One of my favorite dishes to make is the Traditional French Onion Soup. Not only is this soup rather easy to make, and the taste is almost unbeatable, if cooked well. But there is a wide range of French Onion Soups, in particular from disgusting to mind-blowing. You will find very poorly made ones even in Paris, for instance in the sixieme arrondissement where many tourists get ripped off all the time. The main two reasons for great French Onion Soup are fresh ingredients and plenty of time! A rushed French Onion Soup will never taste as good as one made with no concerns of time. A natural caramelization process of the onions simply takes some time. Whip out that homemade chicken or beef stock as a base. Don’t spare on the presentation either as it has a significant impact of this dish – believe it or not. I prefer using bowls as you can see in the image.
Ingredients ( for 8 servings )
- 6 fresh large yellow onions
- 2 shallots
- 2 cloves garlic
- 8 cups brown beef bouillon ( approx. 2 liter ) or chicken stock
- 1 1/2 Cups Gruyere Cheese
- Splash of Sherry ( substitute: Cognac )
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 cup dry white wine, vermouth ( approx. 150 ml )
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons flour
- 1 baguette
- 1 big, heavy bottomed pan or pot with lid ( best: French cast iron pan for equal heat distribution )
- 1 stirring spoon
- 1 sharp cutting knife
- 1 cutting board
- 1 metal spoon
- 1 ladle
- over safe soup bowls (crocks)
- 1 stove space
- 1 oven
Put the empty pan on the stove and let it rest there at high heat until you are done with the onion preparation.
Peal the onions and slice them into some sort of thin rings. Don’t be too concerned about their shape. It won’t matter too much at the end. Once you are done cutting all the onions put them in the hot pan immediately and turn the stove down to a medium-low temperature. Cover the pan with a lid and let the onions cook for 60 minutes. This is the caramelizing stage of the onions and let them do so until they have a dark brown color. In some cases it can take longer than one hour, so be patient. Don’t be worried about them burning because they won’t. The natural liquids in the onions will be set free and prevent that. If you have to use a thin bottom pan then some burning could happen as the heat is not distributed equally – usually around the edge. Just make sure the lid sits on the pot well to trap the steam from escaping. The natural sugars are responsible for the caramelization. Some folks like to add some sugar at this stage to enhance the caramelization process, but I don’t think it is necessary.
Mince the garlic and shallots and add them to the onions. Add the dried thyme, bay leaf, the splash of Sherry and cook for about one minute with stirring. Now add the beef bouillon and flower and cover the pan with the lid and let everything simmer for another 1/2 hour. It’s time to preheat the oven at 350 degrees F now. When the half-hour is up, season the soup with salt and pepper and discard the bay leaf.
Cut the baguette in slices and toast them a bit. Ladle the soup into the soup bowls. Make sure you stirred up some onions for each scoop. Top each soup with a slice of toasted baguette. Some of the broth will be soaked up by the bread. The toasting will reduce the amount of broth that is soaked up and maintains the breads texture. Sprinkle the Gruyere cheese on top of the bread and broil for another 10 minutes ( or shorter ) at 350 degrees F or until the cheese is bubbling and melted. Keep an eye on the cheese in the over as it can burn very quickly. Take out each soup bowl and the soup is ready for serving. But be careful the bowls are usually very hot. Make sure to inform your guests of that fact too to ensure a good intro of this dish. That’s about it. Enjoy & bon appetite…
After seeing the devastating footage on the situation in Japan it seams natural to pitch in a bit to help the victims. Especially living on the Ring of Fire myself now, I feel a bit more connected to earthquake related topics and it’s effects. I can barely imagine what people in Japan are going through after getting hit hard three times: the earthquake, the tsunami and being on the verge of a Design Basis Accident. Not to forget all this is happing in the middle of winter with temperatures around freezing!
Mel and I usually donate a bit to people in severe need worldwide, as we understand that there can be situations in life where you are dependent on help from others to literally survive. The Red Cross provides a very easy way to make donations via your cell phone, by simply texting REDCROSS to the phone number 90999. That’s it. $10 will go to the organization for each text message and will show up on your next mobile phone statement. More info here.
