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Jan 262013
 
Potatoes simmering in the back, onions doing their thing in the front (I added liquid to them just before taking this).

Potatoes simmering in the back, onions doing their thing in the front (I added liquid to them just before taking this).

1/2 pound bacon (cut to bits)
3-5 potatoes*
vegetable boullion cube
2-4 yellow onions
black pepper, rosemary, paprika**
~ 1/2 to 1 c. heavy cream (or evaporated milk)
shreddy smoked/sharp cheese OR cheeze-its

[I added that shiny picture on 2/13.]

Fry the bacon in a heavy, straight-sided pan. While it cooks, peel and quarter the potatoes and coarsely dice the onions. Start boiling enough water to cover the potatoes, plus 2″, and add the boullion cube. When the cube dissolves, add the potatoes. Let the potatoes simmer, they don’t need a high heat.

When the bacon is done frying, remove it from the pan and drain on paper towels. Leaving the fat in the pan, add the onions. Deglaze with a splash of white wine (or whatever) and add seasonings. Cook the onions over low-medium heat, adding spoonfuls of the simmering vegetable broth from the pot of potatoes so the onions are always wet but not floating.*** Do this for 15-20 minutes until they are translucent and soft.

The point is not to be eating bits of onion but to have the onion melt into the rich flavorful body to the soup, so if in doubt, cook them a little longer!

When the onions are squishy enough, prepare to add the potatoes by mashing them right in the pan of water. Either use a potato masher or squish them against the side of the pan with a big spoon. I like to leave enough potato bits to have something to chew in the soup, but mashing them like this gets lots of the starch into the liquid, which helps thicken it. Pour the whole thing into the onion pan and stir.

At this point, you can add the bacon bits back in if you want soup-integrated bacon, or reserve them to sprinkle on top of the soup if you prefer crispy bacon bits.

Add the cream and bring to a simmer for a few minutes. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with either a smoky shredded cheese and bacon bits or cheeze-its.

 

Some notes on variations:

Pouring the potatoes into the onions is the point where you can start doing whatever the bleeding hell you want to this soup without fucking it up. Any time it is too thin? Cook it down. Too thick? Add some water. Here are some variations:

  • You don’t need the cream. It will still be delicious soup.
  • You don’t need the bacon. You can start the onions in butter, duck fat, or olive oil instead.
  • Other vegetables I have added with success: peas, peapods, parsnips, bok choy. Bell peppers didn’t work for me.
  • Top with fresh beansprouts and parmesan.
  • Leftover meat goes great in this, so pick over a roast chicken or dice some beef or pork. Or all three.
  • I made potato soup with lobster broth once and it was great, so do that if you like lobster, but then maybe swap the rosemary for sage and bay leaf.

Finally, that potato + onion point is also the point where you can hold this soup pretty much indefinitely, which makes it great for when you’re cooking large meals, or if you don’t know quite when you want to serve dinner. If you add the cream before holding, I find that it forms a skin, which is not a disaster because it stirs right back in.

 

* This footnote is a speculative potato-free alternative for bilgerat:

Instead of potatoes, take a small head of cauliflower. Cut it down, including the stems. Simmer it in the vegetable broth, but instead of mashing, you will probably need to blend the fuck out of it to get a good soup consistency. I have a terrifying blender that would do the job admirably. Consider reserving at least a cup of bite-size florets to add whole to your soup.

I also wonder if it would be better to reduce the amount of vegetable broth and increase the heavy cream so that it thickens better.

** Not too much hot paprika, as it overwhelms the other flavors in the soup.

*** Is there a technical term? This is one of those food things where I judge visually what seems right, like knowing a sentence is wrong without understanding the grammar.

Jan 232013
 

Nothing I know about killing or gutting animals helps with my new job, but only because my boss wouldn’t let me write that into the copy.

I will back up, but only a little. My new assistant job (and it is way more assistant than secretary) is for a business that teaches spy stuff, which can possibly include survival skills. She was pulling together info for me to put into a marketing piece, and someone from the venue in question suggested skinning deer as an activity. I was excited, because I figured corporate dudes would LOVE that — they could paint deer blood on their faces, and then dance around a deer head on a pike, and channel the fuck out of their fierce inner warriors — but it wasn’t the direction she wanted the proposal to go in.*

Like most of my talent, skills, and knowledge, butchering is useless to me at work. I think I’m getting decent at the job, though. There’s just enough urgency where I really want to get more done all the time, but I don’t feel in over my head, and I hardly ever feel like I’m screwing up. That’s good, right?

