February 14, 2011

The Elegance of Sleigh Rides & Warming Winter Soups!

The Maine House took visitors over to Vermont last week to experience a romantic winter wonderland sleigh ride in the snow-covered hills of southern Vermont. Those gentle draft horses can simply whisk you away into sheer beauty and quietness. If you ever are fortunate enough to enjoy a sleigh ride, know that you can schedule your ride during the day, or in the evening under the stars and moonlight.  Either way, it will create a lasting memory that will stay with you for years to come! It is both romantic and magical....just dress warmly and take along your favorite blanket or quilt.

 Heading back to Maine, we chatted away about our experience and looked forward with anticipation as to what was on the evening menu.  Estelle's had prepared the dining table for us knowing we would all be ready for our warm winter soups and freshly baked breads. It proved to be a perfect winter weekend!

A Maine House Mosaic

Estelle's French Onion Soup
8 large yellow onions, peeled and sliced
2 T. olive oil
2 T. butter
1 1/2 T. sugar
1 1/2 T. salt
3 cans  Beef Broth
32 oz. chicken broth
1/2 cup good Marsala wine
1 dried bay leaf
3 sprigs thyme, tied with kitchen twine
2 t. pepper
1 baguette, cut into 1/2 thick slices
1/2 shredded Gruyere cheese for each serving

Combine oil and butter in a frying pan and put all 8 cups of onions(sliced thinly) in pan. Add sugar and salt and toss to coat. Cook onions on medium low heat for 40 minutes to 1 hour stirring occasionally.  Add onions to your  slow cooker. Top with broth, wine, bay leaf and thyme. Cook on high for 2-3 hours.

While your soup is cooking, slice one baguette into slices about 2 inches in thickness. Place baguette slices on your baking sheet and place in a 350 degree F. preheated oven for 20 minutes.

 Once your onions are tender after 3 hours, put a baguette slice in a soup bowl. Ladle the soup on top of the baguette slice. Grate Guyere cheese generously over the top. Put soup bowls on cookie sheet and bake in 400 degree oven for 10-15 minutes until cheese is melted and gooey!

Estelle's Butternut Squash & Pear Soup
2 T. unsalted butter
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 carrot, peeled, chopped
1 leek (white part only), chopped, rinsed well
1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded, chopped
2 Bartlett pears, peeled, chopped
6 cups vegetable stock or water
2 bay leaves
1/2 t. ground nutmeg
1 T. kosher salt, or to taste
1/4 t. pepper, or to taste
Extra-virgin olive oil
Toasted pine nuts
Crumbled chèvre

Melt butter in large saucepan over medium. Add onion, celery, carrot and leek. Cook, stirring, 10 minutes until vegetables soften and start to brown. Add squash, pear, stock or water, bay leaves, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Raise heat to high; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium. Simmer 20 to 30 minutes or until vegetables are very soft. Discard bay leaves. Using immersion blender or hand mixer, or in food processor or blender, purée until smooth. Pour soup into bowls. If desired, drizzle with oil, or sprinkle with pine nuts or cheese!

"Announced by all the trumpets of the sky,
Arrives the snow, and, driving o'er the fields,
Seems nowhere to alight: the withered air
Hides hills and woods, the river, and the heaven,
And veils the farm-house at the garden's end.
The sled and traveler stopped, the courier's feet
Delayed, all friends shut out, and housemates sit
Around the radiant fireplace, enclosed
In a tumultuous privacy of storm."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

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