that recipe is going to become my go-to for cinnamon rolls. The red beans and rice were well-received, though not as good as my usual ones because I had to use a different brand of Andouille sausage. And I made a shrimp stir-fry for Child A Sunday night, I think it was, at her request. Guess I made a fan with that one.

If you ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em get out, you might bring me some butter. I’m about out.

 

 

 

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2 Responses to “A snowy Fat Tuesday”

  1. Melissa Says:

    I’m drooling over your onion dip. I want I want. I am sure it would help soothe the dismay I felt over Oaklawn canceling Monday racing 😉

  2. kayatthekeyboard Says:

    Easy enough to make, and likely with stuff you’ve got on hand. It DOES soothe a multitude of pains.


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