Beware of Bad Food Metaphors, and Don’t Forget the Chicken Stock and Onion Reduction for Kass Onion Soup ™ for Christmas Dinner

By John Kass

December 20, 2023

Yes, we’ll eventually get to the Roasted Chicken stock and the Onion reduction, because that’s why we’re here.

And the vegetables and why I hate the hard political left: Think the terror of the French Revolution and the rule of the mob led by creatures very much like U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell. And think of an America ruled by DEI fanatics led by that smirking Harvard plagiarist.

But wait, our sons Spiro and Peter are here. They’re not interested in politics at the moment. Theyre in the kitchen, cooking like manly men.

Making stock for Kass Onion Soup (TM) is a family thing, even though I’ve been known to drive the family crazy in the kitchen. Sadly my dear Betty adamantly refuses to appear with us in any photographs or video.

Why Betty?

“No comment,” she says.

Why not even one brief cameo appearance?

“No comment, no comment.”

But hun, consider what’s really important. I love you, you’re beautiful and many people say you have really good hair.

“No comment.”

Who can say why we do what we do? She doesn’t like being accurately quoted by the man she loves. Life is strange indeed, and writing about life while you’re writing about food, can lead you into danger, smack dab food metaphor danger by cracky or whatever old guys with canes say these days.

For example, while waiting for the federal jury verdict in the federal corruption trial of Ald. Edward M. Burke, 14th, I’m thinking of the gangways between the two-flats on Peoria Street in the old neighborhood that smelled like fish sticks on cold Friday evenings in December.


Because that’s what they smelled like on Fridays back when Burke was a young man, when I was a kid and the Roman Catholic church was supremely confident in itself.

“No food metaphors for Kass for a month!,” my friend and then editor Ann Marie Lipinski pronounced years ago, I thought rather impulsively.

But she was right. She was just trying to protect me from myself.

Yes, I admit that I often veered too deeply into the land of food metaphors. Those who didn’t like my politics tried to paint me as something of a glutton, although if you really want gluttony the left should attack one of its own, the dead and departed lefty Francois Mitterrand.

Mitterrand’s last meal involved eating ortolan—a tiny bird eaten whole and said to be delicious, but French tradition calls for the diners to use napkins to cover their shameful faces from God.

According to Al Gore’s Internet, the handkerchief “Some claim, it is to retain the maximum aroma with the flavor as they consume the entire bird at once, others have stated “Tradition dictates that this is to shield – from God’s eyes – the shame of such a decadent and disgraceful act”, and others have suggested the towel simply hides the consumers spitting out bones.”

You spit anything out at my Christmas dinner table I won’t be able to hold back my 93-year-old mother, who will kick your ass out of the house immediately—though we dearly love the people of France—and I learned to sing “Oh Canada” in French, I won’t abide bad manners from a bunch of godless commies!

Besides I’m not fat shaming anyone, not even the hideously fat governor of Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, so fat he broke his leg just by standing on it. He’d eat his own head whole if he could stick doughnuts to his ears with toothpicks, but I won’t fat shame the lefty autocrat who shut down the businesses in his state. And kept  the liquor stores, pot dispensaries and strip clubs open, while shutting the churches. I won’t pick on him much, not after I lost 65 pounds this year through willpower alone. Being thin makes me charitable and happy.

The food metaphors weren’t exactly my fault either.

I blame Günter Grass, the German novelist who wrote “The Tin Drum” and in it, offered a detailed description of catching eels for soups and pie.

It was rather revolting, but natural if you’re a fisherman and understand eels are blood-suckers, like Democrat politicians. And after reading that I was impossibly hooked on food metaphors, especially bad food metaphors combining, say, Slim Jims and Nehi grape soda. With a Camel they make the breakfast of champions.

In his essay “Ashes to Ashes, Eel to Eel” in the Paris Review, writer Patrick Svensson explains the self-destructive, tragic nature of it all:

“In one of the twentieth century’s most memorable scenes from literature, a man is standing on a beach, pulling on a long rope that stretches out to sea. The rope is covered in thick seaweed. He yanks and tugs, and out of the foaming waves comes a horse’s head. It’s black and shiny and lies there at the water’s edge, its dead eyes staring while greenish eels slither from every orifice. The eels crawl out, shiny and entrails-like, more than two dozen of them; when the man has shoved them all into a potato sack, he pries open the horse’s grinning mouth, sticks his hands into its throat, and pulls out two more eels, as thick as his own arms.

