Classic Kitchen Lessons: French Onion Soup

Union Wine Company French Onion Soup

Being stuck inside all the time isn’t ideal, but it does have a few benefits, one of which is that many people are becoming much more daring with their culinary projects. There are tons of simple yet impressive recipes that are easier than you ever imagined. And right now is a great time to try them so that when we can all hang out together again you will have confidence in your techniques.

One such recipe is French Onion Soup. Introduced to America in the 1960s by Julia Child, this amazingly unique soup has fallen out of fashion lately, which is a real shame because it is as simple as it is delicious. When I first began my cooking career, I was introduced to a set of three books that Saveur Magazine published: one a collection of classic American food, one of classic Italian food, and one of classic French food. All three are great, but I recently repurchased the French one. This will not only provide simple and accessible classic French recipes, but being from Saveur, there are lots of great anecdotes about the people, regions, and histories associated with the dishes.

Union Wine Company French Onion Soup

I took my inspiration for this recipe from that book but made a few changes and additions which I have picked up over the years. It also helps if you have a set of incredibly cool small ceramic handled crockpots to cook your soup in, but this is by no means necessary. The handles do come in awfully, well, handy, when serving the dish. I’m quite proud of my set…

Union Wine Company French Onion Soup

There are two parts to French Onion Soup: making the soup itself and then assembling it for serving. Let’s start with the basics and then move into the technique.

Union Wine Company French Onion Soup

For French Onion Soup:

About 3 lbs of yellow onions
64 oz. beef stock (preferably unsalted)
A small bunch of fresh thyme
2 Tbs Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 C King’s Ridge Pinot Gris (plus more for drinking!)
3 oz Unsalted Butter
Salt & Pepper

To Finish and Serve:

Baguette or other firm French Bread
1 Tbs Butter
1 lb Shredded Gruyere Cheese (for 4 soup bowls)

*****

Making the Soup:

STEP ONE:

Peel and slice your onions. You will want to slice them “North to South” as illustrated in the picture. This will ensure that while cooking, the onions will caramelize well.

(Editors note: Cutting onions is brutal. You will cry. Everyone cries. In 15 years of professional cooking, I have heard every wives tale as to how to avoid this, and I can say none has ever worked for me. But maybe you know something I don’t.)

Union Wine Company French Onion Soup

STEP TWO:

Take 4-6 good sized sprigs of fresh thyme and tie them together with butchers twine. This will allow you to impart a fresh thyme flavor into the broth without worrying about any sprigs being left behind in the soup.

Union Wine Company French Onion Soup

STEP THREE:

Melt the 3 oz of butter in a heavy-bottomed pot. Just as it starts to bubble, add all your sliced onions and season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently and making sure they don’t burn until onions begin to caramelize and turn light brown, about 20 minutes.

Union Wine Company French Onion Soup

STEP FOUR:

Deglaze with the wine and cook until all the wine has evaporated. Continue to cook onions until they are a deep rich brown. Many people will tell you to add sugar at this point, but I feel the natural sugars in the wine do the trick just as well.

Union Wine Company Kings Ridge Pinot Gris

STEP FIVE:

Add the beef broth, Worcestershire Sauce and thyme, and simmer for 20 minutes. Let cool in the pot. Once cooled, remove the thyme and adjust seasoning if necessary with more salt and pepper.

Putting it all Together:

STEP ONE:

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. I recommend putting your ceramic crocks on a sheet pan and placing them in the cold oven, allowing them to heat up gradually as the oven heats. Return your soup to the stove and bring to a light simmer. Grate your gruyere cheese and set aside.

Union Wine Company French Onion Soup

STEP TWO:

Into each hot crockpot, ladle in the hot soup. You will want to make sure you have a little extra broth as the bread will soak up a good amount.

Union Wine Company French Onion Soup

STEP THREE:

Slice your bread into 1/4 inch thick slices and lightly toast in a pan with the butter. Gently place on top of the soup.

