Thursday, May 24, 2012

Between Soup and Side...French Onion Casserole

When I was in college I lived with some very interesting folks. You see I attended JMU or James Madison University in the late 80's and I had a very interesting time there. You see the town where JMU was located, Harrisonburg, was rather...well small. In every sense of the word. It has since grown and expanded and the University I went to is hardly recognizable any longer it's gotten so large. But trust me when I say it was not the intellectual or cultural mecca I had thought college should be, nor was it located in a town which fostered say...anything beyond the Baptist church.

However, Harrisonburg or "the Burg" as we called it had pockets of interesting and free thinking people. It was just hard to find them. Of course I was always on the search for them. I found them in the Music and Art departments and I found them in the school of hospitality. Creativity comes in many forms and across many disciplines.

 One of my friends Stevie in college was very creative. She had a knack for making up foods that were representations of themselves but not really the dish itself. She was from rural southern Virginia and had grown up eating very limited foods. In college she learned to experiment with both art and food! For example she loved to make casseroles. She loved to make casseroles out of dishes that were not casseroles at all. For example she would take sandwiches like a reuben and make a casserole out of it with corned beef and sour kraut and rye bread and cheese and somehow make a sauce and put it all together and bake it and voila! Casserole Rueben!

Well one day she challenged me to make a casserole out of whatever was in the fridge at the time. There were onions and swiss cheese and parmesan cheese. I also had beef stock and croutons. So I made soup...sort of. And this is how this recipe first came into being. It's not really a main dish casserole I will admit but as a side to pan roasted chicken thighs it can't be beat. It's got all the elements of the classic French onion soup but placed in another form, hence casserole. Give it a try, I am sure you will like it! Enjoy!!

Forrest's French Onion Casserole:
makes four servings

5 to 6 Medium Onions sliced
3 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of flour
1/2 cup Beef Broth
1/4 cup Sherry ( always have sherry on hand in the house)
1 1/4 cups garlic flavored salad coutons
4 tablespoons butter melted
1 cup Shredded Swiss Cheese
1/3 cup Shredded Parmesan


Saute onions in butter till they start to turn a lovely golden color
Add in the flour and stir in the beef broth.
Add sherry and season to taste with the salt and pepper
Melt the 4 tablespoons of butter and toss with the croutons
Place into a oven proof pan and top with the croutons
Sprinkle with the cheeses and place under a broiler until the cheese melts
About 2 mins don't brown too long or the croutons may become hard and chewy
Serve as a side dish

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