Garlic bread the French way

I’m making lasagne tonight and of course need garlic bread, so I decided to do it in a different way this time, featuring a version of the butter-braised and supremely mellow garlic that starts out Julia Child’s recipe for purée de pommes de terre à l’ail (garlic mashed potatoes). I don’t much like the taste of raw garlic that too often comes through in others’ garlic bread, and this is a fine way to tone down that harshness.

Directions

Braise the peeled cloves of two whole heads of garlic (yes!) in a small pan with a stick (8 tablespoons, 110g) of unsalted butter. Keep it on lowest heat so it’s barely bubbling – you don’t want to color either the butter or the garlic, so keep an eye on it. Braise until the garlic is quite soft and squishable, 20-30 minutes. I squished some of these with the back of a spoon to check them after half an hour.

Note: After baking and tasting the bread, I determined that you could get away with one head of garlic just fine, using the same amount of butter. The bread was good, but the garlic could be taken down a notch or three with no ill effect.

Mash:

Pass through a fine sieve – I found I had missed four bits of skin – and mix in some fresh unsalted butter while it’s still warm. I eyeballed it and decided that about a half-stick more would be enough for the entire Italian loaf I had.

Mix in a handful of fresh chopped parsley and a pinch of salt, then allow to cool for a little while for easier spreading:

Slice an Italian loaf 3/4 of the way through so the loaf stays together, then spread the garlic mixture between the slices, being more generous than a cardiologist would because you’re not making this every day. Wrap tightly in foil and store in the fridge until ready to bake.

I’ll post the results later, but the next step is to bake, still wrapped in the foil, at 400F (200C) for 15-20 minutes until the bread inside is hot and beginning to crisp. Open the foil up and bake an additional few minutes uncovered to brown the edges nicely.

Network quality control

On Sunday, I made a double recipe, five quarts, of Julia Child’s French onion soup – The Way to Cook variation – in preparation for my hybrid French onion pot roast beef stew on Christmas. This variation of hers is my favourite. The cognac and vermouth insinuate themselves delightfully into the soup during the three-hour slow simmer, producing intricately complex flavours in the result.

Unfortunately, last week, this news arrived regarding my food processor’s blade assembly:

Conair has received 69 reports of consumers finding broken pieces of the blade in processed food, including 30 reports of mouth lacerations or tooth injuries.

So, I signed up for a new blade and proceeded to thinly slice nineteen onions without mechanical aid. I briefly considered using the mandoline, but using that thing for the better part of an hour seemed like it might well be the start of an eventually disappointing recipe for a trip to A&E, never convenient when you’re about to caramelise twenty cups of onions for an hour or so. ’Round about onion seventeen, I did poke my thumb with the tip of the knife, the first time in some years I’ve cut myself (“Say…why is this onion running red?” I idly wondered), but the Victorinox is nice and sharp, so it was at least a clean cut.

Of course, the soup cannot just lazily sit in the fridge waiting for Saturday night. Quality testing protocols must be followed here at the Finley Quality Network, and that’s where I come in. I also happen to be the sole employee, but that’s neither here nor there – we (I) have standards to maintain regardless of piffling staffing levels. Plus I needed dinner.

Click for a mouth-wateringly HD version

As may be obvious from the photograph, yes, it passed with flying colours. If this has piqued your interest, here’s a printable image I put together of the three related recipes from The Way to Cook: the soup, the French bread croûtes, and the gratinée variant.

On Amazon, I found the defective processor blade, used on about twenty models over a nineteen-year period, is still being offered for sale. As if that wasn’t bad enough, my eyebrows like to shoot off the top of my head when I then, out of curiosity, looked at the oldest reviews and found one in 2012 clearly describing a metal fatigue problem in the blade. I don’t wish to cast aspersions or, more specifically, get sued, but I certainly hope Conair hasn’t been sitting on any similar information they might have been privy to.

Sprint rides again, stumbles

In the hope that fellow Justin from Sprint might visit: Sprint has redesigned their site again, this time concentrating on the billing and payment section and unfortunately making it rather difficult to figure out whether you’ve paid the current bill. Formerly, on login you would be brought to a single account summary that showed your latest bill and whether you had paid it. Now it’s more complicated.

When you select Pay bill, instead of showing you the outstanding balance as the default amount to pay, it seems to think you don’t owe anything and so says the default payment is $.00. So you need to go to View bill – where it inconveniently doesn’t say whether you’ve paid or not – and note the amount of the bill, then go to Payment activity to see if you’ve paid recently, then go back to Pay bill and enter the amount you owe. Hardly efficient.

sprint-redux

My prediction is that they will soon be shutting off service to a fair number of people who mistakenly believe they’ve paid because Pay bill implies, fairly heavily, that they don’t owe anything and who then do not proceed to click here, there, and everywhere to see if it’s true.

My current bill from them is paid, but only in Payment activity can I figure that out, sort of. To fix this redesign problem, they should:

  • In View bill, show whether the bill is paid, as they used to.
  • In Pay bill, show the amount still due on the current bill next to the Total radio button as they used to, not “$.00”.

Postscript, 9 December: It appears they saw the error of their ways because they tossed their recent changes onto the scrap heap and went back to the original code. Smart move.

This and the previous episode make me wonder if the root of the problem is perhaps that Sprint employees only rarely visit their own site. I mean, they get free cell service, so who needs to pay a bill? T’huh. Proposal: Make the web programming honcho and a few lead coders pay for their cell service and reimburse them monthly. I’ll wager there would be fewer – if any – problems with rollouts of site changes from that point forward.

Vote

This year, for the first time ever, there’s early voting in Massachusetts. Not many seem to know about it – two people I’ve mentioned it to did, but four others had no idea. Perhaps those not in the know get their news from Dingleface, I dunno. Similarly, around half the drivers on the road don’t seem to know about a state law that came into force early last year requiring that you turn on your headlights whenever windshield wipers are in use.

The clerk of my fairly small town told me that 180 voted today, the second of eleven days of early voting, and there was still an hour to go. There was no queue and on the ballot were just a handful of offices and four questions, so I was on my way home, three blocks away, in about six minutes. Free sticker, too.

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NBC News Overnight duPont-Columbia award ceremony clip (1984)

This is the clip that was shown during the 1984 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University award ceremony for excellence in journalism. As I wrote in my appreciation of Overnight, the jury said the program was “conceivably the best-written and most intelligent television news anywhere.”