leave your inhibitions at the door
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It’s been a while since I’ve talked about football and, since the Super Bowl is this weekend, this is as good a time as any to do a recap. The whole idea of doing football picks on this blog was to get my kids interested in the sport. I knew that sitting down and explaining all the rules or forcing them to watch games would be met with major resistance – aka “One of dad’s long-winded lectures”. So I opted to have them pick winners for the weekly games with a small monetary incentive and kept them aware of their progress… Yes, I introduced them to gambling and promoted an unhealthy sibling rivalry. But it worked! Now phase 2 – getting them to become lifelong Bears fans.
How well did it work? The first half of the season they didn’t do so well. But towards the end of the season they started to kick major ass. Over the last five weeks of the season they picked 66.3% of games correctly, and I only picked 61.3%. Compare that to the ESPN Panel of Experts – ex-football players, sports journalists, computer simulators – who collectively picked 60.8% correct. In terms of actual interest, there were a few moments at the beginning of the season where I had to drag them kicking and screaming to the computer to get their picks. Now, they’re looking forward to watching more than the commercials at the Super Bowl.
At the midway point I would’ve been at the top of the ESPN Panel of Experts. I slipped a little in the second half, but still beat most of them. Here’s how we matched up:
For the final week of the season, I had this theory that the outcomes of end-of-season football have nothing to do with actual games on the field. I thought the really good teams would just coast through this last week and try to get to the playoffs injury-free. The result – I got shellacked by Pieholes and the Maitake mushrooms. The rule of my football picks all year has been that, if the produce beats me at picking games, I wouldn’t execute them. Well, that little package of mushrooms was expensive and this mushroom soup recipe was too good to pass up.
I got this recipe from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc cookbook, the source for the brownies I made on New Year’s Eve. The cookbook is supposed to have simplified, family style meals, but “simplified” to Thomas Keller is still worlds away from Sandra Lee or Rachael Ray. The recipes are not the type where you toss some rice and a can of soup in a pot and you’re done. These are sometimes pretty involved where a recipe calls for a particular ingredient whose recipe appears elsewhere in the book. When you get to that recipe, it has components that refer to a couple of other recipes. So, if you go by the book, you can end up doing 3-4 recipes. None of them are particularly difficult, just time-consuming.
Obviously, you can always substitute where you can. In this case, I opted to buy mushroom broth from Whole Foods as opposed to buying four pounds of mushrooms to make mushroom stock. With this recipe, all of the major components of this soup are cooked and kept separately. This allows a very clean soup where all of the individual flavors and textures are distinct and come shining through. Don’t get freaked out about the length of this recipe. Even with all the steps, I was able to make this soup in less than a two hours. It’s soooooo worth it.
Put the garlic in a small food processor and blend, scraping down the sides often, to puree. For a finer texture, press through a small fine-mesh basket strainer. I don’t own a food processor, so I mashed with a fork.