So here is the funny part. After my whole career to date being a secretary and assistant, I might be traveling next month to staff a trade show booth** at a conference for executive assistants. Maybe this isn’t actually funny to anyone else, but I knew about maybe having to do this for at least 24 hours before I knew who the conference was for. I figured exotic nut importers or used office chair salespeople,*** but no! These will be MY PEOPLE, and I’ll wear a flashy vintage suit from Mom, and it will be AWESOME (if it happens).

 

 

* The direction she wanted to go was probably better for all involved, actually.

** Not actually for the first time. I did the boat show a couple of times when I worked for the sailing school as a teenager.

*** Every profession gets conferences EXCEPT SECRETARIES. We just get those crappy seminars at rundown local motels that we try to wheedle our bosses into paying for so we can get the free lunch and then sneak out to the nearby bookstore and go home early. (Which I would never do. Obvs.)

Jan 212013
 

Westward

I’ve been enjoying the fuck out of Westward, an ongoing independent comic title currently taking pre-orders for its fourth issue. It is, I swear to god, a gritty steampunk Inspector Gadget. The art is gorgeous. I know the art is great because I stop on every page just to look at it, and my lack of attention to the art is one of the main reasons that I rarely read comics. The storytelling is slow but has depth, the protagonist is an unreliable mess of deadly gadgets (the scientists, well, they did the best they could, and they’re so sorry, but the defeat and secrecy surrounding him make his scenes delightfully tense), and the worldbuilding, while light so far, is promising.

2013-01-21 21.18.07

My treasured signed/velociraptor’d copy of Pegasus, an issue of Westward, and some other books I got for Christmas that I ought to read soon.

I want to be Penny. I mean, I always wanted to be Penny, with her handheld computer and goofy dog Brain and ability to save the day every episode. When I was a kid, the whole point of the Inspector Gadget cartoon was how much smarter I really was than all the grown-ups around me. So this Penny, all wistful and interesting in waist-cincher, gloves, and goggles while she helps her uncle out, was bound to be high on my list of favorite comic characters.

Westward is good. I recommend it.

Other Stuff I’m Reading

This post seems like a good place to mention that I’ve started updating a page of stuff I’ve read in 2013. You can access it by clicking “Reading” over there in the sidebar, under “Pages”. I might even keep it updated! So far, writing the page has been keeping me motivated to finish books instead of starting four and then only finishing one.

Jan 192013
 

You are walking in a beautiful sunlit meadow. Flowers turn their faces to the sun and butterflies flutter in the light breeze. A single dark cloud hunches on the horizon but that is probably totally not a portent of anything. To the east is a forest. To the north is a footpath through the meadow.

>GO EAST

You go east. There is an ancient oak tree in front of you. At the base a door is affixed.

>EXAMINE DOOR

The door is wooden, about a foot tall. The fixtures are dark with age and strange runes are scratched on the surface.

>OPEN DOOR

As you crouch down and open the door, forest creatures fall silent and the sunlight dims. Inside is a swirling vortex of color and trivia. A reeking fog seeps up from the ground and envelops your legs. Low desperate whimpers can be heard from the vortex. You feel as though all hope has gone from your world.

>WHAT THE FUCK, MAN

The door leads to the wikipedia page for Optimus Prime.

>OH SHIT

Right? It is massive. There are over 200 citations.

>READ IT

Are you sure? It could take weeks. You might die before you finish.

>READ IT

Every bit of information about every incarnation of this transformer, including summaries of every cartoon episode he’s appeared in and lists of every Optimus Prime toy ever, is laid out awkwardly before you. None of the writing style is encyclopedic. Two hours in, you spot a typo.

>UGH SOMEONE SHOULD FIX THAT

Wikipedia is the encyclopedia that anyone can edit!

>EDIT TYPO

Nope! This page is protected because it has been vandalized many times. You can’t edit it.

>GO TO TALK PAGE

You don’t want to do that. It is almost worse there.

>CLOSE BROWSER TAB

Congratulations! You win this game!

Jan 122013
 

Blogging for my future reference:

 

1/2 packet vanilla pudding instant mix

3 spoonfuls cocoa powder (about as much powder as there is of the pudding mix)

~2  c. brown & white sugar (combined)*

12 oz can evaporated milk

2-1/2 c. heavy cream

 

Mix together the dry ingredients. Stir in evaporated milk. Whisk in the cream in two or three parts. Process in the ice cream freezer for 20 min. Serve as soft serve or continue freezing in the regular freezer overnight.

 

* In whatever proportion. 1/2 each is fine. All white is fine. It probably doesn’t actually matter at all, since I’ve been using organic sugar and making my own brown sugar: the crystals are all huge and I don’t think the little bit of molasses in the brown even comes through in the final flavor profile. (Ugh, I just used the phrase “flavor profile” and I don’t think it was ironic. I hope I used it wrong, at least.)