Peeling The Onion- Layer 1: Sweeps Week

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 I am supoossed to be thinking about onions right now.

I mean onions are an important building block in cooking. A part of the French trifecta known as mirepoix.

But all this talk about sweeps week got me thinking about my own (pathetic) numbers. I mean if I can’t drum up a decent readership then I might get canceled. By me!

Sweeps week is when networks rely on shameless stunts to get viewers to tune in. This is the week that sets the numbers, which drives the price, that determines which television shows live or die. Does this count for blogs too?

The goal, of course, is artificially enhanced numbers. Networks (and bloggers?) want to give a false impression of their popularity in order to swindle advertisers out of a bit more cash. Maybe it’s a good idea for SippitySup too. I’d like to swindle anybody out of any amount of cash. So it’s got me thinking…what are the basic elements for sweeps week programming?

Let’s see. There is violence of course. SippitySup could maliciously hack a few veggies to death. Splattering the walls of my kitchen with the juicy pulp of a tender young tomato. But I hate messes and my housekeeper has sweeps week off. She’s hoping to single-handedly improve the ratings of Ugly Betty. But sadly that dog don’t hunt no more. 

Of course there is gratuitous sex.  There is always that. But Americans are so squeamish about it. I would not want anyone to lose his or her appetite.

Celebrity Cameos? Celebrities are always a crowd pleaser. But the truth is I am a little bit insecure. What if I look fat standing next to Calista Flockhart? That is something from which I might never recover.

What else…what else? Natural disasters? Alien sightings? Elmo?

These things just do not seem very “SippitySup”.

The truth is I miss the Good Ole Days of Prime Time TV. There were just 3 networks, so the sweeps numbers really meant something. 

In those days the A-#-1 trick for amping your audience was the beloved Mini-Serious. Roots, Rich Man Poor Man, How The West Was Won. I need something along those lines.

So I have decided on the onion. I mean can you think of anything more compelling? You can’t cook without onion. You just can’t.

Besides, there are layers to an onion. Peel one back only to reveal yet another one of nearly identical properties. It was born to be a mini-series! 

I just know this will keep them coming back time-after-time all through sweeps week. Because I am not doing just any onion…I am doing the cipolline onion. That cute little squat guy. The Danny DeVito of onions! You know which one I mean.

Here’s another little bit of overt cuteness. I am not going to call each installment an episode. Nope. I am going to call them “layers”. Ha! Isn’t that funny? Don’t you get it? Layers! Onions have layers… Well think about it some more because it is funny.

For “Layer One” I am going to create a dumbed-down version of a soffritto. Soffritto is an onion-based building block used in Italian cooking. It can add an amazing amount of depth to a dish very clandestinely. The very best uses of it bring an indescribable, almost sub-conscience richness to recipes. 

You know you love what you are eating but you can’t quite put your finger on the thing that makes it so luscious. So let me tell you, this invisible ingredient is soffritto.

A true soffritto is not easy to make. It takes hours and hours. You start by simmering onions and oil so, so gently. The onions stew in the oil at a very low temp but after 2 or 3 hours they have slowly released their cloudy liquid and caramelize in the oil. They come out a deep intense caramel color and smell like heaven. But you can’t rush it in  any way, shape or form. If there is much more than a few bubbles around the rim of your pan then your oil is too hot!

To these caramel onions and oil you add pureed tomatoes and cook another 2 or 3 hours! At this point (even at this low temperature) the vegetable solids begin to fry and separate themselves from the oil. 

Which makes the last step a bit easier. Because the “soffritto” is the caramelized, fried concoction that is strained out of the clear amber oil. Save that oil separately (or mail it to me). It is an ingredient that tastes heavenly all on it’s own.

In my lazy man’s version, I am going to roast cipollines with garlic cloves and olive oil. They will become a deeply rich ingredient in their own right. And a terrific partner in the recipes I have planned.

They cannot rival a really good “soffritto”. But they will make a great building block in “upcoming” layers of this mini-series. 

I will use these onions and garlic cloves in a variety of other recipes. It’s worth checking in every day to see what I do. Because it is sweeps week… and there are very few shameless stunts I won’t try to artificially enhance my numbers! watch video

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Greg Henry