Babysitting Reindeer (with French Onion Soup)
You may say it’s too early to start talking about Christmas, but it’s November and I just saw a gentleman in a seersucker suit. Was his hair perfect? Yes. Does he change into a random holiday vest for dinner and sleep like a baby at night? Probably. Because he is not tied down by silly things like conventions and seasons. It would not kill us to be more like that guy.
Also, if you plan to sit by a tree with one of these National Lampoon collectible moose-shaped eggnog cups, you need to think about ordering them now. Because I plan to buy them ALL. Moose goblets, flannel pajamas and plastic yard elves are all I need to have the holiday season of a lifetime.
What I do NOT need is to worry that Scott is in a body cast or being held hostage by a bunch of pissed off reindeer. That is pretty much THE OPPOSITE of what I need.
So when Scott mentioned he would be supervising a reindeer pen from Thanksgiving to Christmas, I wanted to staple gingerbread to my face.
I don’t know who decided Scott is qualified to supervise a bunch of North American caribou (which, conveniently, are not being supervised by anyone in this picture):
I’m also not sure about installing the pen outside the Space Center. That’s just asking the reindeer to bite our best engineers, pee on the Pathfinder space shuttle, or eat the nearby Botanical Gardens. And I don’t know how smart reindeer are, but let’s not forget the movie “Space Camp,” where a bunch of kids were left unsupervised for one hot second and they wound up pretty close to THE MOON.
Don’t get me wrong– I’m not saying I’d be better at this, or that Scott will not exert himself. I am just pointing out a key fact here, which is that Scott was not raised by nomads, trappers or zookeepers.
So I am preparing a helpful list of adverse outcomes for the person in charge. This is what I have so far:
(1) Scott will leave the pen unattended at some point because he’s hungry. Scott gets underfed easily. When this happens, he wanders off in search of food–typically, Combos, snickers or meatloaf. Reindeer subsist on lichen, Arctic char and lemmings, which Scott won’t eat unless the reindeer pen comes with a deep fryer. Which brings us to the next point.
(2) The reindeer will wander off in search of food/Antarctica. The more urgent problem here is that the REINDEER will wander (i.e. TRY TO MIGRATE) the entire time they are here. They migrate more than any other land-based mammal: about 3,100 miles a year, or up to THIRTY-FOUR miles a day. Once they jump the pen, they will be propelled by genetic Manifest Destiny to haul it at 50 miles per hour toward the Arctic Circle. Scott is not the guy to stop them, if only because he can’t see ultra violet light AND REINDEER CAN.
My point is that if Scott is not sitting by the Christmas tree next month because of a reindeer-related accident, I am going to be too depressed to make this delicious, chest-warming french onion soup ever again. And that would be a real shame.
This is pretty much the onion soup recipe in Classic French (Smithmark ed., 1996), but I added shaved mushrooms. It was phenomenal: hearty without being heavy or greasy. The only annoying part of the preparation process is cutting three large onions thinly– otherwise, it’s easy because there are so few ingredients. Don’t omit the mustard from the toasts without good reason: the tang of the mustard smothered under the rich, meaty gruyère is fantastic. I use Maille brand dijon because it’s my favorite. (And the Maille store in Paris has its mustards on tap, which ruined me for other mustards forever.)
French Onion Soup with Shaved Mushrooms and Gruyère Toasts
3 large yellow onions
8 oz. white button mushrooms (1 package)
2 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. brown sugar (packed)
1 tbsp. flour
2 10-oz. condensed beef consommé
2 tbsp. sherry
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
french or sourdough bread
2-3 tbsp. dijon mustard
1-2 c. gruyère
parsley (optional, for garnish)
Slice the three onions and the mushrooms as thinly as possible.
Over medium-low heat, sautée the onions and mushrooms in a large pot with the 2 tbsp. butter, the 1 tbsp. olive oil and the 1 tsp. brown sugar for about 30 minutes.
Stir in the 1 tbsp. flour and toss to coat.
Stir in the 2 cans beef consommé, 2 cans of water, 2 tbsp. sherry an 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce. Season with black pepper and simmer, covered, about 30 more minutes.
To prepare gruyère toasts, cut slices of bread turn oven to broil or 450 degrees. Place toasts in broiler or on a baking sheet and toast for 2-3 minutes (they will toast quickly, so keep an eye on them). Remove toasts and spread dijon on one side and top with gruyère. Return to broiler or oven for a few minutes, until cheese is melted and bubbly.
Float a toast in each bowl of soup, garnish with the parsley if desired, and serve.