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Austin's French Connection

French bistros are becoming increasingly popular in Austin and other cities across Texas. But if you can’t make it out—or if you just want to try your hand at something new at home—here are some France-inspired recipes from Cooking with Texas Highways, which was published by University of Texas Press in 2005.

Brie en Croûte

  • 1 (3-oz.) package of cream cheese, softened
  • ¼ cup butter or stick margarine, softened
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 (4½-oz.) round Brie, with skin intact
  • 1 egg yolk
  • ½ teaspoon sesame seeds

Combine cream cheese and butter in a medium-size bowl and blend well. Add flour and cut in with a pastry blender or two knives until particles are size of small peas. Form pastry into a ball; wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour.

Divide dough into two pieces, one slightly larger than the other. On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece to about 1/8-inch thickness. Cut out one six-inch round and another slightly larger round, reserving scraps for decoration. Place smaller round on a cookie sheet and center Brie on top of it. Fit larger round of dough over top of Brie, and press edges of both rounds together, crimping all the way around to seal.

Roll out pastry scraps and use cookie cutter to make desired shapes (flower, star, etc.); place on top for decoration. Combine egg yolk with one tablespoon water and brush mixture over entire pastry. Sprinkle sesame seeds over top and refrigerate until just before serving time. Bake at 400 degrees about 20 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand a few minutes. To serve, slice into small wedges (cheese will be soft inside). Yield: 12 to 16 appetizer servings.

French Onion Soup

  • 5 cups thinly sliced yellow onions (about 2 pounds)
  • ¼ cup butter or stick margarine
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 (14.5-ounce) cans beef broth
  • 3 (14.5 ounce) cans water
  • ½ cup white wine
  • salt and pepper
  • 8 (¾-inch-thick) slices French bread, toasted
  • 4 ounces Swiss cheese, grated

Combine onions, butter, and olive oil in a heavy 4-quart pot and simmer, covered, 15 minutes. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon salt and stir in flour to coat. Remove from heat and set aside.

In another large pot, combine beef broth and water and bring to a boil; gradually stir into onion mixture. Add wine and cook over low heat, covered, 30 to 45 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Place 8 ovenproof serving bowls on a baking sheet. Place 1 bread slice in each bowl; ladle soup into bowls and sprinkle Swiss cheese over top. Broil 6 inches from heat until cheese melts.

Yield: 8 to 10 servings.

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