What we did this time was to give the money we get back from recycling and donate it immediately. It’s like hitting two birds with one stone. in the State of California you get ¢5 reimbursed for each bottle that has a California Refund Value ( CRV ) indicator on it. Some other States have a similar system — I think in Michigan you even get ¢10 for each item. If you go to local recycling centers to drop off the bottles you also get money for aluminum cans plastic bottles and glass bottles. So, we have been collecting our ‘trash’ for a few weeks with barely any effort. Instead of throwing the containers in the regular trash, we just put them to the recyclable ‘trash’. Today, while running errands, I stopped by the recycling center on the way to drop off the empty containers.
All in all, the ‘trash’ was almost $20 worth and could be donated as I got the pay-out immediately. Done.
Collecting recyclables can become a simple habit and the received monday can be donated for a good cause. Think about it, it’s really that simple.
Yesterday, Mel and I went to an amazing event in Los Angles. Inspired by Drew Barrymore’s debut as a director “Whip It“, I took Mel to see the real thing. For those of you who don’t know, there is an actual real league of roller derby. In Southern California there is a premiere all-female roller derby league called the L.A. Derby Dolls. The skaters have strict rules they have to follow in order to score points. About 10 referees make sure nothing gets out-of-control. The sport can get brutal as we were witness of some hard impacts and gnarly slams. You can find an official picture gallery of injuries on the Derby Doll’s site. Although there is a strong feeling of competition you will also experience a very loving and friendly vibe among the contestants. A band plays at half-time and it’s a really cool experience.
Image source: laderbydolls’ photostream
The image above was found on spiegel.de and shows the results of computer simulations created by German and US scientists to determine where the oil from BP’s mess is heading next. This result is based on four different scenarios as initial point to create the computer simulation. Most likely, the oil will drift around the Florida keys and the Trans-Atlantik stream will bring it up along the US east coast all the way over to Europe. But it will arrive in Europe far less concentrated compared to the images we are receiving through the media today. Of course, these are results from complex computer simulations, involving the hard to predict variables such as the weather. As the hurricane season 2010 has just started beginning with June 1st and scientists expect to have a strong season this year, what will actually happen is difficult to determine. I can image that the simulation hits it pretty close though.
Good bye Florida Keys. Nice to met you. Anyone want to rewrite Hemingway’s “The old man and the sea”? Let BP’s CEO Tony Hayward be the old man who will not deal with a giant marlin, but deal with a giant mess instead.
Here is a really neat google map visualization of the PB oil spill that allow you to overlay the current predicted size of the oil field with a location in the world of your choice. This helps understand the dimensions of the disaster in terms of area. Try mapping the oil against your location on ifitwasmyhome.com. This site was created by Andy Lintner.
For those of you who are interested in soccer, I can highly recommend the UEFA Champions Leugue Final match between FC Internazionale Milano and FC Bayern München. Both teams have won the title for their national leagues in Italy and Germany this year respectively. Both clubs are also listed in the top four clubs of all time success in the Champions League. To understand the importance of this match to the fans of Münch’s team, you have to consider that tickets for Munich’s stadium, the Allianz Arena ( image above ) with a capacity of 70,000 was sold out within one day. Now the interesting part of that is the the game is not played in Munich. It will take place about 1000 miles away in Madrid, Spain. All of the fans in Munich will follow the match virtually on the big screens in the stadium. I can imagine there will be some additional crazy big flat screens set up for the fans. Well, I hope so…
For the people in the US, FOX Sports is broadcasting the match, but you have to pay a fee to access the game. If you know a good place to watch the game in L.A., please let me know.
Good to know: Never travel on the day before Thanksgiving! This is a screenshot of the traffic conditions in Los Angeles on Google Maps on November 25 2009. In particular, I like the LAX traffic loop. According to my brother it looks like a regular day in L.A.