January 30, 2009

Oh Snap Shotgun

Oh...

Also, I ended one of my tweets in "ZING" and apparently, if you do that, you get an "Oh snap!" from this twitter bot:

@drmomentum @pammybean OH SNAP!

Weird. And fun!


Posted by James at 10:10 AM | Comments (8)

January 29, 2009

How Big Is the Money?

A distant friend of mine was wondering about all the bailouts, and saying things like "why couldn't they take the 825 billion dollars and chop it up thusly: give every citizen one million dollars to spend and stimulate the economy."

I ambushed my kids and asked them what was wrong with this idea while they were trying to rush through their breakfast so they wouldn't be late for the bus. To be sure, there are a lot of things wrong with the idea. The first answer I got was that not everyone would spend their money, some might save it and that wouldn't stimulate the economy. Clearly, the kids have been listening to the news that I have on in the morning!

But I'm more concerned at the moment with the math. The population of the United States is around 300 million people.

My friend from before had a little trouble with large numbers. After I tried to explain that the $825 billion was not enough to give everyone a million dollars, she wanted an explanation along the lines of "if we give 300 million people one million dollars each, why doesn't that simply amount to 300 million dollars?" I told her that $300 million is what it costs to give each of them simply one dollar.

I don't think that was simply intellectual laziness; I think people's brains shut off when confronted with large numbers. She's not the only one having a problem with this. I've heard many people suggest that the way to help the economy is to dump the bailout money on citizens, or just "people with debt." But whatever you advocate, don't fall into the trap of overestimating $825 billion, or underestimating the number of US residents, US households or US taxpayers.

Over 138 million individual tax returns were filed in 2006. Even if you just gave those people the bailout money, it would be less than $6,000 per taxpayer.

We've already done something like this, but smaller, and it didn't work in the end. It was called the Bush tax cut. And Obama has some of the same kind of cuts built into the stimulus bill that the House just passed (without any one Republican lifting a finger to help).

We can disagree on the types of stimulus that cause the greatest and quickest benefit, but confusion about the scale of the problem, and the scale of the available money will dilute support for necessary stimulus, and minimize the complexity of the problem and the dire need for a solution. Another example of how mathematics is important to citizenship.


Just for fun, how much would it cost to give everyone a million dollars?

If you give 300 million people each a million dollars, that's 300,000,000 * $1,000,000 = 3*1014 or 300 trillion dollars.

That sounds like a lot of money. Is it?

Yes. According to the Federal Reserve, all the printed money in circulation in the US amounts to about 792 billion dollars. Not even one trillion dollars.

But there is much more money than that in the United States, including checking accounts, CDs, and such. The Fed tracks how much money people have in a value they call "M2" which covers households and individual investors and currency. The M2 money supply was reported to be just under $1.6 trillion in December of 08.

If you include institutional money market fund balances, repurchase agreements and Eurodollar deposits in the equation, the figure is probably up around $10 trillion, in a measure the Fed calls the M3 money supply. Interestingly, the Fed announced they would discontinue calculating this number in 2006. Ron Paul has argued that M3 is the most reliable measure of how quickly the Fed is creating new money:

"M3 is the best description of how quickly the Fed is creating new money and credit. Common sense tells us that a government central bank creating new money out of thin air depreciates the value of each dollar in circulation. Yet this report is no longer available to us and Congress makes no demands to receive it."

Interesting. Were the Fed trying to hide something? In any case, 300 trillion dollars is clearly a couple of orders of magnitude more money than exists in the whole United States.

Posted by James at 9:20 AM | Comments (3)

January 28, 2009

This Is How It Works With Kids

It's great to see that Neil Gaiman is winning awards for his children's books. Kudos. I always loved Sandman.

In any case, Coraline has been made into a movie. I had mixed feelings about this at first.

I remember when Coraline was first published (was it 2004?). I thought it looked like a neat book to read aloud to the kids. I knew Gaiman had a fascinating creativity, and that makes for good kid lit. The book portrays a twisted alternate world which sounds creepy and compelling.

