Sunday, August 27, 2006

Onion Soup Gratiné: and Scampi Marsielles

First you must make croutons. This is done by taking the older bread and slicing it about 1/4". Then brush lightly with olive oil and put in the oven at 250° for 20 minutes. This should give you slightly toasted (lightly browned but dry and hard) little slices. Altitude and the age of the bread make a difference here. But remember, these are croutons if they become bird food, so what?

Peel and slice 4 medium brown onions, then break them into rings. Douse them liberally with olive oil and put them in a stock pot over a medium flame. Cover. After 10 minutes, stir with a wooden spoon. When they have reached the translucent stage, add two more sliced onions. This will stage the onions in your soup. The first ones will carmelize and break down, almost dissolving into the stocks. These will retain enough shape and texture that no one will forget that this is an onion soup. You'll have to stir often at this stage because scorching is to be avoided. Add in equal parts of chicken and beef stock to cover the onions. 1/2 cup of dry sherry, or port goes very well at this time too. You can adjust the color of your soup by using Kitchen Bouquet or even Worcheshire Sauce. I like it fairly dark brown myself. Bring to a boil, then reduce the flame to simmer.

Put 3 to 4 croutons in the bottom of a soup bowl, ladle the onion soup over them. Top with grated swiss and parmesian cheese and put under the broiler until the cheese bubbles and begins to crust. Serve with lots of fresh baguette.

For the scampi, get fresh fettucini or make it yourself. Since I make it myself I always add about a teaspooon of ground anise to the pasta. Regular pasta does just fine though.

Peel and butterfly 6 shrimp per person making sure to remove the sand vein along the back. You can leave the last little joint of the shell on if you want. It looks good when you do, but then there's that whole "what to do with the little shell thing, and now my fingers are all saucy." If you're into sucking your dinner guests fingers, well by all means, be my guest and leave them on. Usually, for decorum's sake I completely peel the shrimp. (You can also have your fishmonger do all this for you if you want)

Since the recipe quantity here is up for grabs, all measurements (like I really fucking measure for this dish) should be adjusted according to the amount of shrimp. I'm working on a dinner for two here. Do the math.

Using a sauté pan over a medium high flame heat 4 tablespoons olive oil and 2 teaspoons minced garlic. While the garlic is sweating dredge the shrimp in seasoned flour (just flour with a little salt and pepper) shake off the excess and add to the hot garlic oil. When the shrimp pinks and curls add a splash of dry white wine and flip a few times to wet down any flour lumps. If it flames up don't be afraid, just watch your eyebrows. Add about a half cup of heavy cream and an ounce of Anisette or Pernod, stir and serve over the fettucine you remembered to boil in heavily salted water and drain. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley and and orange slice.

I first had this dish at a waterfront bistro in Marseilles. I bought a bottle of champagne for the kitchen crew and refused to leave until the chef showed me how to make it. Bon Appeitite mes amis.

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