|no longer in kindergarten|
|The blog has been around for six years now.|
|I’ve met lots of nice people through this blog. I’ve also met a few not-so-nice people, but that’s all right. Can’t have rainbows without the rain, can’t appreciate light without darkness, and all that. Thank you all for reading!|
|I’m usually good about replying to emails and such promptly, but work (my actual paid job) is getting in the way. Hey raffle winners! Congratulations, and I’ll start shipping stuff out on Monday. Sorry for the delay.|
|christmas is a month long|
|If you’re an action junkie, you’re in luck. In the month of December, not only will you have TAR 22, you will also have TAR 23!|
|TAR 22 is a rematch between Earl Strickland and Shane Van Boening. Earlier this year, Strickland defeated Van Boening on a 10-foot Brunswick playing 10-ball, race to 100, for $10,000. Now, they will be playing on Van Boening’s home court, the 9-foot Diamond with 4-1/8″ pockets. However, the game is now 9-ball and the format is race to 75 over three days, for $5,000. This is going to be interesting.|
|TAR 23 is yet another rematch (the previous match was at the Cue Club in May of this year) and it features Oscar Dominguez vs Raj Hundal playing two races to 25 for $10,000. If they split sets, they will play a third set for all the jellybeans. No matter what, someone is going to win $10,000 — and someone is going to lose $10,000.|
|TAR is also doing a weekly podcast. That and all the information you need for the upcoming is on the website, www.theactionreport.com.|
|Oh yeah, during the month of December and also in Vegas is a little pool par-tay known as the Mosconi Cup. This is the first year the event will be played on Diamond tables. You may also want to check that out…|
Cooler fall weather and the approaching winter make it a great time for soups and stews.
Today’s soup is soupe a l’oignon, also known as French onion soup.
Some Educational Stuff Because Knowledge Is Power — Delicious, Delicious Power
There used to be two restaurants my friend and I would go to especially for French onion soup. One day, one of the restaurants just upped and closed. As in, we ate there one night and the next night, the space was empty and the doors were chained. Seriously, WTF. Well, at least there was the other place! But no, they soon closed.
And then we were sad.
And then many years passed by.
And we did not eat French onion soup during those years.
Then we went to a random restaurant and I ordered the French onion soup on a whim. And we both had a little of it. And then I relapsed. I turned my apartment into an onion soup lab which is only better than a meth lab by a little bit and that little bit is because it won’t explode on a regular basis and this sentence is a really long run-on sentence because I’m totally wigging out from French onion soup withdrawal okay I’m going to get some while you continue reading…
Is there anything interesting about the onion? According to The National Onion Association, there is plenty:
In Egypt, onions were considered to be an object of worship. The onion symbolized eternity to the Egyptians who buried onions along with their Pharaohs. King Ramses IV, who died in 1160 B.C., was entombed with onions in his eye sockets. The Egyptians saw eternal life in the anatomy of the onion because of its circle-within-a-circle structure. Paintings of onions appear on the inner walls of the pyramids and in the tombs of both the Old Kingdom and the New Kingdom. The onion is mentioned as a funeral offering, and depicted on the banquet tables of the great feasts – both large, peeled onions and slender, immature ones. They were shown upon the altars of the gods.
Dioscorides, a Greek physician in first century A.D., noted several medicinal uses of onions. The Greeks used onions to fortify athletes for the Olympic Games. Before competition, athletes would consume pounds of onions, drink onion juice, and rub onions on their bodies.
By the Middle Ages, the three main vegetables of European cuisine were beans, cabbage, and onions. In addition to serving as a food for both the poor and the wealthy, onions were prescribed to alleviate headaches, snakebites, and hair loss. They were also used as rent payments and wedding gifts.
Later, the first Pilgrims brought onions with them on the Mayflower. However, they found that strains of wild onions already grew throughout North America. Native American Indians used wild onions in a variety of ways, eating them raw or cooked, as a seasoning or as a vegetable. Such onions were also used in syrups, as poultices, as an ingredient in dyes, and even as toys. According to diaries of colonists, bulb onions were planted as soon as the Pilgrim fathers could clear the land in 1648.
I was also curious about Outback Steakhouse’s “Bloomin’ Onion”. According to Wikipedia,
The name of the dish comes from its menu name at Outback Steakhouse (“Bloomin’ Onion”), which claims to be the dish’s inventor. The owners of Scotty’s Steak House in Springfield, New Jersey also claim to have invented this dish in the 1970s. The dish was a charter feature of the Outback Steakhouse restaurant chain when it opened in 1988, and remains prominent on its menu.
