When we first started this blog, it was hard to imagine that anyone would see it except our friends, who could be subjected to nagging and arm-twisting until they clicked on the links we sent them to our creations. Thanks to blogging “tools”, we could even track where the 20 or so hits we were getting each day came from. Then one day a kind soul, unknown to either of us, commented on a recipe! Someone in Toronto somehow stumbled onto She Cooks, He Cleans and thought enough of our Eggplant Casserole to say something nice about it! We had international acclaim! There was rejoicing!
Of course, when a “new” person comments on your blog and they provide a link to their blog, you must go check out who this person is. That is how I was introduced to the illustrations of Alex Boake. Alex is not only an incredibly talented illustrator and comic artist – she is a wonderful cook! Her blog, which you should visit frequently, is a happy marriage of food, recipes, and creative illustrations.
Recently Alex contacted us with a proposition for a “recipe swap”, in which she would prepare one of our recipes and illustrate it, and we would prepare one of hers and photograph it. I was very excited and thrilled with her suggestion – since I had been following her blog, I knew she had swapped recipes before with The Domestic Man and Jan’s Sushi Bar (two excellent blogs, by the way). Those swaps turned out beautifully! I picked Alex’s Onions au Gratin – I am a sucker for anything with cheese and I loved that she adapted her grandmother’s recipe, a family favorite, to be gluten-free. I can see why it is a favorite – it is fantastic!
This dish is perfect with roasted or grilled meats; its creamy cheese sauce and crisp, buttery crumb topping provides a decadent contrast to the simply prepared meat. It would also work as a vegetarian entree, provided of course that dairy is not a problem. Hoping that Alex will forgive me, I’ve taken a few liberties with her original recipe (found here) – mostly due to what ingredients I had on hand, but also because I have a compulsion to tinker with things. However, I think the result is still true to her creation. Thank you, Alex, for including us in the recipe swapping!
- 2 large sweet onions (or onions equal to ~4 generously-packed cups of sliced onions)
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1 cup water
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (pastured)
- 2 tablespoons arrowroot flour or tapioca flour
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/4 cup of onion cooking liquid
- 1 cup half and half, or whole milk
- 16 ounces grated organic cheese (I used mixture of sharp cheddar and smoked gouda)
- a few grindings of black pepper
- dash or two of cayenne pepper
- dash or two of Spanish hot, smoked paprika
- 3/4 cup gluten-free breadcrumbs (such as made from Savory Almond Flour Muffins or Primal Sandwich Bread)
- 1-2 tablespoons melted butter (pastured)
Preheat oven to 375F. Butter a 1-quart au gratin dish or 9×9 baking dish.
Peel the onions and cut in half, lengthwise. Cut into slices, crosswise. (I used sweet Vidalia onions which are plentiful around Georgia; any sweet onion or yellow onion should work.)
Put onions, water, and 1/2 teaspoon salt into a deep pan. Bring the water to a boil; cover and cook for 10 minutes. The onions should be limp, but not mushy. Reserve 1/4 cup of the liquid for the sauce, then drain the onions into a colander.
Using the same pan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat. Whisk in the flour and allow it to cook for about a minute in the butter, stirring constantly. Add the reserved onion cooking-liquid and the half and half. Stir well to eliminate any clumps, reduce heat, and cook (continuing to stir) until the mixture is thick. Remove from heat and stir in the cheese until it melts. Season with salt, pepper, cayenne, and smoked paprika. The sauce should be VERY thick.
Stir the cooked onions into the cheese sauce until thoroughly mixed; pour into the prepared au gratin dish.
Crumb the bread by pulsing in a small food processor, or cut it into small cubes by hand. Toss in the melted butter until well mixed. Arrange the breadcrumbs on top of the onion gratin. (You may want to hold back some of the crumbs to scatter over the gratin later in the baking stage, since bubbling will cause spaces to form in the crust.)
We were recently at a yard sale for some good friends and family, and came away with a box of records! Whatta mean I have too many already? Ha! Here’s a few from the haul. First up, the one, the only Ella Fitzgerald with Whisper Not . Pretty much anything she did was stellar, and this one is a good one. Her “Sweet Georgia Brown” or the great “Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most” just move me.
I know we’ve mentioned Gerry Mulligan here before, but his output was so great- and varied- no reason not to take another look. Getting At the Village Vanguard on LP was a real treat. Mulligan leads a big band here, and the results are just as swinging as you’d expect. How can you resist an album with “Lady Chatterley’s Mother” on it? You can’t!