K was 9 at the time, M was 7. I don't nkow why I didn't just buy it and read it to the kids. They're 13 and 11 now.

When I saw the movie was coming out, I thought we could read the book together before seeing the movie. When I mentioned this, K told me in an offhand way that she'd already read it. I didn't even know she was aware of it, or where she got a copy of it.

Carpe diem.

In any case, I'm looking forward to the movie.

Posted by James at 9:05 AM | Comments (2)

January 27, 2009

Administer a Gentle Correction

Have you ever played the game Taboo? This post will make a little more sense if you have.

From my various social networks, and from talking to people in everyday life, I hear many stories of annoying people who exhibit grating behaviors in the absence of politeness toward the people around them. Sometimes it's small (but nonetheless annoying) things, like someone popping their gum loudly in a quiet room. Sometimes, it's folks invading your personal space, or even pushing you.

We should probably tell these people to mind their manners. But out of an abundance of shyness, not all of us are willing to speak up.

That's where Taboo comes in.

The game includes a hand-held electronic buzzer, used to signal that the other team had made a mistake. It's a jarring, obnoxious sound, a little bit like a loud electric razor. Invariably, friends will use it to buzz each other for no reason.

I think we should carry these around. Whenever someone oversteps the boundaries of manners, they should be administered a brief buzz. And since the buzz itself is a little annoying, it deserves to be accompanied by an apology.

If their transgression is obvious, a buzz alone might be enough.But I think it would be more effective if followed by a statement of the infraction. For example:

BZZZZZZ! Sorry, you cut in front of me in line.

BZZZZZZ! Sorry, you're letting your runny-nosed child touch all the candies in the checkout.

BZZZZZZ! Sorry, your heavy pocketbook keeps baning into me, and you don't seem to care.

Posted by James at 12:53 PM | Comments (5)

January 25, 2009

Addictionary - Storyboarding

At the suggestion of Kitten Herder, I added a word to the Addictionary.

storyboard

verb - method of interrogation torture in which the subject is forced to listen to romance novels read aloud until he or she is broken.

USAGE: "Storyboarding was effective in extracting information from the striking writers, but it is not approved of in the Army Interrogation Manual, and so an ethics probe was launched."

Posted by James at 11:52 AM | Comments (6)

January 23, 2009

Random Song Answer meme

Memes are lame, but apparently, so am I. Cyndy tagged me with this on Facebook. Most of the answers make no sense, but some were amusing. So I post it here.

I'm not tagging anyone, but if you want to play feel free to.

1 Put Your iTunes on Shuffle.
2. For each question, press the next button to get your answer.
3. You must write down the name of the song no matter how silly it sounds!
4. Put any comments in brackets after the song name.
5. Tag at least 10 friends

What do your friends think of you?
Roam

If someone says "Is this okay?", you say:
Polonaise No. 17 in G Minor

How would you describe yourself?
The Statue Got Me High

What do you like in a guy/girl?
Who's That Girl?

How do you feel today?
Which Describes How You're Feeling All The Time

What is your life's purpose?
Main Title / The Ice Planet Hoth

What is your motto?
We Are Winning

What do you think about very often?
Suite 2 pour le Clavessin

What do you think of your best friend?
Tonight You Belong To Me

What do you think of the person you like?
Voodoo

What is your life story?
20 Degrees

What do you want to be when you grow up?
Baal T'shuvah (translation: someone who comes around to orthodox Judaism)

What do you think of when you see the person you like?
So weit (translation: as far as it goes)

What will you dance to at your wedding?
After the Chase

What will they play at your funeral?
Home Again: End Credits / Star Trek IV

What is your hobby/interest?
It's The End of the World As We Know It

What is your biggest fear?
Railroad Bill

What is your biggest secret?
Get It, Get It

What do you think of your friends?
How Fortunate the Man With None

Posted by James at 12:14 PM | Comments (9)

Ninja Shotgun

Posted by James at 10:04 AM | Comments (2)

January 21, 2009

Inauguration Aftermath

I can understand you being upset for partisan reasons that your candidate didn't win, but some of your complaints about the excitement and celebration surrounding Obama's inauguration are just pathetic.