Despite the implied association with Australian cuisine due to Outback Steakhouse’s branding, the dish is unknown in Australia and rarely served outside of the United States.
In addition to the fact that the “Bloomin’ Onion” isn’t even Australian (outrage!),
A single blooming onion with dressing has been reported to contain approximately 2,210 calories and 134 grams of fat.
When it existed, the similar style Awesome Blossom at Chili’s was ranked “Worst Appetizer in America” by Men’s Health magazine in 2008 for the unusually high totals of calories and fat, with 2,710 calories, 203 grams (1,827 calories) of fat, 194 grams of carbohydrates, and 6,360 milligrams of sodium, with as much fat as 67 strips of bacon.
Sixty-seven strips of bacon. I’ll just let you ruminate upon the awesomeness of all that while I get my
meth lab kitchen ready.
soup a l’oignon
This recipe serves 3 (because I usually only cook for Me, Myself, and I), but is easily doubled to serve 6. This is a simple but time-intensive recipe. It is worth it.
- 3 tablespoons butter + additional
- 3 cloves garlic
- 3 pounds brown or yellow onions (Not sweet onions. Put those DOWN.)
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 cup sherry
- 2 cups chicken stock or broth
- 1 cup beef stock or broth
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 3 flat-leaf (Italian) parsley stems
- 1 bay leaf
- freshly ground black pepper
- toasted baguette slices or plain croutons
- gruyere cheese (Swiss cheese can be substituted, but gruyere is best)
NO SWEET ONIONS.
I mean it.
Using red or sweet onion varieties in this soup results in a cloyingly sweet soup — and this soup is meant to be SAVORY. Put those reds and Walla Walla onions away for use on burgers or throwing at people or whatever, but keep them the hell away from this soup. Use the regular, humbly proletariat brown and yellow onions for this recipe.
I find that one pound of onions per person is a good quantity. Make up that one pound with large onions, small onions, whatever. Just get a pound per person. We will use three pounds in this recipe.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Peel and halve the onions, making sure to trim off the tough ends.
Slice the onions thin. I find that slicing them 1/8 of an inch thick and no thicker than 1/4 of an inch gives the best results. If you slice them on the thicker side, it will take longer to caramelize the onions.
This is Butter. Butter is your friend.
Cut three one-tablespoon pats of butter from the stick.
Using one pat, skate it around an ovenproof pan large enough to hold all the onions — you’re greasing the pan. You won’t need to use the whole pat of butter. If you have a dutch oven, or other large, ovenproof pot that can fit all the onions, you can use the one pot for the whole recipe.
Add the sliced onions to the pan, arranging them so they are level on top. My pan is too small (because my oven is also too small), so this is not a great illustration of this step. You’re smart enough to get the idea.
Sprinkle the teaspoon of salt over the onions and toss to make sure it’s evenly mixed in. Salt is essential as it will help draw out the water during the oven stage of caramelization. Cut up the remaining pats of butter and distribute evenly over the top. Cover the pan. If you lack a cover, make a foil one. You can also take this time to fashion a foil hat for yourself.
Put the pan in the oven for one hour.
Watch a movie or a show.
I had Season 4 of Dexter on hand.
I find shows are easier during my cooking binges because they are broken up into episodes. After a little more than one episode of Dexter, I was ready for Oven Stage 2.
Take the cover off your onions. They will be soft and translucent. Mine are on the less done side because I had to heap them in the middle in order to fit them all into the pan. Stir the onions, then return them to the oven without the cover.
Watch another episode of Dexter.
You may occasionally check up on the onions and stir them if you feel the need to be productive, but it is not necessary. If you have a tiny oven like me and have heaped them into a too-small pan, then it may be necessary to baby-sit the onions to make sure the top layer doesn’t burn.
Dexter is conveniently 50 minutes or so per episode. After the episode was over, I used the last ten minutes to thinly julienne the cloves of garlic (a good ratio is one clove of garlic per pound of onion).
Then, I got out my soup pot (this is not necessary if you are using one pot for all the steps).
Take the pan of onions out of the oven. By now, they should be golden brown to dark brown. Place your soup pot on the stove, toss in a small pat of butter, and heat over medium-high heat. Once the butter is melted, toss in the caramelized onions from the oven pan. Stir for a few minutes, making sure the onions do not burn.
Throw in the garlic. Without mercy.
