Saturday, March 13, 2010

Waiter, There Is Too Much Onion In My Booze

No, I am not talking about a martini with an onion in it (personally the only part of a martini I like are the olives). I'm talking about the Ina Garten recipe for Onion Soup that I chose to make tonight, which was a mistake on a few levels.

First of all, I am sitting here typing in a vague daze because I believe I have yet another sinus infection (took 3+ hrs to hear back from the doctor) and it is highly unpleasant. Sore throat for 2 days, itchy ears, green goo, body aches, etc...

*Some time I'll tell you about getting mono in college and how that has lead to a life of sinus infections. Baited breath, people, I know.


All that said, I got my hands on a Z-pack tonight, and so powered through and made that onion soup! Not only because I am dedicated to making it when I said I would and reporting back to all (?) of you, but also because I got the proper bowls at last, and cheese for the melty topping, talked to a real human about types of sherry to use, and finally because I have been dreaming about this friggin' soup all week!!!
And I was convinced that onion soup would make me feel better and sooth my sore & achey self... once it was finally made.
I was mistaken.
When you are sick, even if you aren't actually sick to your stomach, and you cook something rich that smells AMAZING and makes your whole home smell that way which is normally a good thing... it can sometimes backfire and make you think you are gonna hork at any moment.
Not pleasant.
But it is a rainy weekend in NYC. Even more reason to make a giant pot of soup.
I guess I should have just opted for chicken noodle.

A few notes: when a soup recipe calls for 1/2 cup brandy, 1/2 cup sherry, and 1 and 1/2 cups white wine, even before you get to the broth, you should NOT do what I do and think, "That has got to be the best damned soup in the world." Instead you should think, "That is the largest hot toddy ever."
Even if it comes out to 2 1/2 cups booze to 8 cups stock, that's still a lot of booze.

Also, Ina (of course) calls for her onions to be sautéed in a stick of butter.
Le sigh.
I reconfigured and used 1/4 of a stick of butter, and the rest olive oil. There was still a sheen of fat glistening on the top in the end.

Finally, the only seasoning other than salt and pepper that she called for was one bay leaf. Boring in the extreme. But then I guess she just thought you'd be so hammered you wouldn't notice.
I tossed in some springs of fresh thyme at the end in an effort to add some fresher, less-boozy flavors.

If I have learned anything from this experiment (other than not to cook while feeling crappy) it is to ALWAYS START WITH JULIA!!! Then, if you do not like her version (you crazy person, you), branch out and see what other options are out there.

So, quick rundown.
The Setup
Significantly Less Butter Than Recommended
Onions: Raw, With Bay leaf
Onions: Browning/Caramelizing
(at this point, I was starting to feel woozy from cooking)
A POT OF BUBBLING ALCOHOL
This smelled so freaking fantastic, and yet to my under-the-weather self, I thought I was going to be sick at any moment. Next time I will add the fresh thyme at this stage, and cut the booze quantities in half.
The final product. Doesn't look like much liquid, but there are about 10 cups of liquid in there. I am also wondering if it was the type of beef broth I used to make this that made the alcohol flavors so much stronger. I used 4 cups of veal stock from glacé, which was very rich, but then I used Maggi cubes for the 4 cups of beef stock. I'm thinking that was maybe where I went wrong, but the only other brand I could find in the store was College Inn... and I kinda don't trust them.
Anyone use a lot of beef broth and have one they like? Please do pass along your preferences. I couldn't even find Campbell's.

I am sorry that I do not have a picture of the finished soup in my new (white won after all, simple) onion soup crock, but I felt so tired and sick at this point that the idea of eating the boozy-smelling soup was just not in the cards, promise of gooey melted cheese or no.
 However, the sick feeling did dissipate pretty much the minute I added in the 8 cups of varied stock, so I was just sick from effort. Maybe tomorrow once the smell of the rain and the wind off the river have cleared out our apartment a bit, and I've taken another round of antibiotics, I'll be able to dive in and enjoy this soup. Maybe it's just being sick that is making me taste the soup as a bit "off". But I think in my next attempt, and there will be a next attempt, I will make Julia's recipe. Which also calls for white wine and cognac... just in much smaller quantities.
I have learned my lesson Julia, and I am so sorry to have veered from your scientifically proven path.
Live and learn. And try, try again.
And I will try again soon.

*Verdict Day 2: The soup is actually rather tasty today, tho definitely due to addition of fresh thyme and a pinch more white pepper. Leaving it to meld overnight (and me to heal) has done wonders for both of us.

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

This reminds me: have you tried "Baking With Julia" as a resource for bread making? Yet again, she taught me everything I know about the subject (except that cinnamon will kill off yeast and ginger will supercharge it...I'm sure she would have covered that if she'd had the room, though).