I am inclined to dismiss most of it as knee-jerk grumbling, which you are certainly entitled to, but there is a point to be addressed.

In the same way that a wedding reception is really more for the guests than the bride and groom, the celebration was for the people who worked hard to get the president elected and really for the entire country to whip up positive feelings as we gird ourselves for difficult tasks ahead.

If you're one of those people who grumble at the word "hope" and would rather see people motivated by fear, I really don't know how to make you happier. All you can do is sit back and wait for whatever horrible fate awaits us, the fate that moved you to be so dissatisfied with Obama and/or Biden. This fate which is worse than what we've experienced over the last 8 years, and worse than the state we're left in, will surely teach Obama's supporters a lesson in false hope. Right?

While you're waiting for that, the rest of us are going to try to make the country work.

But your way is good, too.

Posted by James at 12:43 PM | Comments (15)

January 20, 2009

Welcome, Obama

Welcome to your new job, Mr. Obama. Maggie starts her new job today as well, so it's a day of beginnings for us.

Best of luck with it. Your luck is ours as well.

There are people who have been waiting 8 years to sink their teeth into another "liberal" president, and they've said openly that they are hoping for you to fail. After 8 years of telling Bush administration critics that they were unpatriotic for having an independent thought, before day one they feel it's appropriate to wish for the failure of a new president. Of course, the stakes are not as high for rich conservative-media blowhards. Yes: it is true that there are some people who listen to those idiots. But the vast majority of Americans know that's bullshit. The best revenge is ignoring them and succeeding and building respect.

The truth is, they're scared after seeing their ideas fail so badly. A lot of them are emotionally hurt by having a president let them down so badly. Some feel they have little to hold on to that will cover up that fear, except anger. Others are cautiously optimistic.

The majority of us love our country and will cheer every step back in the right direction.

We know you can't do it alone. Part of what frustrated us about the last administration was how it tied our hands. Money that could have been spent on research, educational infrastructure, and empowering our citizens was wasted on aggrandizing elective military adventures. The most we were ever asked to do was spend, never to strive or create, or solve or dream. We were never encouraged to do the things that Americans have been admired for being good at; instead the things we are caricatured for.

Welcome to you. But please welcome us back by leveraging our creativity, enthusiasm, drive and love for this country. It's a well you can never go to too many times, though you can poison it as we have seen.

Posted by James at 9:09 AM | Comments (0)

January 19, 2009

There's The Exit

I once worked with a guy I didn't like. When he came on I figured I'd give him a chance. He talked a good game. He seemed like a screw up in some ways, but he was friendly (except for when he was angry and paranoid). He did a couple of things right, but eventually he screwed so many things up that he made life difficult for his coworkers. Things were getting to be a mess and it was going to be some work to clean up.

One day, my manager asked me how I felt about the guy. He was considering letting the guy go. I unintentionally damned him with faint praise. I was on my way out on vacation. When I came back, he was gone.

I didn't feel happy, because we were left with a mess and I had to clean it up. I guess I was somewhat relieved, but the removal of this thorn in my side (in the side of our organization) was not a cause of elation.

That's close to how I am feeling about this administration change. I'm happy about a lot of the differences between Bush and Obama. I'm happy when I hear people who have sat down with Obama and later said that this is a man who cares deeply about motivating people to work together to keep this country great and solve its problems, in contrast to our current president who cared about people agreeing with him more than hearing their opinion.

But Bush's exit was inevitable. It was always on the calendar. And as things have gotten worse, he's left us with so much garbage that it's like having your incompetent coworker fired. You're just sorry the whole thing happened, sorry the damage has been done. It's great when they hire a bright new guy to help get things back on track, but you just want to forget about the numskull who did more harm than good.

Posted by James at 11:51 PM | Comments (3)

January 16, 2009

Name That Disease

There are people out there who are so pissed off we elected Barack Obama that it's already driven them over the edge.