“This macabre fishing method is described in Günter Grass’s 1959 novel, The Tin Drum. Rarely has the eel been more detestable.

“The eel does not appear frequently in literature or art, but when it does, it’s often an unsettling, slightly revolting creature. It’s slimy and slithering, oily and slippery, a scavenger of the dark that salaciously crawls out of cadavers with gaping mouth and beady black eyes.

“Sometimes, however, it’s more than that. In The Tin Drum, the eel actually plays a rather important role. It both foreshadows and triggers tragedy.”


John and Peter Kass


But stop! Wait! Stop with the eels!!!

My sons and I aren’t teaching you to use a slaughterhouse horse head wrapped in a burlap sack to catch eel to satisfy Polish-German communists in the dreary port city of Danzig, and to satisfy the suicidal impulses of a troubled young woman. Do you care about foreshadowing and moral culpability of post-war Germany? I certainly don’t.

All we’re trying to do–is show you how to make a proper apolitical soup stock and reduce onions for the world famous Kass Onion Soup (TM)–without making you (or me) nauseous.

See what uncontrolled food metaphors can do?

The business with the eels is repellant, but I read that years ago when I was young. I really didn’t like myself at the time, or the young man I was then. Truth is, he wasn’t very likeable. He lost two good  friends, one naturally when he was 12, one by suicide when he was about 19. And no, they never talked about it because, well, it just wasn’t done.

Talking and talking, feelings after feelings, just wasn’t done. I guess you could say I was a tortured soul. I see photographs of those days–even one from the days I was a young reporter that appears on this website–and I have trouble stomaching who I was then.

There was nothing likeable. It was dangerous. And filled with anger. I was far from God.

But then I met Betty in college was pulled inexorably into our epic love story.

“Betty Ann Castella! So, you’re Italian?” I asked rather stupidly. What was she, Scandinavian?

And later I told her she’d give me five sons, and then we broke up, exchanged a cold kiss in the car.

Oh, OK, fine. Yes, I know you want the recipe for chicken stock. And the reduction of the Onyeeons for the Onyeeon Gratinee. Cut some vegetable as per the photos. Carrots, leeks, celery, onions. Fill two roasting pans with chicken legs and thighs. Add tomato paste, stir the the veggies and the chicken. Add a quarter cup of water and stir so the paste won’t burn in the pan. Put the pans in a preheated oven at 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Leave them for an hour.

Then thin slice onions pole-to-pole. I used 8 pounds, enough to fill two large Dutch ovens. Spray the Dutch oven with cooking spray, put in a half-stick of butter, a pinch of salt. (Not too much. Salt can kill this soup. And we did not add salt while making beef stock, so no salt for chicken stock either).

When you pull out the pan of veggies and chicken after they’re browned, put the Dutch ovens filled with sliced onions, in the oven for an hour at 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Take the vegetables and chicken and put them into a stock pot-we used two stock pots and COVER WITH COLD NOT HOT, BUT COLD WATER. And put the pots on the stove top, TURN THE HEAT TO HIGH and wait for them to boil.

Once they reach boiling turn them down to slow simmer immediately. Let it simmer for six hours then remove the solids from the broth and strain.  Keep SIMMERING UNCOVERED TO REDUCE THE CHICKEN STOCK. Reduction will intensify the flavor.

To cool, do so immediately for safety’s sake just the way you did with the beef stock. YOU NEVER PUT WARM OR HOT LIQUIDS INTO A REFRIGERATOR OR FREEZER. USE AN ICE BATH. Put the stock pot in the sink and surround it with ice along the outsides. Keep stirring until cool. Then and ONLY WHEN cool, put the stock in the refrigerator. Skim off the chicken fat and discard.

And the onions, what about them?

Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten the onions. You can’t have Kass Onion Soup without Onyeeons.

And cheese, and crouton, and baguette and a good glass of



Beginning of reduction of onions on stove.


wine. Listen: the secret of onion reduction and caramelization is the absence of moisture. A steak will not sear properly when wet, and the same goes for onion reduction. Use a spatula or flat wooden spoon. As long as there is any liquid in the bottom of the pot, the onions will not caramelize or turn golden brown. That’s up to you.

