Le Pichet’s French Onion Soup Recipe

1214frenchonionThis is the recipe for french onion soup perfection – that uber rich broth that holds velvety onions and is covered in burnt cheese. Le Pichet is in Seattle and a def must-visit if you haven’t been in some time.

For Le Pichet’s French onion soup (aka soupe a l’oignon gratinée or gratin lyonnais), chef/co-owner Jim Drohman uses at 14-month cave-aged Comté cheese, which has a strong, nutty flavor and smells slightly of the barnyard. On its own, the cheese is satisfying, but melted over a bowl of rich, French onion soup, it’s sublime. At Le Pichet and Café Presse, “duck jello” is added to the onion soup. Duck jello is the term Drohman uses to refer to the gelatin-rich duck juices that are left in the bottom of the pot when slow-cooking duck legs for confit. This sort of addition is typical of the French bistro kitchen, where nothing tasty is ever allowed to go to waste. Since most home cooks aren’t regularly cooking duck legs, use duck or chicken demi-glace, which can be purchased in small containers in stores, but which can also be left out of this recipe. Read more about Comte cheese here.

Chef/co-owner Jim Drohman serves this soup with 14-month cave-aged Comte cheese

8 servings

4 cloves garlic, germ removed
2 1/2 pounds yellow onions
1 sprig thyme
1 bay leaf
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1 1/2 cup sherry
3/4 cup dry white wine
2 quarts chicken stock
1/8 cup duck or chicken demi-glace, optional
Salt and black pepper
2 cups grated Comté cheese
8 slices rustic country bread, preferably day-old

Peel the onions and slice thinly. Slice the garlic thinly. Wash, dry and stem the thyme. Chop it finely.

Bake the slices of country bread on a sheet pan in a very low oven until dry and crispy.

In a large soup pot set over medium heat, sweat the onions and garlic with the butter, stirring often, until richly colored. Add the sherry, increase the heat and cook until the sherry is almost completely reduced. Add the white wine and reduce by half. Add the thyme, bay leaf, chicken stock and duck demi-glace (if using) and bring to a simmer. Simmer to combine the flavors, about 20 minutes.

Carefully skim the soup to remove any fat. Correct the seasoning with salt and pepper.

Ladle the soup into individual soup bowls. Top first with the crouton and then with a nice layer of Comté cheese. Heat under the broiler until crusty and golden. Serve immediately.

Best Soups in Seattle

I loved putting together this list of what I think are the best soups in Seattle. The article ran in January’s Seattle Magazine, but I’ve condensed it here to a selection of soups that I would personally recommend, versus having to include neighborhoods across town. I would eat these soups any day of the week. What am I missing?!


Tom’s Tomato Soup at Dahlia Bakery and Dahlia Lounge 
In the jewel-box space that houses the Dahlia Bakery, people queue up year-round for takeout soups, salads and sandwiches. Just like mom used to make, Tom’s tasty tomato soup (available daily) is loaded with canned tomatoes and cream in perfect proportions, creating a super tomatoey soup that is best eaten with the brown-butter croutons (always served in Dahlia Lounge, next door; order as an extra at the bakery).
Tom's Tasty Tomato

Continue reading

Homemade Yogurt

yogurt + bowlHomemade yogurt is ultimately an easy kitchen project anyone can put together with success, as long as you’re willing to accept a little inconsistency………

When I was in elementary school, my mom packed my lunch every day. I wasn’t one of those kids who glamorously got to wait in line for a hot lunch; I was the one with a grease-stained paper bag. On the very rare occasion, my mom would pack up a yogurt cup. I favored the kind with sweetened yogurt on top and jam-like fruit on the bottom.

Thankfully, my taste buds have matured and the thought of pre-sweetened yogurt is cringe-inducing. And while I eat yogurt daily, I never considered making it at home until my friend Lynda eco-guilted me by pointing out my habit creates considerable waste from all the plastic yogurt containers I blow through. This simple statement of fact forced me into the kitchen.

Homemade yogurt is ultimately an easy kitchen project anyone can put together with success, as long as you’re willing to accept a little inconsistency. Made from the binding of milk proteins, homemade yogurt will vary in texture and richness each time you make it. Temperatures, good bacteria and milk fats will vary slightly with every batch you make, so no two will be identical.

To make yogurt, milk is heated to just below boiling and then cooled—a warm jump start wherein good bacteria can proliferate—and then held at a consistently warm temperature for hours. You need to introduce good bacteria (just like bread yeast) to the milk to activate the fermentation process. You can use either non-fat, low-fat or whole milk as all produce excellent results. The biggest challenge with homemade yogurt is maintaining a warm space needed for the milk proteins to bind together. You can incubate warmed milk in a number of ways: storing in a cooler with a hot water bottle, placing in a warm cupboard next to a hot water heater, even using one of those 70s-era plug-in yogurt makers. Over the years, I’ve settled on a simpler technique that doesn’t require special equipment—justyour oven.