Take this lady, for example. She is so obsessed with the idea that the new Pepsi logo looks like the Obama logo (which she calls "the creepiest symbol in this new century") and so disturbed that Pepsi is trying to appeal to young people who are filled with optimism about having a chance to be involved in changing their country for the better that she's going to stop drinking her favorite soft drink.

Not because it's unhealthy. Not because of some social injustice. Not even because she can no longer afford it. Just because shes driven to distraction by Barack. Hussein. Obama.

During the Bush years, slob blog media had a nickname for what they saw as an unhealthy fixation with Bush. They called it "Bush Derangement Syndrome." It caught on with the 3% of the American public who judge the health of the economy by whether or not Twinkies and SUVs are still being manufactured. These are the people who, if you offer them a coffee will throw it back at you if you call it a latte or an espresso. Because, you know, Americans invented good, honest, hardworking joe1.

Unfortunately, "Bush Derangement Syndrome" was not catchy enough to spread to the general public, who were busy dealing with the more dire "Bush Screwed Us Big-Time Syndrome." While "Bush Derangement Syndrome" is a made up disease whose symptoms were mostly seen only in its observers (such as: hives at any criticism of George W. Bush) "Bush Screwed Us Big-Time Syndrome" is widespread with real-world symptoms such as job loss, the declining dollar, lack of access to health care, a neglected educational system and a gutting of our scientific infrastructure.

But now we have a new disease to deal with as tens of Joe-the-Plumber-Wannabees pick on everything Obama does. And we're going to need a name for this disease.

Some symptoms are already apparent:

  • nonsensical boycotts of products that remind them of Obama
  • over-the-top sarcastic nicknames for Obama like "redeemer" or "messiah"
  • selective memory loss of events between Jan 2001 and Jan 2009
  • blaming Obama for any of the mess he inherited

And more will be discovered as time goes on. But it needs a name, and that's where I need your help. Let's have some suggestions. The more suggestions the better. We have to know what to call this new medical condition.

Here are some of my suggestions to start us off. Feel free to riff on them.

  • Adult Onset Obama Fixation
  • Baracknaphobia (stolen from the Daily Show)
  • Obamanoia
    • Obamanoid Schizophrenia
    • Obamanoid Psychosis
  • Delusional Barakitosis
  • Chronic Infantile Baraxysm

Then, of course, there are the names which indicate that the problem is larger than just one obsession. Sometimes the craziness is not just about Obama. So, we also have:

  • Mad NeoCon Disease
  • Post-Republican Traumatic Disorder

Help me out! Please give me your suggestions.

[1] Oops, coffee was not invented by Americans. Arabs were drinking it back in the 10th century CE. While they were doing their algebra. And, come to think of it, some Christians decided to ban that drink because they saw it as pagan and Muslim. Such forward-thinking folks! If only they'd had Diet Pepsi, they probably would have declared the logo to be an Islamic crescent.

Posted by James at 9:37 AM | Comments (3)

January 14, 2009

Brick and Cider

Drinks

So, my blog has temporarily devolved into baking posts, product posts, and posts about New Bedford. Please bear with me through this difficult time in our nation, and our blog's history.

Yesterday I stopped in on Purchase St. to grab some No Problemo for dinner for Maggie and me. It's becoming clear to me that working in Fairhaven as opposed to Dartmouth has at least one trade off to balance the increase in gas usage: New Bedford is on the way home.

I parked on Union St. (semi-legally) in front of the new pizza place called "Brick." It's named after the sort of oven used to bake the pies, not the character from Anchorman. I ordered a pizza, ran up to No Problemo for the taco order, then picked up the pizza on the way back.

The pizza at Brick is quite good. It's got all the hallmarks of a pizza baked quickly under high heat. The dough used is very chewy, strong enough to be substantial even though it is stretched quite thin. Maggie said it reminded her of a flat bread. No corn meal appears to be used, and I love the tiny little overdone spots over the bottom surface of the pizza crust. I love the texture and the brick oven flavor. My pizza was a pepperoni pie, with mozzarella and a sauce consisting mainly of crushed tomatoes. Simple and yummy.

