Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Feeling French.

Photo taken in Versaille at Marie Antoinette's "village."

Today, I'm in the mood for all things French and it all started with me wanting to recreate my Hubby's mouth-watering french onion soup he made for me on V-day. I walked over to the local Trader Joe's in my oversized black sunnies, black top, cuffed blue jeans and black pliage Longchamp bag. As I left TJ's, I had a baguette popping out of my canvas grocery bag and thought to myself, "This reminds me of Paris." Sigh. So that brings us to our topic today...

When I was in Paris this past Spring, every other woman could be seen toting a Longchamp signature le pliage bag. They come in various sizes and colors and women would stuff their lives into these bags. Though some wear and tear could be seen, the handles never seemed to give out! I decided I had to come back to the US with one and I'm glad I did. The high-quality, lightweight tote bags feel as though you're carrying nothing, which allows you to stuff them to your heart's desire. 

But anyway, I joined the Facebook Longchamp fan club and found out they were having a sale on this website: Longchamp Sale. Their prices for le pliage tote bags are quite reasonable, I'd say they're about the same price as the ones in Paris (it's cheaper there). Longchamp has been around since 1948 and remains as a reputable French leather and luxury goods company. I'd prefer them over Coach, which seems to be overplayed, overdone and the prices are pretty similar.

Some things I observed about French women and their style:

* They don't wear berets (such a common stereotype)
* They do wear a lot of black and grays
* A worn-in leather jacket is a must
* Ankle, knee-high, thigh-high boots tucked into skinnies or paired with tights
* Dark tights with skirts, shorts and dresses
* Minimal make-up: either smokey eyes or a red lip
* They know how to brilliantly tie their scarves in the most creative ways
* Layers, layers, layers!
* They love nautical stripes
* Chucks and Levis are hot, and they're American!
* They never look like they're trying too hard

Switching topics... we finally bought a dutch oven pot from the Le Creuset outlet at Citadel for about 75% off the retail price! They come in many bright colors, but I always tend to fall for the subtle colors, like cream. My cousin Gabe lent us his huge dutch oven pot the the first time the Hubby created it so he convinced us to make our first purchase. A dutch oven is necessary when making french onion soup, we've tried it with a normal steel pot and it just doesn't cook as evenly. 

Now, if you're interested in attempting the french onion soup recipe, I challenge you to go for it. Just be prepared to be around for a few hours. I usually hate spending more money in order to make something from a recipe (which is why I don't normally use recipes), but the soup was better than the ones I tried in Paris, really! So be prepared to spend more than $15.

Recipe taken from Tyler Florence on Food Network and improvised by my Hubby

1/2 cup unsalted butter (use a tad bit less if you don't want to get a heart attack)
4 onions, sliced (something they shrink a ton, so add an extra onion if you love em)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 bay leaves (dried ones work just fine)
2 fresh thyme sprigs (again, dried ones are ok too)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup red wine, about 1/2 bottle
3 heaping tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 quarts beef broth
(2 stalks of celery and carrots added to the broth portion and taken out when ready to serve)
1 baguette, sliced
1/2 pound grated Gruyere (after trying several kinds, I prefer cave-aged Gruyere from TJ's)

Melt the stick of butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, and salt and pepper and cook until the onions are very soft and caramelized, about 25 minutes. Add the wine, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the wine has evaporated and the onions are dry, about 5 minutes. Discard the bay leaves and thyme sprigs. Dust the onions with the flour and give them a stir. Turn the heat down to medium low so the flour doesn't burn, and cook for 10 minutes to cook out the raw flour taste. Now add the beef broth, bring the soup back to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper (A culinary chef told us to reduce the broth by half for a richer taste, I highly recommend doing this, it takes a couple hours of simmering, but it's worth it. You can add an extra quart of beef broth if you plan on reducing).

Making french onion soup
french onion soup
When you're ready to eat, preheat the broiler. Ladle the soup into bowls (use ceramic bowls, like the creme brulee kind, but larger), top each with 2 slices of bread and top with cheese. Put the bowls into the oven to toast the bread and melt the cheese.

My version of a Croque Madame: 2 slices of whole wheat bread with spinach, prosciutto, gruyere and a sunny side up egg

French Macarons
How can I talk about French things without mentioning my favorite bite-sized desserts? I leave you with my all-time favorite macaron maker, oh how I miss thee.

Au revoir!

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