I love leftovers, but I do not like the word leftovers. Three honeyed carrots, one slice of salmon or half a chicken, leftovers are the backbone of many meals and the fridge light of my life. I do not think of leftovers in negative terms, as in, all leftovers must go. Because there’s no bit too small, no stray yolks or scoop of couscous I can’t use, those foil-wrapped chunks and square containers should rise against the word leftover and demand to be called ingredients. A good bread-baker uses bubbling starter to make new bread, and the good cook uses leftovers – hopefully not bubbling, nor live – to make new meals.
Today our refrigerator pal is onion-soup onions. Scanning your shelves, you think, what? This is not a leftover I have. Dear friends it’s October, and time to simmer soup. If you haven’t yet done so you should, and you can start with my favorite French Onion-Cider Soup, here. If like me you’re heavy-handed with the onions, you can enjoy a few rounds of soup and still have plenty left over – a translucent golden heap, steeped in loving wine-kissed soup. I look forward to this heap, because soup-smooched onions are a bonus, an ingredient so prized there should be onion soup-onion-hunting pigs. Now – if you can resist caramelized snacking by the spoonful, here are five easy ways to use them:
1. Croque Monsieur Football Edition The Parisians would literally croak seeing their beloved snack all faux’ed up and served to screaming Chiefs fans. But can they argue with greatness? To make these open-faced sandwiches, start with slices of thick, eggy bread like challah or brioche. Swipe on a dab of grainy mustard, then add Black Forest ham and onion soup-onions. Top with sliced Gruyere (or Fontina, or Jarlsberg) cheese, and sprinkle top with a dash of cayenne pepper. Lay sandwiches on sheet pan and place under hot broiler, just until cheese bubbled and browns. Serve (to viewers) immediately.
2. French Onion Omelet I made one of these for Josie earlier today, a rolled yellow omelet stuffed with spinach leaves, soup onions, melting Gruyere and nutmeg, and when asked how it was she could not answer, just a sound. To use onion soup-onions in omelets, first make sure they’re drained. Although your soup is ostensibly gone, the onions still hold liquid – so before using, let onions rest briefly on a paper towel to dry. On to the omelets: for wonderful fillings, try combining onions with fresh spinach, Swiss cheese and a dash of nutmeg, or mixed wild mushrooms with onions and goat cheese.
3. Maple-Onion Roast Butternut Squash Preheat oven to 400 F. Halve, peel, and remove seeds from a large (approx 3 lbs) butternut squash. Cut into 3/4″ chunks, then toss squash pieces in bowl with 1 cup onion soup-onions, 1/4 cup maple syrup, and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Season to taste with sea salt, ground pepper and dried thyme. Spread squash mixture on sheet pan and bake approximately 40 minutes, or until squash pieces are lightly browned on sides, and softened. Stir and turn squash pieces every 12-15 minutes to better caramelize and avoid burning.
4. Onion-Dill Cream Cheese Not your average spread. In food processor fitted with metal blade, place 8 oz softened cream cheese, one large scoop onion soup-onions, and a few large sprigs of fresh dill. Process to almost smooth, leaving a few onion pieces, occasionally stopping processor to scrape down sides. Turn mixture into bowl and stir in sea salt and ground pepper to taste. Try serving with bagels and marinated cucumbers, or pumpernickel and smoked salmon.
5. Pecan, Brie and French Onion Quesadillas Here I borrow (and mess around with ) a great idea from Gwen Ashley Walters, a marvelous blogging chef who first shared these quesadillas in her July 2009 Tell Simmer. Take 2 (8-inch) flour tortillas and spread each with a heaping tablespoon of chopped onion soup-onions. Divide 3 tablespoons chopped, toasted pecans and sprinkle each half over onions. Add 3 ounces (about 1/2 cup) chopped Brie cheese over one half of each tortilla. Sprinkle pinch of sea salt and dash each of nutmeg and cayenne pepper over cheese on each tortilla. Fold tortillas in half, pressing gently. Cook quesadillas on a preheated griddle (or in a skillet) until tortilla browns and cheese starts to melt, about 2 to 3 minutes, flip and brown the other side. Cut each tortilla into four wedges before serving.