I jogged past the Pour Farm twice on my errand, but did not stop in. That was an effort. But I had stopped at Douglas liquors earlier and snagged a 6 of Woodchuck's Limited Release cider. I was interested to taste what an oak aged cider was like. My answer: quite good. The oakiness gave a complexity to the cider which I don't usually feel Woodchuck has. Think of your favorite slightly oaky Chardonnay. I think I detected a slight caramel addition from the oak, which goes well with apples, if you like caramel apples. Which I do.

I also snagged a few bottles of the Harpoon Baltic Porter I mentioned last week. It seems to me to be more like a bock. I want to age the remaining bottles and see what happens to this strong brew.

Posted by James at 1:10 PM | Comments (8)

January 12, 2009

Happy Anniversary

Today is my 18th wedding anniversary. It is also my 7th blogging anniversary. I will try to be thoughtful without getting sappy.

In the next 4 years we have 3 "significant" anniversary coincidences. Next year is relatively unremarkable, but 2011 will mark 20 years of marriage. 2012 will mark 10 years of blogging. In 2013 I'll have been blogging for half my married life, which will seem amazing, I'm sure. So, we have all that to look forward to.

Which brings me to mind of something that a close friend once said about reflecting on the past (something people do a lot of at anniversaries and at the beginning of a new year).

He said we shouldn't dwell on our best past days as "good old days." We should always enjoy our present days, and strive to make the future a new time of good days.

Sometimes, it seems like you have reached some peak in the past, and it's all downhill from there. It's not usually worded that way, but this is often how anniversary reflections sound. Wallowing in the past is a phenomenon most noticeable in those high school stars who never seem to let go of high school. But it's also true of married couples who have resigned to the passage of time and have not learned to adapt to the changes that time brings.

Looking at the past, I see some very good days. I also see some pretty horrible days. Nobody knows what the future holds, but judging by the past, it's going to be a mixed bag.

Our future is full of challenges and opportunity. We will rise to meet those challenges as we have in the past. We will make the future days our best days by doing what we can to make today the best it can possibly be.

Most importantly, we'll do it together in a way we couldn't do alone.

Posted by James at 8:20 AM | Comments (11)

January 9, 2009

Beer Report

9th Night

To celebrate the first work week of the year (or to mitigate the effects of it) an outing to New Bedford's Pour Farm and No Problemo was scheduled. Sara and I left from work and met Cousin Bob, Liz, Don and Ron, and a new friend named Henry (I think it was Henry -- I'm horrible with names).

The bartenders at the Pour Farm couldn't be more accommodating. They let us bring our No Problemo order in and move two tables together. (In fact, they have the menu, so you can call ahead)

I had to restrain myself from getting Chocolate Bock on tap because I wanted to try some new beer. Pour Farm has flights of beer, allowing you to try more beer with less intoxication (meaning you get home soberer, safer and earlier). I had a pint and half a flight, which I split with Bob. Here are the beers I tried:

Southern Tier Raspberry Porter

Raspberry flavor was strong, so you definitely have to like fruit to like this beer. I like porters, and I found this one smooth and drinkable. I also like the way the hops asserted itself a bit as the raspberry faded off your tongue. Very refreshing. Would drink again. (link to this beer on BeerAdvocate)

Harpoon Rauchfetzen

I wanted to surprise Bob, so I ordered this as part of the flight. I'd had rauchbier before and didn't love their overpowering smokiness. This beer is a lot less smoky than I expected, which is something you'd criticize if you liked rauchbiers. But they named it "Rauchfetzen" or"wisp of smoke" so clearly they were going for something slightly different. It was good with tacos, and so I would definitely pair this with food. They recommend cheeses and sausages, which sounds about right. I'd drink it again, especially with BBQ. (link to this beer on BeerAdvocate)

Harpoon Baltic Porter (Leviathan Series)

Favorite beer of the night, hands down. I am doomed to love limited run beers. This one I put in the same class as Chocolate Bock, although a very different taste. It's a strong beer at over 9% abv. But this beer reminded me of all my favorite porters. Rich and almost wine-like, it had chocolate notes without the chocolate sweetness of Chocolate Bock. I should have taken notes, and I have to get a bottle or two of this for the cellar. I rate this beer (IMHO) above Double Bastard. (link to this beer on BeerAdvocate)

At around 9:15 we started to hear fireworks. Bob and I decided to investigate and see if the new brick oven pizza place was still open. It wasn't, to our disappointment.