Union Wine Company French Onion Soup

STEP FOUR:

Cover each top with the shredded gruyere cheese. Return to the oven and melt cheese for 5-10 minutes. Then switch the oven to broil and keep a close eye on the soup so that the cheese colors but doesn’t burn. Carefully remove and let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Union Wine Company French Onion Soup

Pull the King’s Ridge Pinot Gris out of the fridge, pour a few glasses and you are good to go. I like to serve this soup with a simple arugula salad, dressed with lemon juice, salt, and a little extra virgin olive oil.

Bon Appétit!

Union Wine Company French Onion Soup

Photography, Recipe and Text by David L. Reamer. (@dlreamer)

Earth Day 2020 and Our Garden at Amity Vineyards

Amity Vineyards

Today is April 22, 2020, the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, and the earth is going through some strange times. The air is clearer and cleaner now than it has been in years, the skies and oceans are quieter, and I’m sure all the creatures and plants are enjoying the respite from our typically busy lives. That should all be good news on this momentous Earth Day, and it is, but unfortunately, this has all come at a huge cost to humans. We at Union Wine Company hope that there is an end to social distancing soon and that everyone stays healthy until the public health experts and epidemiologists come up with a solution that allows us to go back to “normal.” However, we also hope that we—the collective we—come out of this smarter and more aware and in tune with the choices we make and how they affect Mother Earth. We have an awesome opportunity to make some changes and scale back some of our typically polluting ways.  

During this time of remote work and fewer activities we may also have gotten into some better eating habits, and maybe are even growing more of our own food, or looking to local farmers markets for fresh, organic produce. Another great thing to do is to join a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture.) CSA’s are a fantastic way to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer.  

As a company, we have always tried to be responsible in our winemaking and grape growing. We are LIVE Certified Sustainable at our winery and at Amity Vineyards. Dry farming has always been in practice at Amity, and we have a history of working to create a beautiful bio-diversity at the vineyard that benefits all of us.  

Amity Vineyards Blueberry

Amity Vineyards was planted nearly 50 years ago with own rooted vines. At that time, and now, there is a passion for not only growing grapes, but also for keeping the natural biodiversity strong by growing flowers, fruit trees, and vegetables. There is a 30-year-old blueberry bush on the property, a giant fig tree, and a huge apple tree. Peonies and lilies have been favorite flowers at Amity from the beginning. And, today at the vineyard we have citrus in the greenhouse and olive trees beginning to grow along the driveway. 

Amity Vineyards Garden

In 2017, to keep up the tradition of cultivating more richness and biodiversity at the vineyard, we brought in a full-time gardener and vegetable farmer extraordinaire, Mandy Caldcleugh. Mandy plants and maintains a beautiful vegetable garden high on the hill of the vineyard. Her efforts sustain the land and bring in beneficial insects and pollinators, creating a diverse ecosystem that keeps disease pressure down and facilitates a more holistic environment. Additionally, Mandy focuses on growing vegetables, flowers and plants that go to our families and friends at the winery and will eventually sustain our hospitality program and tasting room.  

Amity Gardens CSA box

Lucky for us, Mandy provides all employees a bin of vegetables on a weekly basis about 9 months of the year—a free Union benefit that we all enjoy and that helps to keep us healthy.    

Right now, in the garden at Amity, you’ll find leeks, green garlic, spring onions, shallots, radicchio, frisée, fava greens, and purple sprouting broccoli, also borage and bees friend. And very soon we’ll be enjoying lots of potatoes, beets, carrots, turnips, lettuce and kohlrabi, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, collards…I think you get the idea.
Amity Vineyards garden

Oh, and the rhubarb is producing and all the strawberries are flowering.

We wish you a Happy and Healthy Earth Day! 

Stay well and take good care of our earth.  