After the yogurt sets up in the oven overnight, it is chilled where it will thicken further. Homemade yogurt varies in texture. I prefer a smooth, pourable consistency, but you can easily manipulate yogurt into a thicker, lusher product.  If the final batch is too loose or you are after a Greek-style yogurt, strain the chilled yogurt through a fine mesh sieve at room temperature for several hours. This produces less yogurt (about a pint, depending on just how thick you want it) and a cup or two of whey that you can use in another recipe (try using it to cook polenta).

For a hands on class about homemade fermentation, including how to make yogurt, kefir kombucha and more, check out my upcoming class schedule. Hope to see you there!




makes 4 cups | start to finish: 30 minutes active time + overnight rest

6 cups of dairy milk
4 tablespoons plain yogurt with live yogurt cultures

Heat the milk over medium heat until quite hot, but not boiling—about 180 degrees if you’re using a thermometer. Remove pot from the heat and let cool until it’s 115 degrees, still nicely warm, but not immediately hot to the touch.

While the milk is cooling, preheat the oven to 120 degrees or your lowest setting. Turn oven off once it’s been warmed, but do not open the door.

When milk has reached 115 degrees, place the 4 tablespoons of plain yogurt into a large, non-metal bowl and slowly whisk in one cup of the warmed milk. Add the rest of the milk to the bowl and stir to combine. Cover with a large plate or plastic wrap. If using plastic wrap, poke a few holes on top to allow air flow;  if you’re using a plate, air will escape around the edges.

Working quickly, place the bowl in the oven and close the door. Turn on the oven light, if you have one, and let the bowl sit overnight.

In the morning, remove the bowl from oven and test the set of your yogurt. If the yogurt is very thin, like heavy cream, and you’d like it thicker, you may reheat your oven to 120 degrees and place the bowl in the oven for another 4-6 hours. Afterwards, move to the refrigerator to chill completely, where yogurt will continue to thicken slightly.

If you would like a Greek-style final yogurt, set a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl and drain off the whey. The longer you strain the yogurt the thicker it will become, so be mindful and check the set every hour or so.

Store the final yogurt in a covered glass jar or plastic container in the refrigerator. Yogurt will keep for several weeks. Save four tablespoons as a starter for your next batch.

washed jars • store in fridge

Batido Recipe – a Better Breakfast

chamomileAs a food writer, cook and an urban farmer, most people assume I eat well all the time. It is my job to test recipes, eat out and harvest seasonal produce and any day finds me doing any combination of these work tasks. While it is likely true that I do eat well (comparatively speaking) for someone who grows and cooks food for a living I am often astonished at my poor nutrition. There are plenty of occasions where I will skip a meal, forget to drink water the entire day or succumb to ‘Popcorn Dinners’ because I am too tired or lazy to cook after a long day running around. Continue reading

Leafy Greens & Coconut Milk Soup :: Clean Eating

Leafy Green & Coconut-Broth SoupThe new year is a great time to recover from holiday indulgences. Personally, I’m so over food and drinks just now. Instead,  I’m craving clean eating foods that I know will work through my system quickly and provide me with energy. (I’ve been counterbalancing bourbon with green juice for a week!) Craving fuel, January 1 is when I typically make a shopping list and stock up on frozen cut fruit for smoothies, bunches of leafy, winter greens and make sure I have some lean proteins available for adding to meals. Continue reading

DIY Christmas Gifts

spiced pecansA lot of people have been asking me for recipe and gift-giving ideas this week, so I figured a round-up post was in order. Avoid the last-minute shoppers this weekend and spend time in your kitchen instead. These gifts can be elegant, feel special and are delicious. Make sure to package them simply – channel your inner Martha Stewart.

Preserved Lemons – Preserved lemons are a staple of Moroccan cuisine but can be used in Continue reading

How To :: Homemade Herb Vinegar

Oregano vinegarFresh herbs can get expensive if you’re buying them at the store, so I like to grow my own. I always make sure to use every last sprig. If you have leftover herbs, or a prolific plant that needs cutting back, you can dry herbs for your spice cupboard (see the sidebar “Spice Cupboard” in chapter 6, “Nuts”) or use them to flavor vinegar. Herb vinegars are made of two simple ingredients—vinegar and fresh herbs—and can be made in minutes. Subtle in flavor, herb vinegars impart an undertone of herb along with the tang of vinegar. They can be used in salads and vinaigrettes.