Metta Archilla-Ishida grew up near Shepherd, Texas, in a place called The Bottoms where her family ran cattle, fished from their own ponds and grew their own vegetables.
“It’s about as country as you get,” she says. Metta now runs a popular Facebook food group called Cypress Area Eats where she and others share recipes and food reviews. One of her favorite recipes, French onion soup, originates from her time growing up on the farm where onions were always plentiful. Metta’s mother, Phyllis, would enlist her young daughter’s help to prep the soup before Metta was even tall enough to reach the counter.
“She would put me on a footstool and she had me cooking beside her,” Metta said.
Together they would spend hours in the kitchen making food and memories. The soup calls for loads of onions, a few simple ingredients and tons of time. The key is allowing the onions to cook until they reach a near jelly-like state before adding a homemade bone broth, Metta says. Allowing at least 2 1/2 hours for cooking all of the flavors is key. Metta hopes those who try her family recipe would “feel a sense of nostalgia and appreciation of a time where people chose to disconnect from the world and connect through the love of food.”
Along with Metta’s family recipe are two other hearty fall dishes to try this month.
Metta’s French Onion Soup
Time: 2 1/2 hours
6-8 thinly sliced yellow onions
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 stick of butter
1 tablespoon of flour
2 fresh bay leaves
Sprigs of fresh thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
6 cups of bone broth
1 loaf fresh French bread
Smoked bacon sea salt
Heat a heavy stockpot over medium heat. Add about 1/2 stick of butter until melted. Add olive oil. Add thinly sliced onions and cook about 20-25 minutes until translucent. Add salt and pepper. Cook an additional 45-50 minutes at medium heat to extract as much sugar as possible. Once the onions are caramelized, turn up heat to medium-high. Add remaining butter. Sprinkle a heaping tablespoon of flour. Stir about 2 minutes until the mixture is sticky and gloopy. Add wine or sherry. Scrape the bottom of the pot to extract all bits clinging to the bottom. Cook for a few minutes. Add stock or bone broth and fresh herbs. Simmer for about 30 more minutes. Look for a few bubbles popping at the top of the mixture. Taste the soup. Add more herbs, wine or broth to taste.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Slice a loaf of fresh French bread into rounds. Add generous amounts of olive oil and salt and massage it into the bread. Place on a baking pan and bake until the slices become croutons. Remove from the oven. Meanwhile, grate a heaping pile of fresh parmesan and gruyere cheese.
Ladle the soup into an oven-safe bowl. Place a crouton on top. Add a large handful of cheese. Place the bowls in the oven on high broil until bubbly. Remove from the oven. Place a spring of thyme on top. Serve hot.
Shredded Brussels Sprouts Salad
Time: 20 minutes
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons pure honey
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 large Gala apple, cut into matchsticks
1 small shallot, chopped
1/4 cup toasted hazelnuts
1 ounce Pecorino cheese, shaved
Whisk together oil, lemon juice and honey in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Add Brussels sprouts, apple, shallot, and hazelnuts; toss to combine. Fold in Pecorino.
Creamy Parmesan Herb Chicken
Time: 60 minutes
- 6 chicken thighs (skin on or off, bone in or out)
- 2-3 teaspoons garlic powder
- Salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 ½ cups sliced mushrooms
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons fresh chopped parsley
- 1 1/2 cups evaporated milk, cream or half-and-half
- 1 teaspoon chicken bouillon powder (or stock powder)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch (don’t use if using cream or half-and-half)
- 3/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese, divided
- 1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley (extra), to serve
- 2 cups spinach
- 2 cups broccoli florets, lightly steamed
Preheat oven to 400 F.
Season chicken with garlic powder, salt and pepper.
Heat cooking oil spray in a large, nonstick and oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Sear chicken thighs until golden and crispy on each side (about 3-4 minutes each side).
Transfer chicken to the oven and roast until completely cooked through (about 25-30 minutes).
Once chicken is done, transfer to a warm plate and set aside. Drain some of the excess fat from the skillet, reserving 2 tablespoons for added flavor.
Return skillet to the stove over medium-high heat and sauté the garlic in the pan juices until fragrant (about 1 minute). Add the mushrooms, herbs and 2 teaspoons of parsley and fry until mushrooms begin to soften.
Reduce heat to low-medium heat, add the milk (or cream) and bring to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally, and being careful not to boil. Add in the bullion powder and season with salt and pepper to your taste.
Pour the cream/cornstarch mixture to the center of the pan, and continue to simmer while quickly stirring the mixture through until the sauce thickens.
Add 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese; allow sauce to simmer for a further minute until cheese melts through the sauce. Add the chicken back into the pan and allow to simmer for 1-2 minutes in the cream to take on the flavors. Taste test and add extra salt or pepper, if desired.
At this point, add in the optional add-ins, if desired. Allow spinach to wilt (if using).
Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup of parsley and 1/4 cup parmesan cheese.
Serve with steamed rice, over steamed vegetables or pasta.