This is how you reduce onions. Keep stirring. When there is no liquid in the bottom of the pot keep stirring. Stir some more so it won’t burn. Then and only then ADD some water. Maybe a quarter cup.  Then again and again. Add another quarter cup. Reduce. Keep stirring scraping the bottom with the flat wooden spoon or spatula so it won’t burn. Eventually, the color deepens from caramel to something deeper, sweeter. The fifth reduction? Add one half cup dry sherry, or cognac.

I used a healthy half cup of Metaxa. Why? Because I felt like it. And I just poured myself another. Go rat me out to my endocrinologist. I could give two figs.

Who told you this was easy? Yes, a simple child can do this, but only a stubborn child of single-minded purpose, a child committed to the complexity of Kass Onion Soup (TM). We  wrapped several (five) sprigs of fresh thyme and bay leaves in cheese cloth and lowered it into the soup. Simmer. While the soup is simmering, make a tray of crouton by slicing a baguette into slices, brush each side with olive oil, and bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for two-three minutes per side. Keep an eye on the oven so the crouton does not burn.

And now TO ASSEMBLE THE SOUP.  Correction: the proper proportion of beef stock to chicken stock is 2 parts beef to one part chicken..the first step, ladle some soup into the crock with plenty of onions. Because this is an Onion Soup after all, so don’t be afraid of onions.

Float two or three crouton in the crock, covered with Swiss or Gruyère cheese, we use a combination of both, and bake in a 500 degree oven for five minutes until melted.


What about the love story, the patience that it took to withstand the pressure of career, building a family and the kids and the romance and the desire to live and all the rest of it so that she understands you love her and the family, and her alone?

You didn’t see all that written anywhere?

Of course you did. That love story was written in the soup. Maybe it was the stock, or the onion reduction. It doesn’t matter. Just watch her eyes when she tastes that soup. And if she’s not here with you, think of her tasting it, and she will be. Here.

When combined, this soup sings a song of love. And, in the words of the much-beloved St. Theo Kojak, “Who loves you, baby?!”

We all do.

Merry Christmas!!!

(Copyright 2023 John Kass)






Comments 49

  1. The best writers(and the best of men) wax poetic upon thoughts of food.

    My personal favorite, William Makepeace Thackeray, was born in India and retained a love for spiced foods. Here, he offers his take on kitchen arts in iambic pentameter.

    THREE pounds of veal my darling girl prepares,
    And chops it nicely into little squares;
    Five onions next procures the little minx
    (The biggest are the best, her Samiwel thinks),
    And Epping butter nearly half–a–pound,
    And stews them in a pan until they’re brown’d.
    What’s next my dexterous little girl will do?
    She pops the meat into the savoury stew,
    With curry–powder, table–spoonsfuls three,
    And milk a pint (the richest that may be),
    And, when the dish has stewed for half–an–hour,
    A lemon’s ready juice she’ll o’er it pour;
    Then, bless her! then she gives the luscious pot
    A very gentle boil—and serves quite hot.
    P.S.—Beef, mutton, rabbit, if you wish;
    Lobsters, or prawns, or any kind of fish
    Are fit to make A Curry. ’Tis, when done,
    A dish for Emperors to feed upon.

    1. God has blessed you John and through that blessing He has blessed us all. You look amazing considering what you have endured. Losing 65 pounds is a major achievement; keeping them off is the challenge. I asked Melonides if the picture of you was current and he assured me it is; WOW!
      So God wants you to be with us for some time to come – a blessing for you, your family and for us. Ciccone was a good cook, don’t know if you knew that. He made great pasta sauce. He loved to cook lamb and used lamb bones in his sauce, just like his Mother. I miss him every day. I don’t want to miss you. Take good care of yourself. Have a wonderful blessed Christmas with your family.
      Steve Baranyk

  2. I may never make the famous John Kass onion soup, but I always enjoy reading about it. Even clipped out the recipe once years ago when it appeared in, what’s that old thing, oh yes a newspaper. Great to see your sons carrying on the traditions. Hope you and your family have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

  3. Merry Christmas to the entire Kass Family and subscribers
    Every morning before work I read your column and enjoy your insight and guest knowledge of daily life and the world
    God bless all
    Jim Nelson

    1. Thanks Mr. Nelson, hope you read and enjoy the Christmas column. I write it new every year, thinking of a friend undergoing quadruple bypass and a wonderful young woman trying to get pregnant.

