Sunday, November 02, 2008

The Dining Party

The Menu

French Onion Soup

Half a Roast Pheasant
Roast Potatoes
Steamed Leeks
Boiled Carrots
Toasted Breadcrumbs
Quince Jelly

Apple Crumble
Ice Cream

And to continue the evening
Leftover sweets from Halloween

To Accompany
Choice of Wines [1] also Apple Juice and Water

Notes: Pheasant season is 1 October to 1 February. These pheasants were fairly small, but then again I'm spoiled as Mum often gets them from the cousins' farm at Christmas time. All of this menu was very simple to prepare. The most complex and time consuming bit was the soup and I did most of that the night before; and so:

The Recipe

French Onion Soup, or as I actually referred to it, "In the style of" French Onion Soup. Served 6 with plenty left over but would probably do for 10 (as I originally was catering for).

several big knobs of butter
plenty of olive oil[2]
9 or 10 onions
4 cloves garlic
a spoonful or two of sugar
2.5 pints of chicken stock
2.5 pints of beef stock[3]
a very generous glass of brandy
french bread
melting cheese (Raclette in this case)

Thinly slice the onions and garlic. Heat the butter and oil in a huge pan. Cook the onions and garlic with the sugar gently until they go just golden. Unless you have a really enormous pan you'll need to turn and stir fairly often. Add the stock a bit at a time to avoid cooling it off too much (or heat the stock, that would probably work too). Bring to the boil and simmer for an hour. You can serve it then, but it doesn't hurt at all, and may help to leave it overnight.

Before serving, heat up and add the brandy. Put cheese on rounds of french bread and toast under the grill. Fill each bowl with soup, making sure you get lots of onion in and float rounds of cheesy bread on top. Serve immediately.

The In-Joke

Those of you who were there may prefer to refer to the soup as "French and Breton Folk Onion Soup".

The adventures of Sous-chef Vas and Sous-chef Sam

Vas: Well we've peeled and chopped carrots and apples.
Sam: We've peeled and chopped lots of carrots and apples. Can we do any proper cooking?
Head Chef Neil: No

(In addition Sam helped me lay the table and generally sort things out, and I will be happy to offer Jim a reference as a pheasant bisector)

What Next?

What next indeed? Well the huge extended-Italian-family pasta pot, previously seen being used in the style of a French onion soup pot, is currently being used as a pheasant stock pot. Game soup? Pheasant pie? Pheasant risotto?

My cooking will probably be on display again over Christmas.

[1] In one case the official wine of the world beach volleyball cup or something like that. Some of the male guests were imagining something like these ladies coming off the beach and jumping into the pressing tub (presumably after washing their feet). Their enjoyment of the wine was very slightly marred by being reminded of the beach volleyball scene for Top Gun.
[2] Those measurements for the fat involved are very imprecise. That's because I fairly lightly covered the bottom of the pan with oil, threw in some butter and then, after putting the onions in, added some more oil as it didn't seem to be enough, all while weeping due to onion fumes, so I didn't really notice how much I put in.
[3] Robert Carrier's 1963 Classic Great Dishes of the World suggests just beef stock, but this combination of homemade chicken stock and beef stock from 2 cubes worked out just fine.
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