Shelter in Place Projects: Amazing Homemade Dog Treats

Dog Treats
Meet Oliver, my bestest buddy and definitely my savior during these safe, but oh-so-boring, times. Let’s face it, most of us have already binged Tiger King and McMillions (spoiler alert—neither one lives up to the hype.) We’ve been reading, doing puzzles, cooking and finding a myriad of ways to stay safe but also stay busy.
Dog
One of my escapes from the house (while still maintaining social distancing) is to take Oliver to the dog park. We both get some fresh air and also get to stretch our legs. These dog park trips have really been keeping me sane, so I felt it was only fair to do something nice in return for his companionship. (Not to mention, a lot of the local pet stores are running low on essentials and getting dog treats is becoming more difficult.)
So I figured, why not do a little research and come up with a simple but healthy homemade dog treat that we can both feel good about. The recipe has only 5 ingredients, is incredibly easy to make, and I swear your dog will go absolutely bonkers for them.
Dog Treats
How cool do those look??!
Here’s all you will need:
Dog Treats
Delicious Dog Treats
 
2 eggs
1/2 C canned pumpkin puree
1/4 C healthy peanut butter
1 cube of beef bouillon 
1/2 C water
2-3 C whole wheat flour (as usual, we recommend Bob’s Red Mill)
 
A few notes before we begin:
Let’s just be honest here…everyone has a can of pumpkin puree in their pantry leftover from thanksgiving. This is a great way to use it up.
Beef bouillon cubes are usually dissolved in 1 C of water. I only use half a cup to concentrate the flavor. You can leave this ingredient out entirely, but I promise your dog will love you if you keep it in the recipe.
As I will further explain, the flour will vary as per how wet the other ingredients are.
Most people will have whole wheat flour that they had to buy for some random recipe and never used again—so check the back of your baking shelf before going to buy more.
Dog Treats

 
STEP ONE
 
Crack a can of Underwood Pinot Noir. (This is solely for consumption, not the recipe.) Then, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Dissolve one bouillon cube in 1/2 C of water and set aside to cool.
STEP TWO
 
Once bouillon liquid is cool, put eggs, pumpkin puree, peanut butter, and bullion liquid into a mixing bowl with the paddle attachment and blend well.
STEP THREE
 
While running mixer, slowly add flour, 1/2 C at a time until the dough comes together and is no longer sticky.  When I did it, it took about 2 1/4 C of flour but this may vary. Remove the dough, place on a large work surface dusted with flour and kneed for 2-3 minutes.

 

Dog Treats
Puppy Interlude….
Here is an unnecessary but ridiculously cute picture of Oliver (and his sister Pretty Penny) just to keep you entertained.
 
Dog Treats
 
Dog Treats
STEP FOUR
 
Roll out the dough to your desired thickness (I went with a 1/4” because they tend to puff up in cooking.) Use a cookie cutter or just cut small squares—I promise your dog won’t know the difference—and place on a baking sheet with either a silpat pan liner or parchment paper. Bake for 20-30 minutes, rotating the sheet pans every 7-8 minutes for even baking.
The extra dough can be reshaped and used for a second and third batch.
Dog Treats
Let the treats cool and keep in a dry place for up to a month.
Dog Treats
Believe me, you will have one happy puppy, not to mention an incredibly productive afternoon!
Enjoy and remember to keep those #pinkiesdown.
Dog Treats
Dog Treats
Photography, Recipe and Text by David L. Reamer. (@dlreamer)

Virtual Happy Hour: The Newest Way to Stay Connected

Salty Dog Cocktail

In these crazy times of social distancing and isolation, it’s as important as ever to stay connected any way you can. Thus, the advent of the virtual happy hour. This is the newest trend that has caught on not just between family and friends, but workmates as well. Now, happy hour used to be a firm 5 PM, but with co-workers and family often times being all around the country, that rule has had to loosen up a bit. If we choose to join in from the West Coast with our East Coast compatriots, we might find ourselves having a drink around 3 pm.

So we decided to create a light cocktail using our Underwood Pinot Gris for when you need to start the party a little earlier than expected. We also wanted to try and use ingredients that most people have around the house since as we all know, running out to the supermarket just isn’t as easy as it used to be. This is a perfect time to remind everyone that the Union Wine Co. shipping team is working tirelessly to get wine sent out to homes across the country. A four-pack of cans equals 2 full bottles in volume and is easily shipped without the hassle of all the extra packaging to protect the glass. You can order cans for yourself or surprise a friend or family member with an unexpected gift right HERE.

