Monday, March 30, 2009

Irish Onion Soup?

The Half Cheeseburger. It's almost a universal leftover. There's probably one in your fridge right now somewhere. These days, with portion size increasing beyond all sense of good taste, it's hard to complete an app, salad, soup, and your entire meal. Generally, by the time the server comes around sweetly asking about dessert, I just want to grunt at her and slip into a food-coma.

So, more often than not, I end up with this:

Reclining on a bed of OldFries

Now, the textbook solution is just to nuke-it-and-eat-it. However, old burgers are dry and usually taste of warm and not of flavor. Added to that, Value compels me to save the fries, but there is no cooking preparation on earth that can make leftover chips edible.

OR IS THERE?!? This is mostly a Transformation, but it also gives me a chance to demo a new Abomination: The Unholy Fusion. Fusion in cooking means to mix two different cusines into a harmionous supermeal. My vareity is much the same only without the 'harmonious' bit.

Case the Third: Ye Olde Irish Onion Soupe

Source Food: Half of an Irish Burger from Celtic Crossing and some chips.

Pantry Items:

Delicious Tab in background. Would love to ronch, but all gone. Hurm.
1 box of beef stock (re-cook pantry gold, here...I try to keep a box of beef, chicken, and vege stock in there), freezer butter, red onion (I like red because I like them in everything...onions also keep a long time, but don't refrigerate them until you've cut into them), and the 'bouquet garni' (a fancy cook word for bunch of herbs) made up of whatever bunch of herbs i had in the pantry.

The Celtic is my new favorite haunt. Wonderful pub food, and 2.50 pint night Mondays....What more could you want? Yesterday, I got the Irish Burger, which is a burger with muenster cheese and a rasher (kind of like bacon, but not really) on top. Ordered it medium rare, and got it well done, but we were there right before the kitchen closed, so I can't complain.

Today, true desperation struck. No food in the house, and a reheat on that burger didn't seem to cut it. A catastropie at lunchtime? So be it.


I wasn't 100% sure where to start with this one. I was discussing it with Sara and Mike over dinner (now knowing the fate of all leftovers In The House of the Re-Cook...). Mike suggested that I make a burrito out of it, and that is because he is an ass. I mused that I could do some kind of soup with it, and Sara suggested French Onion. Brilliant! Fits perfectly. Burger has cheese on it, and the bun can turn into the croutony-thing. Sure, French Onion soup doesn't have beef or potatoes in it....But no matter. Onward!

Firstly, oven turned on to 300 to dry out the bun. Pan on the heat with some butter melting to begin sweating the onions. Seperate burger into it's component bits. Chop up fries and beef (seperately). Stick the bun in a pan and put it in the oven to crouton-ify. I didn't have enough cheese by half, so I turned to the fridge for some old pepperjack. It certainly wasn't fresh, and a couple of pieces were starting to show a little mold. The cool thing about cheese is that you can just cut the mold off and the rest of it is fine.

Find that a repugnant thought? You should perhaps take a closer look at how cheese is made.

Next, I cut up the onions into slices. Don't bother breaking them up yet, as that will happen naturally as they cook. Protip: got onion juice on your hands? Don't want the stink of it to linger for days? While washing your hands, rub them on the stainless steel of the faucet. This will take care of the smell. Onions go into pan, with some salt on top. Diced up the rasher into little bits to put some extra fat and taste into the pan.

Arranging them like this took me 4 hours

And now you should go start writing that novel you've always wanted. Put the heat on medium-low and just let them sit. Don't even stir them for 20 minutes. Don't do it. They're not going to burn, so leave them the hell alone. After 20, you can start to stir them, but not all that often. I've seen onion soup recipies saying you need to stir it once a minute, which is complete crap. I stirred mine every 5 or so, and it got the job done. Because my stovetop is roughly 40 years old, I had to consistently alternate my heat setting between '3' (sitting in the sun on a cloudy day) and '2' (sitting on the surface of the sun). Your mileage may vary, but remember that this is a 'sweat' and not a 'saute'. If you hear that exciting sizzling sound, your heat is too high (sweating is the boring ugly cousin of saute). It takes forever, but this is the way you want to do it, trust me (or at least, it's the way I did it...)

There's nothing really productive to be done while the onions go. I posted auctions on Warcraft, checked my email, listened to music...Checked the onions:

They're still onions. Glistening limply in the pan.

I wrote a song, published a book, made a house of cards, whittled
out the last supper....You get the idea. All in all, it took about an hour for them to get all brown and good (imagine if onions were made of milk chocolate...this is about the color we're looking for here). Don't be paranoid about it, you're not going to burn them on this heat setting. The pan turns brown on the bottom, but we want that. Added the beef in at this point.

--Crap, forgot the effin bun! It's been in there I don't know how long. Pull it out. Looks burnt. Too bad, it'll have to do, I'm out of bread...--

All that brown turns into superflavor if you can get it off the bottom of the pan. How? Well, they call it 'de-glazing' in the business. That sounds all hoo-doo, and basically it is. You know how you put hot water on a pan to clean it? Well it's the same thing. You use a hot liquid to clean off all that yum and get it back into your soup. French Onion soup generally uses wine to deglaze (you can use any liquid, but liquids that taste good are preferred). I refuse to keep some kind of liquor around just for cooking, so if I don't drink it, I don't have it. Therefore, since I detest wine, I never deglaze with wine. Water is too boring, and i'll be adding plenty of beef stock in a minute. Instead, I opened the stash and got out my medicine:

Rum is God's Drink

Dash a little of that in the pan, ensuring to hover over the ensuing steam to smell one of the best smells on earth. Cranked the heat up to high, and begin scraping the bottom of the pan with my implement (this bit is why I didn't use a non-stick). Once all the stuff on the bottom was loose, added all the beef stock and my herbs. Let it boil, then put the heat on low for another 20 minute simmer.

Wow, that's some brown there. Big Ol' Pan O' Brown
Finally, it was go time. Flipped the oven up to broil. Tossed the chopped chips into the mix, and seasoned it with salt and pepper (and fished out the bay leaf). Took my ramekin (fancy word for bowl, essentially--the difference is that it's cermaic and can stand heats up to 500 indefinately) and ladled some of the soup into the bottom of it, filling it up to about an inch below top. Then I put the bun pieces in with the smooth side up (if that makes any want the absorbant side down). I layered the cheese on top with a bit sticking over the side for that oh-so-enticing cheese rim. Stuck the result on a pie pan (don't just put it in the oven, how the hell do you propose to get that nuclear ramekin back out?) and put it in. I hunched in front of the window like some kind of pathetic hungry kobold and watched it do it's thing.

End Result:

Don't worry, all that brown is still in there, it's just hiding!
Ease: F- (good god, french onion soup is a pain in the ass. Don't start this if you have somewhere to be in the next few days)
Flavor: A (I was worried about this one, but it actually tasted awesome. That burnt bun? Turns out it was actually perfectly cooked for this....those soggy chips? Turns out that they morhped into some kind of yumnuggets and were the best part of the soup)
Criminality: B (Hamburger into Soup isn't something that just springs to mind, i think. It works well as an Unholy Fusion, as it is essentially a French Onion soup + an Irish Cheeseburger = Something that it not quite either, but tastes a bit of both.)

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