Ducky’s Easy French Onion Soup

Posted in Recipes at 6:28 pm by ducky

This probably doesn’t compare to a master’s French Onion soup, with the onions lovingly caramelized in a wine sauce for 40 minutes over the perfect amount of heat. However, it is a lot easier and still really tasty.

Get a bunch of onions — as many as will fit in your oven-safe pot — and take the skins off and that nasty stringy thing at the bottom of the onion. No need to chop the onions up (yet), except to trim as needed to make them all fit into your pot.

Put the onions in the afore-mentioned oven-safe pot. I use a 5.3 litre dutch oven, which holds about nine big onions.

Toss the pot+onions in the oven for three hours at 375F. (I put a lid on my dutch oven; the guy who taught me the trick about caramelizing leaves the lid off and cooks at 300F.) When the three hours are up, just leave them in the oven to cool down. (The oven will have sterilized everything; if you don’t open the door, you ought to be able to leave them in there safely for quite a long time.) I tend to let them cool for two or three hours because I am lazy and also tend to forget about them.

After the onions have cooled, pull them out of the oven and chop them up into bite-sized pieces. (Note that because the onions are now cooked, you can chop them up without any concern about onion tears!)

Put the onions back into the dutch oven and put in enough bouillon/stock to cover them. (I use Better Than Bouillon brand goo. I love that stuff.)

Add thyme, black pepper, and white pepper.

With my 5.3L Dutch oven, I use these amounts:

  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 20-40 turns of my black pepper grinder, which I think is between .75 and 1.5 teaspoons.
  • 20-40 turns of my white pepper grinder, which I think is between .5 and 1 teaspoon

This recipe is very forgiving: a wide range of pepper amounts will be yummy.

Note that I do not add any salt. Most bouillons have enough salt in them already. If you are using home-made soup stock, you might want to add salt.

Heat the wet mixture up. You don’t need to cook it for a long time, you’re just getting the spices mixed in and getting the liquid warm.

Meanwhile, haul out something which is broiler-safe and single-serving sized. We have this soup often enough that we bought specialized French Onion Soup bowls, but ramekins work also.

For each of your bowls, cut a piece of bread to fit the bowl, and cut your favourite cheese to cover the bread. (The canonical French Onion Soup cheese is Gruyere, but me, I prefer cheddar.)

When the wet mixture is warm, put it in your oven safe bowl, float the bread on top of the liquid, and put the cheese on top of the bread.

Take your bowls and put them on a cookie sheet (to catch any spills). Set your oven to broil and put the bowls plus cookie sheet in the oven.

Leave the oven door open a crack. Two reasons: 1) the range manual says to and 2) then you can see when they are done.

Watch. The cheese will melt and bubble and eventually turn golden. When you see just a little bit of brown, you should pull the bowls out. A little bit of singeing is okay, but you don’t want it to burn. This takes about five minutes.

Serve right away. Be careful, the bowls will be HOT!

I’m low class, I like to use a knife to cut up the bread and cheese on the top. (My husband is classier and manages to use only a spoon.) Have a piece of bread handy to clean the bowl with at the end, as you’ll have little yummy bits left.

This recipe and a 5.3L Dutch oven yields a LOT of liquid — maybe enough for ten bowls of soup? The good news is that the wet mixture stores nicely in either the freezer or the fridge. Put it in the oven safe bowls, toss it in the microwave to heat it up a bit, add bread and cheese, then put it in the broiler. (If you put it in the broiler without heating the liquid first, the liquid will be unsatisfyingly tepid.)



Ducky’s Vegan Paella Recipe

Posted in Recipes at 1:14 am by ducky

I had paella for the first time courtesy of my nephew Z and his wife R, and it was awesome.  A few weeks later, I had it at a restaurant and decided I had to have it!  After some trial-and-error, here is what I came up with:

In a saucepan, boil:

  • 3 C water
  • 2 heaping teaspoons full of Vegetable Better Than Boullion goo ← unsolicited endorsement, this stuff is great
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • 2-6 saffron threads
  • 1 C arborio rice ← Important! Arborio absorbs more water than regular rice

Meanwhile, sauté with a flat-edged spatula:

  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 4 stalks celery
  • 1 onion
  • 1/4 t cayenne OR 1 jalapeño
  • 1 poblano or 1 green pepper (poblano is slightly spicier)
  • 1 yellow or red pepper
  • (optional: green onions)
  • 4 garlic cloves

I listed the above in the rough inverse order of how much cooking they need.  I tend to put the garlic in RIGHT before I put in the spices.

