We have a brand-new cookbook in the house. That, in and of itself, is not that unusual. The connection – because connections are always good – is the chef/author Alon Shaya, is a local boy and the son of Nonna’s caretaker, Aliza!
The book is Shaya: An Odyssey of Food, My Journey Back to Israel and it’s full of fabulous recipes, but what sets it apart from other cookbooks are the stories describing how this multi-James Beard Award Winner got to where he is from his humble roots outside of Philadelphia. To say he was a bit of a wild kid is an understatement.
I’m reading, laughing, and cringing at some of his youthful antics. I can relate to a few of them but it’s the journey that makes us who we are – and he’s had one hellava journey from his birth in Tel Aviv to where he is, right now.
What I really love about the book is how he weaves the stories and the recipes and how he grows and changes. It’s one of the – many – reasons I love Jacques Pepin so much. Taking those experiences and learning, growing, and, at some point, deciding what’s important in life. At three months from retirement, it’s something I can totally relate to. While my professional cooking days are far behind me, the home cook is constantly evolving.
Victor was reading the book last night and came into the office with the recipe for the Five Onion Soup and said I could make it any time I wanted. Being that he is not a fan of French Onion Soup – something I love – I jumped on it before he could realize what he had said!
Alon states that the soup is a lesson in patience: you could rush it or skimp on it, but the payoff would be nowhere near as great. I totally agree with that sentiment, so… take the time to make it right!
And… since we know the mother of the chef who wrote the book and said chef is in town doing a book signing, we will be getting our book signed this week!
The soup is one of those totally unexpected culinary treasures. I have made French Onion Soup for decades and have always spent the time to caramelize the onions, and kinda making it a meaty beefy soup. It’s a riff on one of the soups we used to serve at the Hyatt Lake Tahoe, lo, these many years ago. This recipe cooks the onions slowly without the caramelization. And, it’s creamy. A totally different flavor profile. I’m in culinary love. I can’t wait to cook more of his recipes!
Five Onion Soup with Provolone Toast
adapted from Shaya: An Odyssey of Food, My Journey Back to Israel by Alon Shaya
- 2 leeks, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 2 white onions, thinly sliced
- 2 red onions, thinly sliced
- 6-8 shallots (about 3/4 pound), chopped
- 2 bunches scallions, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1 qt chicken stock
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 1/4 cup dry Marsala or red wine
- 1 tbsp Morton kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp white pepper
- 2/3 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
- 16 fresh basil leaves, torn
- 1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp tabasco sauce
- 8 slices ciabatta or baguette
- 8 slices provolone cheese
Wash the leeks thoroughly. Melt the butter with 1/4 cup olive oil in a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the leeks, onions, shallots, and scallions, stirring and coating them well with the fat.
Decrease the heat to low, and slowly cook, stirring occasionally, until they are all melting but not showing any color – about an hour.
Stir in the flour until it’s completely incorporated. Add the cream, stock, Marsala, salt, and white pepper. Increase the heat to medium and simmer until it is rich and thick – another 30 or so minutes. Stir regularly to keep flour from scorching.
When the soup is very thick, stir in the Worcester, Tabasco, Parmesan, and basil.
Meanwhile, make the croutons. Heat the oven to 400°F. Drizzle bread slices with reserved olive oil and toast in the center of the oven until very crisp.
To serve: Ladle soup into bowls, layer croutons over soup and place provolone cheese on top. Place under broiler and broil until cheese is speckled brown. Or hit it with a blowtorch!
It’s officially still winter for a few more days. I think everyone should make this.
I also think you should buy the book.