OK, back to the cocktail. We created a sort of amalgamation of two classic cocktails, the Moscow Mule and the Salty Dog, and replaced the liquor with our Pinot Gris. We call this one The Salty Underwood Mule. We figure most people are keeping their vitamin C levels up, so you might have grapefruits at your house, and many people have fresh mint growing in the yard already. So, all you need is fresh ginger and you are most of the way to the cocktail.

The Salty Underwood Mule

2 oz fresh grapefruit juice
1.5 oz Underwood Pinot Gris
.5 oz Ginger Mint Syrup (recipe to follow)
Club Soda
1 lime
Salt for the rim of the glass

Mint

The first thing you will need to do is make the ginger mint syrup. At best you have some mint growing in your yard (or maybe a neighbor does who wouldn’t mind sharing.)

STEP ONE:

In a sauté pan, put 3/4 C of water, 1 C of sugar and 2 good sized pieced of fresh ginger (its not necessary to peel the ginger) and bring to a boil. Allow this to cool completely.

Ginger

STEP TWO:

Remove the ginger, pour the liquid into a glass jar and add 3 or 4 sprigs of fresh mint. Allow this to sit overnight. By adding the mint after the liquid has cooled prevents it from turning black and also adds a great subtle fresh mint flavor to the syrup which strengthens over time.

Mint Simple Syrup

Once this is done, you are just about ready to make your cocktail. But first you have to salt the rim. This can be a bit more challenging than you would think. One trick I learned from my bartender friends is to run a lime wedge around the edge of the glass as opposed to dipping it in water (which is what I used to do). I’m not sure why, but using citrus ensures a much more even coating of salt to remain on the rim.

Salt Mule Cocktail

Next, pour some salt into a shallow bowl and press the glass firmly into the salt for an even coating.

Salty Mule Cocktail

And voilá…

Salty Mule Cocktail

Add a few ice cubes, the grapefruit juice, Pinot Gris and Ginger Mint syrup. Give a gentle stir, top off with a splash of club soda and garnish with a lime wedge.

Salty Mule Cocktail

And there you have a deliciously light afternoon cocktail to virtually toast with friends and family.

We hope you will enjoy this new cocktail creation while staying safe out there! Keep washing your hands and don’t forget to keep those #pinkiesdown.

Salty Mule Cocktail

Photography, Text and Recipe by David L. Reamer. (@dlreamer)

Embracing Social Distancing: Finding Peace and Tranquility on the Sandy River

“Truth is stranger than fishin’.” -Richard Brautigan, Trout Fishing in America

Union Wine Co Fishing

There is no question that right now the world is a scary and confusing place. As we each do our part to stay safe and healthy—so everyone will stay safe and healthy—those once simple actions require much more discipline than ever before. A day off every so often to hide from the world and veg out on Netflix was once a welcome escape, but as it becomes more and more the norm, the novelty begins to fade. But, just because we need to practice social distancing doesn’t mean we have to stay locked away in our homes. We just have to think a little outside the box and a little outside the normal boundaries of our lives.

Besides being a well known Portland personality, and all-around great guy, my friend Bob Rhoads is a true outdoorsman. So, when I was thinking of things to do to get myself out of the house but still steer clear of people, he was the first person I called. I requested something that would be a close drive from Portland where I could meet him. He suggested we go fishing.

Now, to our north, Washington has temporarily outlawed recreational fishing, effective this week, and this may be the case in many places right now.

For most of Oregon however, fishing is currently still allowed as long as you’re careful of how you do it, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. They recommend you maintain a social distance of at least six feet from other people who don’t live in your household, including during travel to and from a fishing spot. Officials also stress that anglers should minimize traveling and stay as close to home as possible.

Rob and I followed these recommendations and traveled only a few miles to the Sandy River. As I sat on the banks of the river I couldn’t see another person in any direction (save for Bob, of course) and I was filled with peace and tranquility which I had not felt—nor realized I had not felt—in many weeks. For the first time in a while, I was at peace and the fears and uncertainty of life had momentarily faded.

