Saturday, January 19, 2008

This is what happens when you have too many ingredients

I wanted to find a recipe for french onion soup that also incorporated shallots. More specifically, I wanted to see if shallots would caramelize and reduce like onions do when you make French onion soup.

I come across this recipe, apparently from a BBC Cooking show. There are only two circumnstances that could lead to this recipe being developed. The first is someone was looking to use up a hodgepod of ingredients in their kitchen. The other was someone had access to so many ingredients that they simply cannot grasp that most people do not cook anything with two distinct alcohol ingredients.

I mean there is a lot of leeway in the wine requirement for French onion soup. I use marsala wine, mainly because my girlfriend bought a bottle of the stuff that is almost drinkable. On a total side note, I recommend it as the cooking wine for fresh clam sauce.

That being said, I am sure that with proper execution this recipe is divine. I also realize that these ingredients are all regularly available year round and if one cooks with wine and liquor, they probably have a bottle of sherry and brandy handy. However, this recipe is such that one can remove half the ingredients and still have a very nice soup.

I understand that you absolutely need butter to reduce onions. I also understand that mixing it with olive oil is good if you are impatient and plan on spending less than an hour reducing the onions. I'm sure that there is a difference between simmering off and burning off alcohol in terms of the resulting flavors. I am also sure that if I took some weekend intensives at the Culinary Institute of America I would understand enough cooking theory where it would be worth it to follow this recipe exactly.

My point is this reipe is quite complex for its intended audience, people that get their recipes from cooking shows. It is complex in the ingredient list, as opposed to the techniques. If I am feeling adventerous, I'd be willing to reduce onions for 3 hours, but I don't want to get 15 ingredients at the grocery store.

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