Randy has been involved in a big project at work. In addition to his time-consuming and demanding day job, he hired a team of outside consultants to help him with a totally separate project. (Don’t ask me what he does for a living because I’m not exactly sure.) Everyone involved has been working ridiculously hard and not sleeping much. Yesterday was the big presentation and it starts to wind down from here. We had a big dinner party last night last night to celebrate.
Big dinner party. Big. As in 9 people. As in I started working on the meal on Saturday. As in 4 different cocktail nibbles, appetizer course, salad course, bread, 3-part main course, and a totally over-the-top dessert. Big as in a lot of wine bottles going out to the recycling bin today.
I knew the food would be blog worthy and I had the best intentions of photographing everything so I could write about it. I even set up my light on the floor of our kitchen. It started off well. I got some shots of the appetizers and the salad (see above) but then things got a little crazy in the kitchen. There was salmon involved and a farro/black rice dish that had to be finished at the last moment. There was a peanut butter pie served with homemade chocolate sauce, roasted banana ice cream, and a no-bake peanut chocolate cookie. I kept thinking, “I should be taking pictures! I want to write about this!” but I just ran out of steam. The trip from the dining room to the kitchen carrying a plate laden with chocolate and peanut butter seemed like a long journey.
For the record, I turned to a trusted source for advice on the salmon. We had intended to grill it but after a few emails with Matt, fish genius extraordinaire, I decided to slow roast it in the oven. I’m totally sold on this method from now on. I bought 4 pounds of Copper River salmon at the place Matt recommended. I don’t eat fish but I do know that Copper River salmon is the best of the best. Randy cut it into portions and then put it on a baking sheet and into the refrigerator. Half an hour before I wanted it to go in the oven, I pulled it out, drizzled it with healthy amount of olive oil and sea salt and let it come up to room temperature. About 35 minutes in a 250° oven and the salmon was cooked perfectly, and no one had to stand outside with the rain and the grill.
Also for the record, let me tell you that I will be making that exact same dessert – all parts – again soon so I can take those damn photos and share recipes with you. Wanna come for dinner?
What I can share today is this bread. You know when you see a recipe and just want to drop everything and make it? Maybe something called Pull-Apart Cheesy Onion Bread? That happened to me with this one. Fortunately, I had this dinner party in the works which could accommodate it because otherwise, I might have eaten the entire loaf myself.
Have you heard of monkey bread? This is a savory version that is much less labor intensive. It goes a little something like this. You make a super simple dough, roll it out to a very long rectangle then top it with a cooked onion and Gruyère cheese mixture. You cut the dough into 10 pieces and stack them one on top of the other in a loaf pan. You take a look at your crooked stack that doesn’t fill up the pan and think, “This is never going to work”. Then you put it in the oven. Soon your kitchen starts smelling amazing and when you peek in the oven, you see that magically the dough is starting to fill in the whole pan. When it is done, it has magically turned into a loaf (though still crooked), it has turned golden brown, and it calls to you to be eaten immediately. (But! It can keep for two days at room temperature! I love recipes like this.)
The result is pretty extraordinary. Come on. Sauteed onions? Gruyere? Bread? So soft you want to use it as a pillow? I brought this out to the table (after sneaking a piece) and when I went back not five minutes later, it was gone. Not a crumb on a plate. I can’t wait to make it again. You can have it with your peanut butter pie when you come over for dinner.
One Year Ago: Green Bean and Fennel Salad
Pull-Apart Cheesy Onion Bread
Food & Wine
Makes one 9-inch loaf
1½ sticks cold unsalted butter, 1 stick cubed
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp. poppy seeds
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup coarsely grated Gruyère cheese (3 ounces)
2 cups flour, plus more for dusting
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup buttermilk
1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Butter a 9-by-4½-inch metal loaf pan. In a large skillet, melt the ½ stick of uncubed butter; pour 2 tablespoons of the melted butter into a small bowl and reserve. Add the chopped onion to the skillet and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until it is softened, about 8 minutes. Stir in the poppy seeds and season with salt and pepper. Scrape the onion mixture onto a plate and refrigerate for 5 minutes, until cooled slightly. Stir in the Gruyère.
2. Meanwhile, in a food processor, pulse the flour with the baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the cubed butter and pulse until it is the size of small peas. Add the buttermilk and pulse 5 or 6 times, just until a soft dough forms.
3. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured work surface and knead 2 or 3 times. Pat or roll the dough into a 2-by-24-inch rectangle. Spread the onion mixture on top. Cut the dough crosswise into 10 pieces. Stack 9 pieces onion side up, then top with the final piece, onion-side down. Carefully lay the stack in the prepared loaf pan and brush with the reserved butter.
4. Bake the loaf in the center of the oven for about 30 minutes, until it is golden and risen. Let the bread cool for at least 15 minutes before unmolding and serving.
(The unmolded loaf can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 days. Rewarm before serving.)