  4. I thought Mahler symphonies were complex. The causes of World War I, the functional mysteries of the human brain, the unified field theory Einstein futilely sought — all these are hard to fathom, daunting to explain. But none of the these are nearly as complex as Kass Onion Soup™. I’d assume that none are as delicious, but that will remain a matter of faith in my small, impatient kitchen.

    For now, Christmas greetings to all, even the big eaters who barely have a leg to stand on. As another writer once noted, “Mine eyes smell onions: I shall weep anon.” Just as well he was not of our time; The Tower would have demanded he take a voluntary buyout.

  5. I absolutely love and enjoy the cooking articles. They, along with the sports articles are a welcome and needed break from the political columns and keep the latter from becoming to repetitive. I also plan to try this over the Christmas Break. Enjoy the holidays!

      1. Good advice and easy to do this year with both Christmas and New Years on Mondays! I’m afraid our restaurant days are done [other than take-out] with my wife’s hip though. When’s the Chicago Way cookbook coming out?

  6. I’m looking forward to trying the soup.
    Might I suggest putting together a small John Kass cookbook to sell along with the hat and mug in the new John Kass swag store? A complete guide of meals and sides worthy of people who aren’t chumbolones .
    Merry Christmas everyone.

  7. Throw some of Betty’s recipes in that cookbook, and you’ll have a bestseller! I’m a halfbreed (Greek and Italian) so I speak from experience.

    You’ve had quite the year, John. Time to count your blessings and enjoy your beautiful family. Merry Christmas to the entire Kass family.

  8. “It was rather revolting, but natural if you’re a fisherman and understand eels are blood-suckers, like Democrat politicians.“

    That reminds me of the definition of the word politician. It is derived from the word politics.

    Poli as in many
    Tics as in blood sucking parasites.

  9. God bless you, John Kass, and your bride and your sons and your faithful readers too, this Christmas. This column is a huge, now unwrapped gift from a most generous man. The good Lord will surely give us all a safer, saner 2024. Eels and Gunther and Betty’s fine hair; yes, we’re all blessed.



  10. The fish sticks (Gorton’s probably) on Friday nights that you could smell between the gangways was the same up on Nordica Ave. just south of Diversey and a couple blocks east of Harlem! We have lived similar existences in our once fair city. The Kass French onion soup looks amazing – but I didn’t realize you need a Philadelphia lawyer to prepare it. My God, it’s more complicated than preparing for a migrant tent city in an old Jewel lot in Gage Patk!

    Merry Christmas, Kasso!

  11. John, Merry Christmas! At least the Roman Catholic version 😉

    Forgive me for being dense, but…

    How much do I reduce the chicken stock? What is the ratio of chicken stock to beef stock in the soup?


    1. Steve Pechukas:
      beef to chicken stock ratio 2 to 1
      from the column:
      “And now TO ASSEMBLE THE SOUP. Correction: the proper proportion of beef stock to chicken stock is 2 parts beef to one part chicken..the first step, ladle some soup into the crock with plenty of onions. Because this is an Onion Soup after all, so don’t be afraid of onions.”

  12. Love it love it, love it, especially the tip of the hat and kick in the ballz to Fatso Pritzker! Merry Christmas Kasso to you and your family who must put up with you. God bless!

  13. John, your recipe is living proof good things come to thise that wait. Time consuming but delicious. I listened to your podcast yesterday and agree that the Chicago Democrat Socialist (Communist)Teachers Coalition has lost control of the city. Back in the old days when the Outfit ran Chicago people accepted the shakedowns as long as their neighborhoods were safe. Every Chicago mayor knew this and contained crime to the housing projects and low income areas. There are neighborhoods where the street gangs like the Latin Kings who stepped up to stop the mostly peaceful looting that occurred during the Floyd Looting Invitational a couple of years ago. Private militias. This is what Chicago has been reduced to. Worthy of any third world country and certainly where this country is headed if our Communistas take control of this country. Brandon has proved that he doesn’t care about the blacks that elected him. He only cares about the movement. Sorry to get off topic when your column was on a lighter note but that was a much needed podcast yesterday. Have a great Christmas. …BTW, I think Burke walks. The Feds put a weak case out there and never proved he was demanding a shakedown. He never took an envelope. Do I think he’s guilty? Yes. But they never proved it. Besides he had one of our most brilliant legal minds in Illinois advising his legal team. His wife, Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke. See? Justice prevails.