Union Wine Co Fishing

But enough introspection. Let’s talk about Bob and fishing for Steelhead on the Sandy River. Some refer to fishing for Steelhead as ‘chasing the ghost’ because it can be a very elusive fish to catch (spoiler alert…we didn’t catch one that day) but fly fishing can be a very meditative and relaxing activity. I learned quite a bit from Bob that day.

Steelhead are actually trout but look much more like Salmon. That is because they are Anadromous, meaning that unlike the smaller trout that live their whole lives in the local rivers, Steelhead swim upstream in the freshwater to spawn but they reside in saltwater. Rainbow trout, on the other hand, stay in freshwater all their lives. When fishing for Steelhead you are only allowed to keep the ones raised in local hatcheries, which can be identified by a lack of an adipose fin (the small fin just in front of the tail.) All other Steelhead must be caught and released.

Union Wine Co Fishing

Bob practices a style of fly fishing called Spey casting (named after a style of fishing developed on the River Spey in Scotland). In short, this technique allows for longer casts without the overhead backcasting motion and presenting larger flies. As for equipment, Bob has a collection of flies, some he has bought but many he has made himself. His rod is a custom-made CF Burkheimer, (made for the specific technique just mentioned) a local company that Bob was an apprentice rod builder for. Once we found a suitable spot, we cracked a few cans of Underwood Pinot Noir, Bob chose his fly and got suited up.

Union Wine Co Fishing

Union Wine Co Fishing

I was more than content sitting on the bank, documenting the day and imbibing the tranquility (and the Pinot Noir). Plus, I’ve tried to fly fish and it is really freaking hard until you get the hang of it! Anyway, who would complain in such surroundings? As I mentioned, we didn’t catch any fish that day but just getting outside in the sunshine and fresh air made the whole adventure a complete success.

Union Wine Co Fishing

Even though we didn’t catch anything, I now had Steelhead on the brain and needed to cook some up ASAP. Luckily, Flying Fish Company just reopened about a mile from me and they have a wide selection of some of the freshest local fish around. I was in luck and they were stocked (no pun intended) with some gorgeous Steelhead fillets. As you can see, although it is a trout, Steelhead very much resemble Salmon.

Union Wine Co Fishing

I decided to cook the fish “En Papillote” or in paper. The technique, which makes for an incredibly easy and delicious meal simply requires putting all the ingredients into securely wrapped parchment paper and then baked for about 15 minutes—easy, peasy, lemon squeezy.

Steelhead and Vegetables En Papillote

1 Steelhead fillet, about 7 oz
Half a large zucchini
1 small pepper
3 slices of lemon
5 sprigs of fresh oregano (reserve 2 for presentation)
1/2 t coarse sea salt
1/4 C Kings Ridge Pinot Gris
Parchment paper

TECHNIQUE:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lay a large piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet.

Place the fish on the lower part of a large piece of parchment paper so you will be able to have enough paper to fold over everything and securely crimp.

Set the fish down, season with salt and place vegetables, lemon slices and oregano on and around the fish. Squeeze a little lemon juice on top and drizzle with white wine.

Tightly crimp the edges of the parchment paper, leaving a little space inside for the fish to steam.

Union Wine Co Fishing

Union Wine Co Fishing

Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes. Carefully cut through and peel back paper and Voila! You have a complete meal ready to eat.

The oregano will be pretty dark and wilted, so I recommend replacing it with a fresh sprig before serving.

Pour yourself a glass of Kings Ridge Pinot Gris and dig in. Bon Appétit.

Union Wine Co Fishing

My sincerest thanks again to Bob Rhoads, not only for his vast fishing knowledge but for taking me out of my funk and filling me with a renewed sense of hope and happiness.

Union Wine Co Fishing

Photography, Text and Recipe by David L. Reamer. (@dlreamer)

You can follow Bob’s adventures on IG at @ptowndutch