We wandered down Acushnet Ave and watched the fireworks that were being launched from the parking low where we usually park. They seemed so close... they were so close. I was afraid that they might fall on our heads.

New Bedford had postponed their fireworks from First Night because of windy weather. Ironically, last night was also very windy. Gusts up to 50 MPH were reported on the news. But that didn't stop them from putting on their show as people stood yards away and watched.

9th Night

Posted by James at 10:43 AM | Comments (1)

Twitter is...

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January 8, 2009

Children Rescued in Gaza

The Red Cross has been severely restricted in their ability to provide humanitarian aid in Gaza, made necessary by the Israeli offensive. But the recent and brief cease fire allowed aid workers to go in and help Gazans who were trapped, starving often because they were afraid for their lives to seek food.

Their efforts rescued a number of people, thankfully, these four children among them:

The statement said a team of four Palestine Red Crescent ambulances accompanied by Red Cross representatives made its way to Zeitoun Wednesday where it "found four small children next to their dead mothers in one of the houses. They were too weak to stand up on their own. One man was also found alive, too weak to stand up. In all, there were at least 12 corpses lying on mattresses."

Israel insists that it does not intentionally target civilians, and that Hamas hides among civilians. I believe both of those assertions, but since Gaza is one of the most densely populated areas of the world, there is some disingenuousness in the statements. It's like shooting into a barrel of fish and not targeting the fish.

In any case, I am glad for the efforts of the Red Cross and hope that the horrors revealed during the cease fire convince both sides of this conflict to sit down together.

Unrelated: I am unfamiliar with the region "Zeitoun" referenced in the quote, but "zeitoun" is the word for "olives" used by the Arabic speakers I know.

Posted by James at 9:37 AM

January 5, 2009

Hold That Cookbook

Cookbook

Here's a tip for holding open a stiff new cookbook.

When I need to free my hands for cooking or baking, and I want to hold my cookbook open to a page, I usually use a weighted leather bookmark that is designed for that purpose.

But if my book weight isn't handy, I use a small glass cutting board . The one pictured is an inexpensive one that Maggie bought for serving cheese. It's clear glass, so you can read the book right through it. It's not heavy, so this one won't break the spine of the book.

(The image is garbled on purpose because I didn't want to post a detailed picture of someone else's copyrighted work. So you'll have to take my word for it that the text was quite readable.)


Posted by James at 2:21 AM | Comments (8)

Pain d'Epi in Five

Got a new book for Christmas, and it's made it even easier for me to bake yummy bread.

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking

Pain d'Epi

Pain d'Epi

You know, I like to try inventive breads: breads where people have added things to the recipe. Herb bread can be yummy. There are wonderful dessert breads out there which are sweet and have fruit in them. However, there is no bread I enjoy more than the simple crusty bread. I have the highest respect for the baker who produces a crusty, hearty loaf with a light and airy interior. Well, I have a slightly higher respect when that loaf is also a sourdough. But a plain crusty loaf occupies a special place in my heart, and in my stomach when I am lucky. When someone innovates a new way to make the most simple and delicious loaf with less drama, I take notice.

I won't go into huge detail about the baking (see the Links section below if you want additional details) but I highly recommend this book and method.

Quick rundown: the authors have simplified dough-preparation to simply mixing the ingredients in a bucket, then storing it in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. The shaping loaves and baking are essentially the same as most other baking, but the beauty of this method is that you have 4 lbs. of dough ready to bake for two weeks. (Or more, if you use a bigger bucket) Make boules, baguettes, pizza, rolls, ciabatta or whatever. Make them now, tomorrow, or next weekend.

