Monday, January 28, 2008

Spectacular Soup Debacle

I think that everyone who is good at something should occasionally experience monumental failure in their area of expertise so as to prevent them from getting too big for their britches.

Or for her apron as the case may be.

Yesterday was The Hubster's birthday and he wanted to invite a friend and wife over for dinner. Did I hear somebody say, "Special Birthday Dinner?" Hooo-Law! That is right straight up my clean, well-lighted alley.

Steak? Check. Scalloped Potatoes? Check. Check. Out of season, imported from Peru, Barbara Kingsolver forgive-me-for-I-have-sinned Asparagus? Found it. Winter salad and the Birthday Boy's favorite rum cake? Yupper.

But what about a soup course? Wouldn't it be special to have a salad course AND a soup course? And we dooooo love us some French Onion soup...Okay, twist my arm. I'll buy a $10 block of Gruyere and take a stab at this French Onion thing. How difficult can it be?

Ha! Haaaaa-haaa-haaaa-haaaaaa! :: Gasp :: Aaaaa-haaaaa-haaaaaaa!

Let me tell you that I spent one week of lunch hours online researching French Onion soup. I JOINED Cooks Illustrated online to learn the technique (add $24.95 to the soup tab). I bought the best onions. I made beef stock from scratch.

I followed those damn instructions to the LETTER. Never left the stove to multi-task. Stood right there for almost two freaking hours*. I reduced and I scraped and I deglazed. And then I reduced and scraped and deglazed some more. And then I did it all again.

Like most cooks I taste as I go along, and I thought straight away that something was baaad wrong.

Hey, Shakespeare, you want to know what was Rotten in Denmark? Some housefrau making French Onion soup.

Bitter does not begin to describe how hideously....okay, BITTER, this soup was.

I let Hubster try it just to make sure I wasn' t over-reacting and for the first time in ten year - TEN YEARS of cooking almost nightly - he looked at me and said, "Oh, God. You can't serve that."

"It has a funky back note, doesn't it?" She asked going way too easy on herself.

"Oh, Darlin', that isn't a back note, that is full-on bitter."

He later compared the effect of the soup on his tortured taste buds to getting a mouthful of that icky skin between the meat and the shell in a pecan. UGH. Have you ever accidentally eaten that evil, vile crap? Yeah? Well, then you also know what my soup tasted like.

So there is no recipe to accompany this post. I am going to give the folks at Cooks Illustrated the benefit of the doubt and assume I did something horribly wrong.

But now, NOW I am determined to conquer this beast of a soup. More research, more testing and undoubtedly more unceremonious disposal at the nearest Superfund site.

And when I do perfect it - and oh, I will - you can be damn sure I will proudly post that recipe and a freaking video tutorial right here on this blog.

This is WAR, soup.

Stay tuned.

Image Credit:


Country Girl said...

The only recipe place I trust implicitly is Southern Living. Go figure...that doesn't make a lick of sense. But I've got a couple of Cooks Illustrated bad experiences...that lemon cake around Easter last year? Okay..but not two days worth of okay. And I'm STILL at war with that Almost-No-Knead bread recipe. Reckon it's my cheap beer? (In the batter, not drunk.)

hswilkinson said...

Forget making beef stock - there's so much that could wrong with that. I use Pacific beef stock. Makes French onion soup so much easier.

melissa said...

I agree...outsource stock.

And my cross? Is eggplant. Until recently, I was expressly forbidden to so anything with it. I may have (the jury is still out on this one) broken the curse with a Pampered Chef recipe of all things.