If you don’t subscribe to Tasting Table (www.TastingTable.com), you’re missing out. The site is just over 4 years old but in that time, it’s gone from 50 readers a day to editions that cover New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington DC and Chicago and attract thousands of readers. Local editors are selected for their expertise in each city. They have ‘tested, tasted, sipped or supped on’ whatever item is featured that day. This year, in partnership with Williams-Sonoma, there’s a once a week feature that alone is worth signing up for. It’s the Sous Chef Series. It features some of the city’s hardest working chefs—they’re all sous chefs at prominent local restaurants and they get their turn to shine every Monday. Visitors to Tasting Table meet the chefs, see what’s behind the scenes at their restaurants and are treated to one of the Sous Chefs own recipes. Not long ago, they featured a young chef called James Klucharit.
James ‘sous’ at ABV (1504 Lexington Avenue (at 97th St.) NYC Tel: 212-724-8959 (www.abvny.com). I can’t say that I’ve been to his restaurant because it’s not exactly on my beat. In fact, until quite recently, no one ventured further north than 96th Street on the East Side. Times have changed and the steady gentrification has made the neighborhood a little less off the beaten track. By all accounts, ABV has a personality all its own—with menu items like a foie gras fluffernutter. (Really?) I must try that at some point. But the moment I saw Chef Klucharit’s recipe for Irish Onion Soup, I was there. And the minute I tasted it, I couldn’t wait to share it with you.
French Onion soup is one of my great favorites. I find its flavor hard to beat. Deep, rich beefy broth, onions melted into the soup, that crust of bread topped with melted gruyere, all are irresistible to me. There are endless variations of the French version of the soup. Some use beef stock, others chicken. So have wine, some do not. All have one thing in common, very slowly cooked onions that caramelize for intense onion flavor. So how is Chef Klucharit’s soup different and what makes it Irish ?
The first difference I noticed were the young chefs directions to slice sweet onions into pieces ½ inch thick. Onions in most French recipes are almost invariably sliced thin. (And our house there was a bit of a discussion about whether Chef Klucharit’s onions needed to be quite that thick.) But the dish really gets its Irish from the use of both Irish Whisky and Guinness Stout. And finally the chef tops his soup with a thick ¼ inch layer of sharp Irish Cheddar cheese.
The starting point here is a really good beef stock which the chef recommends making yourself. I had the remains of a standing rib roast just for that purpose. I love making stock because it’s the perfect way to clean out the vegetable bins of carrots and onions and celery that are on their last legs. Of course, it’s time-consuming but not the prep part. That’s a snap. It’s the hours on the stove that take the time. The reward is a stock with great gelatin content, loads of beefy flavor and an end result, in this case, a soup, that has soul. So if you can, please follow this recipe and make stock.
It’s from Julia Child’s who knew her way around a stockpot. http://www.food.com/recipe/simple-beef-stock-a-la-julia-child-147999. Once this stock is made, freeze whatever you don’t use. It will keep for years in the freezer. Of course, you can fall back on store-bought stuff but just consider this: per the USDA, it’s permissible for store-bought stock to contain 135 parts water to one part beef. You might well ask, where’s the beef? But fall back on store-bought stock if you wish. I think Trader Joe’s does an admirable job with theirs. But I always goose it up with extra bouillon when I use it –especially for soups. Between the stock and the onions, the cooking time here is long. The onions should be cooked on a very low heat setting until they are truly brown and sticky. This is the perfect opportunity to make your stock at the same time: By the time the onions are deeply caramelized, the stock should be almost ready. I doubled this recipe because I knew it would freeze perfectly. Every time I defrost it, it only seems to taste better and better. Here’s the recipe:
Adjust an oven rack to the upper-middle position and heat the broiler to high. Divide the soup among 4 oven-safe bowls and set them on a rimmed baking sheet. To each bowl, add 2 bread slices