In many ways, this is even easier than the no-knead bread (and Low-Knead bread) I've posted about before because this is almost completely unscheduled. If the scheduling is what you don't like about baking, this is your method.

After fermenting in the fridge overnight, my first batch didn't last 14 hours, never mind 14 days. I made a peasant boule, and we liked that so much I baked the rest of the dough into pizzas. I immediately started a new batch. With this one, I attempted a wheat stalk bread, or pain d'epi (see pix). It's a really pretty presentation, and it's practical! The bread is easily broken up into roll-like portions without using a knife. Plus, it makes more delicious crust this way.

My wheat stalk didn't come out as pretty as it could have, but it was still both practical and delicious. The crust was crisp and flavorful, and the crumb was open, soft, chewy, and just wonderful. Because it's a wet dough, it gets a wonderful oven spring. And my boule crackled as it cooled, just as it should!

If you can stir flour and water and yeast and salt in a bucket, and that's about the size of your desired commitment to dough preparation, please try this method. If you've ever thought "I wish I had bread dough ready" please try this method. If you've ever paid for pizza dough at the supermarket -- try this method instead.

I'm excited to see what more time in the fridge does to the dough. It should improve both the flavor and the workability.

Links:

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Posted by James at 2:08 AM | Comments (17)

January 3, 2009

Bananas

We were talking about bananas and onions, which seem like an unlikely combination. But you never can tell what people are going to do with their food.

Example follows. WARNING: People who take comfort that the universe is an orderly place and that people will behave somewhat predictably may not want to view this video.

Posted by James at 10:00 PM | Comments (6)

January 1, 2009

Kickass French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup

I love French Onion Soup. Panera makes my favorite. After trying a copycat version, I've modified it to be more to my liking.

I love this soup. Now you can make it, too. And you must. If you have never made soup in your life before, now is a good time to start, because this is easy. If you have your own broth or stock, then you can make this from scratch, but I use canned.

Aces Onion Soup

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 8 cups sliced onions or about 5 med-large onions sliced.
  • 2 cans beef broth (14 oz each)
  • 8 oz chicken broth, or 1/2 of a 14 oz can of chicken broth.
  • 3 Tbsp flour (optional)
  • 1/2 cup sherry
  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 tsp black pepper freshly ground
  • 1Tbsp ketchup
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme, ground fine
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • optional hot sauce (one or two squirts - optional)

Melt the butter in a 6 quart pot or saucepan. Add your sliced onions and saute them. As they reduce, at first they'll become creamy. Then the creaminess will brown and stick to the bottom of the pan. Stir frequently and scrape that brown stuff off the bottom of the pan, mixing it in. It's concentrated awesomeness, and is the flavor base of your soup. Brown the onions, but don't burn them, as that will bitter your soup.

When the onions are generally browned (and this takes me at least 1/2 hour) the difficult part is over. Add the remaining ingredients. Reduce heat to low and let it simmer for 20 minutes as the house fills with the aroma of deliciousness.

Panera serves this soup with asiago cheese. I can never get my asiago cheese to be as melty and chewy as theirs, so I don't always bother with it. But if you want to give that a shot, be my guest. Almost any stringy cheese would be good.

A couple of drops of hot sauce give it a little zing, either Tabasco or Frank's.

Serve this with some crusty bread. You'll want it to sop up the last remaining soup in your bowl.

For my GF friends, you can leave out the flour, or substitute a small amount of some other starch thickener.

I commented today about onions sauteed in butter being the start of a recipe that would always lead you in a good direction, and Bull jokingly challenged me to use bananas as a next ingredient. In actuality, I bet that if you left out the flour and mashed up half a banana into the onions while you were reducing them, you'd get a not-too-unpleasant effect. I'd try it, but I hesitate to mess with my favorite onions soup.

Posted by James at 6:01 PM | Comments (7)