I stay inside, the tea is warm, the heater working full speed, my hair is greasy, my dress shapeless. This has become an every day thing in these old winter days.
The town is beautiful and I long for all the things I could do, I think of the movies, of cafés, walks, runs, people on the streets. But I stay in, alone. And although a tiny voice in the back of my head tells me it is wrong, sad even, my body tells me exactly the opposite : I feel strangely comfortable, at ease, in this stone-walled cocoon I’ve created for myself.
I move slowly, thoughtfully, from the kitchen where dough is slowly rising to the desk where I sit and stare at the ceiling for some time, read a few pages. Smoke rises from the cup of tea I am warming my fingers around. Life is good.
I stretch a leg, wiggle my toes, tilt my head slowly to catch a ray of sunlight shyly coming in through the window. There are pencils and colors, plants that twirl around the bars of the staircase, a smell of bodies and warmth, our bodies, our warmth, a smell of home. I feel good here, slow, thick.
In those days, I like breakfasts that stretch to noons, cups of tea with warm soft patries, hot soups and crusty bread for dinners. I like reading and watching black and white movies, listening to old french singers whose voices are a direct connection to the past.
In those days, I turn on in the oven and take the time to take the time : I bake. Baking is so useless, it is absolutely unnecessary, and therefore wonderful. I leave pots and pans to bubble and infuse for hours, an onion jam slowly reducing, a puff pastry that folds itself hour after hour, mushrooms that slowly turn into a complex and flavorful broth.
This recipe is the result of one of those days, full of ease and comfort, laziness and boredom, of the best kind.
Pairing onion soup, a classic frenchie, with puff pastry rather than bread gives it that extra layer of richness. Of course, if you have time ahead of you I recommend making your own puff pastry, but a good quality bought one can easily seal the deal.
- 1kg onions (I use a mix of red, white, yellow and shallots)
- 3 tbsp butter
- 1 tbsp salt
- 200mL white wine
- 2L water
- 2 cheese crusts or a 200g block of parmesan cheese
- Thyme + Bay leaf + 2 cloves (possibly rosemary or sage if you feel like it)
- A grating of nutmeg
Onion soup comes in two steps.
First, you want to caramelize the onions. Slice them thinly, I use a mandoline for fast homogenous slicing, but you can also peel and slice them by hand. I prefer to keep them in big whole rounds for bite purposes later on, but feel free to cut them in half first.
In a large wide pan melt the butter before adding your sliced onions and salt. Stir once then leave to melt down and caramelize over medium-heat, stir from time to time, the whole process should take about one hour.
Once the onions are golden and have lost all or almost all of their crunch turn the heat up before adding the white wine. Let it evaporate before adding in the herbs and cloves in a little bag, the water, the cheese and nutmeg. Now again, an hour should do the trick, turn the heat down and cover but keep an eye on it. Take out the herbs and the cheese crusts, taste and adjust the seasoning. Once the taste is perfect to you take it off the heat.
Now you have two options : either move the soup to another dish or leave this one to cool, if you placed your pie crust on the hot dish it would melt down and break before it has time to cook. Preheat the oven at 200°C, place your puff pie crust on top of the dish and cook in the oven for twenty to thirty minutes until the crust is golden and cooked through.
Take out of the oven and dig in, giving everyone some soup and a piece of crust. If you feel like it, you could also grate some more cheese on top.