Saturday, March 19, 2011

soupe à l'oignon gratinée

Edith Piaf is the soundtrack extra-or-dee-naire for French Onion soup, so please start the video and follow along. ;-)

Onion soup reaches back to the early Roman’s but the version we make today dates from France in the 1700’s. The peasants lived on this stuff because the ingredients are so cheap.

Besides seven or eight large onions, the only other ingredients that are essential are beef broth, stale bread, a bit of cheese and plenty of time.

Luckily the WesternBEEF is piled high in meaty, inexpensive beef bones. Pull a cork, pour some red and arrange them on a flat roasting sheet. If you roast them a bit first they bring a nice, chary flavor. 

A bit of salt, a liberal grind of pepper and keep an eye on them at about 375°F until they look like this:

Don’t forget to deglaze your roasting sheet with a bit of water and add it to your broth. 

You know the drill by now, put the roasted bones into a big pot, cover them with cold water, add parsley stems and the ends of the onions as you cut them, pour some red wine in and bubble those bones slowly for an hour.

Add a beef bouillon cube if you want, it’s mostly just salt and caramel anyway. Bubble it down to about a gallon. Now slice your onions fairly evenly while you melt half a stick of butter in a thick bottom pot. We’re gonna soften the onions.

I used a whole bag of yellow onions and one sweet vidalia. Put ‘em in the butter and toss to coat them, then turn the heat way down and simmer them slowly, uncovered for awhile. 

It looks like a lot of onion but don’t worry, they cook down a lot. Sauteéing them uncovered allows the moisture to cook off, and it concentrates the complex flavors of the sugar in the onion. 

Turn them frequently as they soften so they don’t burn, and mix in a teaspoon or so of brown sugar to help them caramelize.

Now keep stirring and sauteéing, they’ll get softer and smaller, and gently darker in color.

Eventually they’ll begin to brown into the most delicious sludge ever, the color of a walnut. Great. So far so good. Turn them off. 

Has it been an hour or so? Time to strain your beef stock.

I like to strain it through ever finer meshes until it is clear and free of particles. The bones, by the way, are delicious. Boiled beef has been a staple in the UK since forever. 
Add a few cups of hot stock to your onions, stir to loosen them, then pour in the rest and turn on the heat again. You should have four or five quarts. Simmer the soup gently covered for about another hour, adding salt or pepper if you wish. As it gets closer to finished, I add a half cup or so of good cognac.

Now comes the fun part. Ladle some of the soup into a ramekin or an ovenproof crock and fit it with a toasted crouton.

A round cut of a French baguette toasted works great, just fit it and shove it in. Cover it with a good gruyère, like a compté.

Oh boy. :-)

Now into the broiler until the cheese melts, then bubbles and browns. Those peasants may not be rich but their favorite soup sure is.

Friday, March 18, 2011

see you on the roof

From NASA:
Tomorrow night, March 19th, a full Moon of rare size and beauty will rise in the east at sunset. It's a super "perigee moon"--the biggest in almost 20 years.
"The last full Moon so big and close to Earth occurred in March of 1993," says Geoff Chester of the US Naval Observatory in Washington DC. "I'd say it's worth a look."
Nearby perigee moons are about 14% bigger and 30% brighter than lesser moons that occur on the apogee side of the Moon's orbit.

"The full Moon of March 19th occurs less than one hour away from perigee--a near-perfect coincidence that happens only 18 years or so.”

from the ClockTower roof, May 27, 2010
hat tip to Crank

tempus fugit

After a lifetime on the UpperEastSide, 
I moved to the south Bronx one year ago today.

The move had first rate administration in my daughter and Big John’s were awesome, too. They showed up right on time and packed the truck with the ease of true professionals.

Blue tape on the floor showed where to place things.

Each box was letter-labeled by area and numbered by content against a masterlist... boxes could be placed where they belonged.

Big John was done by early afternoon and had overestimated their time so they actually refunded almost $500! Amazing. I cannot recommend them highly enough. 

There was a lot to put away but by about midnight, 
home sweet home. 
A year already. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011


My favorite newspaper and arguably one of the finest news gathering organizations of all time committed a kind of public suicide today, announcing they really don’t get it and will insist upon the impossible instead.
Beginning March 28th they will charge again for online access, ignoring the irrefutable truth that digital media, service and intellectual property is free now and will always be free in some form or other going forward. The paid news model is dead. The way we gather and vet news will have to change.

It’s true the WallStreetJournal operates a successful online pay model and the Times apparently hopes to follow suit.

But unlike the WSJ, the NYTimes doesn’t offer state-of-the-minute financial information upon which good money can be made. They offer news, that’s it, and there will always be alternatives offered free online to garner market share. 
Back in the days of paper scarcity (when you really had to pay) the NewYorkTimes was our news of record. But today we live in the digital world of “one mouse click” ubiquity and nothing digital is ever scarce. Behind this new paywall ad revenue will plummet as readership tanks, losing circulation money as well.

I loved the old grey lady but the people in charge are too old to understand this and she’s in her final throes. Time marches on, even if the New York Times will not. Alas.

What do YOU think? Are YOU gonna pay to read the TIMES?

your Mother would be proud

On any given day, 5.5 million pints of the famous Irish stout Guinness are consumed around the world. Today that number will more than double to 13 million pints. “"Slainté!"—the Irish word pronounced SLAN-cha, for health, said Beth Davies Ryan, global corporate relations director of Guinness.

That toast may brim with scientific truth. 
At a meeting of the American Heart Association, researchers reported that Guinness may be as effective as daily aspirin in reducing the blood clots that cause heart attacks. The benefit derives from antioxidants which reduce cholesterol deposits on arterial walls. The compounds are found in dark Irish stouts but not their paler cousins.

Fun in Ottawa, Canada, 2006

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!