Continue to saute the onions, stirring frequently. You’ll begin to see a dark brown crust begin to develop on the bottom of the pan. This crust is called fond and we’re all fond of it, yuk yuk.
Fond is made of caramelized sugars — NOT burned sugars. You want a deep brown color, not the black of carbon and graphite. When some fond has collected, it is time to deglaze the pan.
Add a quarter cup of water to the pot and stir. The fond will soon come off the bottom of the pan.
When the water cooks off, the fond will begin forming again. Repeat the deglazing with the water up to three more times, or until the onions are as dark as you like it. For reference, I only deglazed with water three times, total.
The onions will look and smell delicious at this point. But, wait! There’s more! We’re going to increase the deliciosity of the onions.
Get all the liquids out. In order of use, they will be: balsamic vinegar, sherry, chicken and beef stocks.
Add the two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar to the onions and stir to incorporate. Then add the half-cup of sherry and stir. The sherry will bubble up and smell alcoholically wonderful. Mmm!
Most French onion soup recipes call for either red or white wine. I decided to go the third route and use sherry, which I like immensely. If you prefer wine, you may substitute the same amount of red or white wine in place of the sherry.
If you haven’t already, assemble the bouquet garni for this soup. Tie together the sprigs of thyme, parsley stems, and the one bay leaf using kitchen twine. If you double this recipe, do not add another bay leaf — one is enough. If you triple or quadruple this recipe (because you just have soooo many friends), you can add another entire bouquet garni.
Add the chicken and beef stock to the pot. Stir. Throw in the bouquet garni like a bride at her reception. Whee! Happiness for everyone!
Traditionally, French onion soup has always been made with beef stock. However, after some experimentation (which may or may not have been the result of Goddammit I Can’t Believe I Forgot To Get More Beef Stock But I Sure As Hell Am Not Going All The Way Back To The Store), I find a mix of chicken and beef stock actually gives a better result in balancing the flavors. I’ve only ever found one modern recipe (Cooks Illustrated — from whence I also got the tip for oven-cooking the onions) that also advocates the mix of stocks.
If you are a beef stock purist, go ahead and use all beef stock. If you’re a vegetarian (my condolences), I suppose you could substitute vegetable stock, although I have not tried doing so.
In any case, the ratio should be one cup of stock per pound of onion.
Cover the pot, turn up the heat, and bring the soup to a boil. Once it begins to boil, turn down the heat to a low simmer. Simmer the soup, covered, for 45 minutes to an hour.
Watch another episode of Dexter.
After the show is over, you now have French onion soup!
If you feel you have too much broth, you can cook it down further. Taste the soup and add salt and fresh ground pepper to your liking. Remove and discard the bouquet garni.
If you want the whole French onion soup experience, bring out the baguettes (or plain croutons) and cheese.
I didn’t have a baguette handy, so I used these mini-toasts that are often used to make appetizers. If you have baguette slices, toast them a bit. You want them to be quite dry since you’ll be dumping them in soup, anyways.
While your baguettes are toasting, you can use the time to shred the gruyere cheese, if you have it. Gruyere cheese is the bomb on French onion soup. I actually didn’t have gruyere, but I did have a bit of gouda on hand. The gouda I had, which is ridiculously delicious, was much softer than gruyere and not as smooth-melting.
That’s the sound of your toaster telling you your baguette slices are now toasted.
Get some ovenproof bowls. There is a HUGE variety of bowls made just for French onion soup, which is a testament to its popularity. However, if you’re like me and you don’t have butlers or thoroughbred horses and acres and acres of land to live on — then screw the specialty bowls and just get whatever’s ovenproof.
The only requirement, aside from the bowl being able to withstand your oven, is that it be deep. My glass bowl here is by Pyrex (yay! glass!) Fill the bowl to two-thirds full with broth and onions.
Float your baguette slice or crouton on top of the soup. You may have to trim your baguette slice to fit. Heap the shredded gruyere generously on top. If you do not have gruyere, some slices of good Swiss cheese will also work.
Put the bowls under the broiler in your oven. Put on your ovenproof mitts and take the bowls of soup out once the cheese is melted and just a little burnt.
Alternatively, you can use a propane torch to melt the cheese. The torch method actually works better. It must be a propane torch, though. Those dinky creme brulee torches don’t work on French onion soup.
Eat your soup with a friend while watching more episodes of Dexter.
As usual, here are my recipe downloads in PDF format. I’ve also added a metric version of the recipe.