Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Evenings on the Deck with French Onion Soup and Grilled Salmon Quesadillas

Late summer and early fall in Colorado are almost as beautiful as the winters here, except in a big blue sky and cool evening sort of way.  Our family’s favorite thing to do is be outdoors.  We take full advantage of every season.  That means skiing and snowshoeing when the snow blankets our beautiful mountains, and spending perfect summer nights under the stars either camping over the weekend, or searching the night skies from blankets on our lawn, finding constellations. 
We’ve hosted outdoor movies for years.  The kids invite their friends over – the deck is general admission, and seating includes sleeping bags or fold up chairs.  It gives me a chance to try new (or improved) refreshments on an appreciative audience, but year after year, a favorite rival to popcorn and chips is our family’s French Onion Soup and Grilled Salmon Quesadillas.  When the sun goes down, and the moon and stars light up the sky, the soup with its melted sweet onions, caramelized flavors and three cheeses broiled bubbly and brown, provide the perfect combination of tastes against our crispy tortillas filled with flaky salmon and white cheese. 
My French Onion Soup recipe is passed down from Grandpa’s side of the family, hailing from Montreal.  He used to make this with a heavenly, homemade beef stock, and with huge, sweet yellow onions.  The aromas wafting from the kitchen were always to die for.  I’ve experimented with the recipe over the years, and here’s the final version, sharpened with cheeses from a favorite brand.  Don’t forget to try the quesadillas…they go amazingly well with this soup.  We make them with salmon from our annual fishing trips to Canada, and we prefer these crispy stuffed tortillas to traditional grilled cheese sandwiches.  I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as our visitors on the deck, never too involved in the movie plot to enjoy these amazingly bold flavors.
French Onion Soup
3 T butter
1 T olive oil
5 c onions, sliced (about 3 onions)
Salt and Pepper to taste
½ t sugar
1.5 T flour
½ c cooking sherry
6 c beef stock (4 cans)
1 T fresh thyme
Sargento Ultra Thin Swiss Slices
Sargento Ultra Thin Provolone slices
Sargento 6 Cheese Italian Blend (shredded)
Directions:  Cook onions in melted butter and olive oil in a covered pot for 15 minutes.  Uncover, season with salt, pepper and sugar.  Cook another 30 minutes, stirring as needed, until onions caramelize and turn a light golden brown.  Sprinkle flour over onions and cook a few more minutes.  Add sherry, stock and thyme.  Bring to a boil and turn down to a simmer.  Cook 40 minutes.  Adjust salt and pepper.  Add baguette slice on top of each bowl of soup.  Cover the bread with cheese slices.  Broil until slightly melted.  Add shredded  cheese on top of each bowl and continue to broil until cheese is mostly melted and browned. 
Grilled Salmon Quesadillas
Boneless fillets of salmon
Flour tortillas
Sargento 6 Cheese Italian Blend (shredded)
Flavored salt or lemon pepper
Dried dill
Directions:  For salmon fillets, rinse and pat dry.  Season with dill and flavored salt or a lemon pepper.  Dot with butter.  Grill or bake.  If baking, bake at 350 F for 10-20 minutes, depending on thickness of fillet.  As a general rule, bake 10 minutes for every ½ inch thickness of the fillet.  Remove from oven, let cool and flake salmon.  Melt butter on griddle.  Place one tortilla over butter.  Sprinkle cheese over entire tortilla.  Place flaked salmon over cheese.  Melt another pat of butter on another part of the griddle.  Place one tortilla over butter and let sit until pliable.  Place this tortilla over salmon and cheese.  Flip as necessary.  Cook on each side until golden brown.