Friday, May 09, 2008

Friday Random Ten (on the road edition)

Heading over to San Diego today. Visiting Po the tailor and taking the four students from intermediate strings. They've been given a blank check by a local businessman/farmer to get themselves really decked out in full Mariachi splendor.

Po is just the woman to do that. Then it's on to grab a bowl of the best Pho in the Barrio (Logan).

Here's the soundtrack:

Ballerina - - - Van Morrison
The Man With the Golden Gun - - - Lulu
Mercury - - - Steve Miller (live bootleg, me on snotty slide guitar)
Small Fry - - - Hoagie Charmichael
Viper Drag - - - Fats Waller
La Dona Mobile - - - Pavarotti
Friend of Jesus - - - John Stewart
Illegal Smile - - - John Prine
Guitar Town - - - Steve Earle
Duppy Conqueror - - - Peter Tosh

Bonus - - - Next song up

Watered Down Love - - - Bob Dylan

Toodles Ya'll!

Monday, May 05, 2008

Serving the Soup

The mystery of who dropped off the onions is solved. An old friend who is a farmer here has a beautiful little five year old girl. She is entranced by my harps and is always agitating to get some time to try and play them. He left the onions as a thank you. He also told me about another reason the only market for them is local. Because of the high sugar content they do not store well. You can't just get a bag of them and stick them in cold storage to wait for your sales.

We get to keep all these beauties ourselves.

To serve you take a thick crockery bowl. It has to be a bowl that will survive being under the broiler. Fill the bowls 3/4 full with hot soup, lay your croutons over the top, then lay on a layer of grated cheese. I use about a half and half mixture of grated swiss, I love the nutty flavor and the texture, mixed with an equal amount of freshly grated Parmesian Reggiano.

This goes under the broiler until it looks like this:


A couple of hints. If your croutons are extremely dry they will soak up all the delicious broth. No problem, if you see that this has happened when you remove the bowls from the broiler just lay another ladle of soup over the top. Don't forget to warn your guests about the very hot bowls. A thoughtful host will always include a sharp knife to cut through the croutons if the spoon can't get through the crusts, and also for trimming the strings of cheese from the spoon.

Our performance was the hit of the night. More about that later. Right now, soup's on and stuff.


Potage d'Oignon Gratinée

When I got home from doing some shopping for supplies to make Peppermint Stick Ice Cream for the Cinco de Mayo celebration tonight, I came home to find this.

Friends and lovers of food porn, that is a box of Imperial Valley Sweets. These rare, because they don't ship well at all, gems of the farmer's art are simply the finest sweet onions in the world. You can have your Vidalias, they're good, hell, they're very good, but, one has to put up with folks from Georgia to get them. Fuck that sez I. The Walla Wallas have their own cult and their own press agents. They're good too. Mauis are wonderful.

These are better. They are more versatile. They do everything onions are supposed to do and more. These are also incredibly good for eating out of hand. Or, one of my favorites, a thick slice of onion between two slices of buttered and salt and peppered bread for an onion sandwich. Another great way for these is to put a pat of butter on top of a whole peeled onion, cover with plastic and microwave three to four minutes until the onion is hot and tender, sprinkle with Pico de Gallo or Tapatio and dig in.

Since my jaw is still hurting I will go with the classic Potage d'Oignion Gratinée. Or to the unwashed and monolingual, French Onion Soup. There are several cults involved with this classic dish. I chose the one that doesn't involve small animal sacrifice.

First, you need to cut your croutons. Simply slice up a loaf of French Bread into about half inch disks. The next choice is air dry or toast? To toast the croutons brush them liberally with olive oil and bake until they are dry and crunchy but not toasted brown. To air dry simple expose them to air. I prefer the sturdier texture of the air dry. I just so happened to have these babies up on top of the fridge.

Now, it's time for the onions. These sweets are what I'm using, but any good yellow or brown onion will be just fine. The onions need to be peeled, sliced and ringed.

Do enough to fill your stockpot nearly to the top.

I used eight onions for the start. These go into the stockpot, then drizzled with olive oil (you don't need any lahdeedah EVOO, use good old pedestrian olive oil here) and cooked on a high flame, covered, until they begin to soften and wilt. Stir occaisionally. What we are wanting is for carmelization to occur. Cook these babies down.

To this:

Add in half again as many onions as you used in the first cooking, sliced and ringed as before and cook them covered until they are tender and clear. This is called staging an ingredient, this is so that there will be two levels of onion flavor and texture in the finished soup. It makes a huge difference. Remember that box of onions? Now it looks like this:

Drain the onion slices of most of the olive oil. Deglaze the pot with a quarter inch of dry sherry. Add the onions back in. Salt and pepper. Pour in equal parts beef and chicken broth. Simmer, uncovered, until volume is reduced by a full third.


You can add in a coloring or sauce strengthener like Kitchen Bouquet® if you so desire, but, if you were patient enough with carmelizing your onions it should not be something you need to do. If you want a deep brown broth in your finished soup, by all means, go right the fuck ahead.

The assembly and serving process will follow tonight when I do it after our Cinco de Mayo fiesta. My four Mariachas from Intermediate Strings class have been invited to play tonight. They are very excited and very honored. They have invited me to sit in with them on the harp. We are going to play "La Mujera de los Dos Pistoles" which is a famous corrida from this revolution. There was a celebrated Puta (whore) near Vera Cruz who when she saw a train carrying food, armaments and 2,000 French soldiers took a group of her girls down to the train at a coal and water stop. They did their business, collected their money, but La Mujera drugged the wine she was plying the train crew with and while they were passed out she drove the train 200 miles past its intended stop. She drove it, and the French soldiers, their horses, their food and all their equipment straight into the arms of Benito Juarez. He asked her how she learned to drive a locomotive. She said "In bed." She was famous throughout the next years of revolution for her brace of revolvers, her quick use of them when anybody referred to her previous occupation or disparaged the contribution of women to the cause, and her elegant and beautiful Palomino stallion which was a gift from a grateful Juarez. It's a great song and we will kick revolutionary ass with it tonight.