  14. Isn’t cooking, and baking from scratch saying I love you to those one shared with? In our fast food, open a box, or pop out of the freezer into oven has become too easy. Yes people are busy. I get that.
    I was raised with the mindset if you’re going to make it show those you love with making it correctly.
    Thank you for you’re article. Good metaphors are never a no no.
    Merry Christmas to you and your family.

  15. Enjoy your cooking columns, especially Kass’ Onion Soup!
    Except the parts about eels and ortolan – yuck!
    In college I had to read The Tin Drum and hated it.

    God Bless you and your Family,
    Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy 2024.

  16. I suggest a nice big red from the Languedoc. Not too expensive. Peasant wine for onion soup is a peasant dish. Maybe a Gigondas.

    We are not kings, so we should not drink the King’s wine with our peasant food. Save it for the beef.

  17. Yes, food is love. I love cooking for those who love my cooking. But my wife for some odd reason doesn’t like onion soup 🤔.

    Merry Christmas John Kass and family.

  18. Love onion soup and eventually, I will tackle the legendary Kass Onion Soup recipe.
    But it will be kielbasa and kraut as an old Polish tugboat deckhand taught me many years ago to make as a side to my modest Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinners.
    Merry Christmas to you and yours, Mr. Kass and a Merry Christmas to all hands here at JKN!

  19. John, thought you would be interested about shenanigan’s at the Tribune,and price gouging! I am a long time subscriber for over 50 years. My monthly subscription shot up to $89.96 last year. At that price, with you and a large number of writers gone, I was going to cancel my subscription. But being Homebound,I didn’t!
    Low and behold,in yesterday’s mail,I got a postcard notifying me my subscription would be $136.00 per month, or a 51% increase!! I challenge anyone to find a corporate Chicago phone number–I was going to call Par Ridder,Editor. 5 years ago,I was able to talk to Bruce Dold, and Ridder hide behind customer (dis) service. I called this non-US country, and they really did not understand me,but when I asked to speak to a manager, she “found” a promotion that reduced my monthly fee back to $89.96! I’m 75 years old and not a Chumbulone and a $47.00 increase is real money to me. Wonder how many other people are being taken in by this scam?

    For the above reasons, I nominate The CHICAGO TRIBUNE for the Moutza of the Month Award!

    Ray Borgaard

    1. Ray- cancel that paper…unless you have a canary, parrot, or other bird you need to line the cage with. Once you cancel, they will be begging you to come back. I get offers from them pretty much paying me to take their paper. I still don’t accept it. When John left, I canceled the following week. Never looked back.

  20. I’m tired reading about this process, much less attempting it. I’ve had a lifetime practice of never preparing anything with more than six ingredients.

    Our family is celebrating Christmas on the 27th to make airline travel easier for the Texans. Whatever day you choose, everyone have a MERRY CHRISTMAS.

  21. John, the column about the food, the eels, and the politicians is one of the funniest by that I have ever read. I hope JB will read it. Your son must be inspiring you!
    MERRY CHRISTMAS to you and your family!!

  22. Great job as always, Mr. Kass. I wish for you and your Family a wonderful Christmas and a stellar New Year. Keep up the great work! By the way, my “No Chumbolone” hat arrived yesterday, and it only took me 25 minutes to explain to my wife what it meant. Can’t wait for the mug.

  23. GEEZ Yianni,
    And I thought making traditional Greek stuffing for Thanksgiving was an ordeal. All that prep of sauteing the beef and pork sausage, along with the onions, garlic, chestnuts while toasting the pine nuts and croutons. That was a piece of cake compared to what you and your boys just concocted. I must say though, yours looks more delicious. Kali Orexi! And Kalla Xristouyenna! Thanks for all you do for us as we suffer to maintain our sanity during these wild and crazy times!

  24. John, your “I’m not fat-shaming Prickster [sic]” paragraph reminds me of John Wayne saying, “Somebody oughta belt you in the mouth. But I won’t… I won’t… the hell I won’t!”

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