After sautéeing until the onions are transparent:

  • 2 HEAPING t smoked paprika (which is probably more like 3 or 4 level teaspoons)
  • 12 turns black pepper from a pepper grinder (1 tsp?)
  • 7 turns white pepper from a pepper grinder

WARNING: stuff, especially the spices, will want to stick to the bottom of the pan.  I use a flat-edged wooden spatula to be able to get the crud off the bottom.  Adding a little more oil will reduce but not eliminate the desire to stick to the bottom.

Put in the spices and stir/cook for not very long (another 3-5 min?), then stir in:

  • 2 med tomatoes
  • all the stuff from the saucepan (rice plus liquids)
  • 1 C frozen peas
  • (optional) 1 handful of parsley or cilantro

I don’t have a good way of describing when to stop boiling the rice mixture and put it into the big pot.  When it gets close, the rice grains will get soft on the outside but still have just a little piece in the interior which will still be al dente in the interior.  At the end, the rice needs to be soft all the way through, but not overcooked; the timing works out for me such that the big pot is ready to receive the rice mixture at a time when the rice isn’t soft all the way through yet… so I usually put in the rice into the big pot when it is _slightly_ al dente still and let it do its final softening in the big pot.

I sometimes add some water here so that the water level is almost to the top of the veggies.

Simmer until the rice is soft all the way through, and most of the liquid should be below the level of the top of the rice.  (5min?  15min?)

I understand that the “authentic” way to do paella is to boil the rice with everything in the big pot, it’s a bit faster to start the rice cooking while the veggies are sautéeing.  It’s also authentic to stop stirring and let the bottom of the food brown, but I am too afraid of burning it so I have never managed that trick.

I try to adjust the quantities based on the size of the vegetables I have on hand.  If I have a huge honkin’ onion and huge honkin’ tomatoes, I might use three small peppers, 1.5 cups of rice, etc.  If I only have one small onion, I might add some scallions or shallots.

This is a very robust recipe. When I make it, I vary the ingredients quite a bit.  I don’t have set times, the heapingness of the teaspoons is very hand-wavy, etc.   I frequently need to add a little bit of oil late in the process to help keep stuff from sticking.

I think this is a recipe which you should not be afraid to vary a bit.  If you like things spicier, use a little more cayenne and a little less paprika.  If you like things less spicy, use a green bell pepper and no cayenne or jalapeño.  If you don’t have onions but do have scallions, use scallions.  Double batches work just fine.

It probably would work better if you had a real paella pan, but I don’t have one.  I make it in a dutch oven (with a side saucepan for cooking the initial rice mixture).


Ducky’s Vegan Cajun Red Beans and Rice Recipe

Posted in Recipes at 9:39 pm by ducky

I had a Significant Other many years ago who was from Louisiana, and taught me to love Red Beans and Rice.  Later, I became a vegetarian.  That was mostly okay, but I missed Red Beans and Rice.  I eventually got tired and worked out a vegetarian version and was really happy with how it turned out.  Here’s my recipe:

Soak 1 lb dried red beans overnight.

After they are well and truly soaked, drain off the water and put them in a slow cooker  Cover them with water or broth. (I really like Better Than Bullion goo; I use about 2 big teaspoons for one batch of this recipe.)

Chop two sausages of Tofurky Andouille sausage (comes in 4-packs) into thin disks and brown lightly.

Then saute with the sausage:

  • 4 diced celery stalks
  • 1 diced onion
  • 1/2 to 1 green pepper
  • 6 cloves garlic

After you’ve sauteed all the stuff, add it to the slow cooker.

Also toss into the slow cooker:

  • 1t salt
  • 2t white pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 waaay heaping teaspoon of smoked paprika
  • 3/4 t of cayenne pepper
  • about 2cm of jalapeno
  • 20 turns of a black pepper mill (I think this works out to about 2t)

Everybody’s slow cooker is going to be different, but I think mine takes about six hours on high.   It’s done when the beans are mushy.  For authenticity, at some point when the beans start to get mushy, smash 1/4 of them against the side of the slow cooker.  This makes the stew thicker and mixes more of the bean flavour into the liquid.

Serve over rice.


“Red beans” are a specific type of beans. Beans which happen to be red, like kidney beans, are not the same. If you can’t find dried red beans, you can probably find canned red beans, but they are more expensive. (You don’t have to soak them overnight, however.)  Edit 2021-08-18: Ignore what I said.  Kidney beans work just fine.

The Tofurkey Andouille sausage is really important for getting the taste right.  Other kinds of vegetarian sausage won’t give the right taste.  Tofurkey Andouille sausage is slightly hard to find, but our Whole Foods carries it.

The beans freeze well, but the rice does not.