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Kitchen Mailbox Countdown to Dinner Dining
Countdown to Dinner: Onion soup makes for rich, filling entree

Thursday, December 14, 2000

Tested by Nancy Anderson

Just in time for the cold weather comes a Countdown recipe for Hearty, Homestyle Onion Soup from Kelley Crisanti of Imperial.

This quick recipe is rich in flavor (wine adds a distinctive taste) and generous on portions. We had it on the table in slightly under 30 minutes.

Crisanti concocted the soup from a basic French onion soup recipe and some surprises of her own.

"My father makes a mushroom soup on Christmas Eve which has onions in it," she said, "So that's where I got the idea to put mushrooms in my onion soup."

She also puts thick bread slices on the bottom of the casserole, as well as the top.

"There's never enough bread in onion soup so I thought I'd make it more decadent and filling," she said.

An executive secretary for OK Grocery, a division of Giant Eagle, in Crafton, Crisanti has a 14-year-old son, Vince, and a baby on the way. Husband Frank works at Airborne Express.

Although she hasn't been cooking much lately, she still makes this onion soup about once a month for friends and family.

It serves 4 to 6 easily -- you'll need a large casserole to hold the contents comfortably (we used our stuffed pepper casserole) and needs little accompaniment.

The final toasting under the broiler produces a savory-looking entree which tastes every bit as good as its presentation.

Hearty, Homestyle Onion Soup

4 tablespoons butter
1 large Vidalia onion
8-ounce package pre-sliced mushrooms
2 16-ounce cans beef broth
1 can water*
1 teaspoon fresh, coarse black pepper
1/2 pound sliced provolone cheese
Thick, crusty, sliced Italian bread

Melt butter in a large saucepan. Peel and slice onion and rinse mushrooms (if your family doesn't like mushrooms, use another large onion). Add to saucepan and stir. Add beef broth, pepper and water or wine. Bring to a boil and cook over high heat for 15 to 20 minutes.

While this is cooking, turn the broiler on. Cover the bottom of an ovenproof 2-quart casserole with 2 or 3 slices of bread and a layer of cheese -- or use individual ramekins.

When onions are soft, pour onion/mushroom mixture over the bread. Cover the top of the casserole with more bread slices and top with cheese. Broil for 2 to 3 minutes or until lightly flecked with brown.

Serve with a prepackaged Caesar salad, if desired

* For a richer flavor, substitute Marsala or sherry for 1/2 of the water (we used a semisweet port).

Do you have an entree, salad or vegetable side dish recipe (no desserts, please!) that can be made in 30 minutes or less from six ingredients or fewer (not counting water, salt and pepper)? Share it with Countdown to Dinner.

The PG tests all recipes and if we select your recipe for publication, you'll receive a free selection from our cookbook grab bag of current releases.

Send your recipe to Countdown to Dinner, Post-Gazette Food, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222, or fax to 412-263-1313. Please include your name, neighborhood and daytime phone number. Or e-mail to: nanderson@post-gazette.com. Questions? Call 412-263-1760.

Thursday, December 14, 2000

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