Small steps

I feel like a food writer today- sipping coffee, eating french onion soup for breakfast, putting thoughts about life and food into words.

Saturday or Sunday (never both- one will always be reserved for running/snowboarding) is the only day I am able to capture the morning sun in my photos. Therefore, last night, I made a bold move. While I was reveling in the end of the work week, savoring leftover meatballs and red wine, indulging in fantasies over cookbooks, chefs, and inspirational stories, I abruptly decided to leave this world and do something about it. Yes, I think about food all day long – what recipes to try, what flavors go together – but without action these dreams stay stagnant. For too long, I had been thinking about this soup and needed to get it off my chest – my old roommate made it about a year ago and the memory has stayed with me since. I also had a ton of house cleaning to do, so I figured I could multitask. And I did. And I’m eating French Onion Soup for breakfast. And it’s damn good. All because of a small step to change the course of my day.

As a friend recently shared, life is often like sitting on a comfy couch (as I was), enjoying a delicious snack (again, I was there). But, the longer we sit, the more we realize how thirsty we are and a choice happens upon us. We can remain seated, reveling in what we know, actively ignoring our thirst. Or, we can get up and get something to drink. We don’t know if there are any beverages in the fridge or if the sink has run out of water. We also don’t know if our comfy couch will be there when we get back. But a decision is required of us.

We all get to make thousands of choices a day. Actions, reactions, emotions – each is within our locus of control. And while the safe and easy decisions are often the ones we pursue, it may the unfamiliar and atypical actions that our body is craving. Comfortable living is easy – paycheck, paycheck, bills, bills, grocery shopping, savings. We come to accept the world for what it is and move along marking each day off the calendar as it passes. However, I feel, it is in challenging of these processes – of pushing life to the limit, questioning, searching, and learning – is where living life comes alive. While my dreams of cooking as my way of making a living are still a little ways away, taking small steps – pushing away fears of failure and sleepiness – can steer me in this direction.

You will feel alive if you make (and eat) this soup. I promise.

French Onion Soup

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, Jan&Feb 2008

Note: This soup takes about 5 hours to make, so plan ahead. It also gets better the longer it sits – so make the soup base a day or two ahead of time and add croutons and cheese when ready to serve.

Ingredients:

6 large sweet onions

3 T. butter – cut into 3 chunks

1 teas salt

2 cups water (plus ~ 3/4 cup for deglazing)

½ cup cooking sherry

4 cups chicken broth

2 cups beef broth

1 bay leaf

6 sprigs of fresh thyme

Salt/Pepper to taste

Toasted baguette slices & grated Gruyere cheese for serving

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Cut the 6 onions into halves (from root end to tip) then slice into ~1/4″ strips. Oil down the interior of at least a 5-qt dutch oven, adding the butter, onions, and salt. Cook onions for 1 hour – after which you want to scrape down sides and bottom of pot. Return pot to oven with lid slight open. Cook for an additional 1 1/2-3/4 hr where after an hour, you periodically scrape down the sides and bottom of the pot (I did about every 20 mins for 45 mins). Remove from oven and cook on stovetop over medium heat until the liquid evaporates and onions begin to brown (~20 mins). Cook for an additional 6-8 minutes until a brown crust begins to form on the bottom of the pan. Scrape with spoon and be sure to incorporate all of this carmelized crusty goodness back into the onions. Add 1/4 cup water to the onions and cook for another 6-8 minutes so that the water evaporates and crust forms. Continue this process 2-3 times until onions are a dark brown color. Add the sherry to the onions and continue to cook until the liquid is completely evaporated.

Stir in both broths, 2 cups water, the bay leaf, and the sprigs of thyme, scraping any of the leftover carmelized brown-ness left on the sides of the pot. Bring liquids to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

To serve: Slice a baguette loaf into 1/4-1/3″ diagonal slices then toast until they become golden and crispy on the outside. Using small, oven-proof serving bowls, fill each until they are about 1″ from the top with soup. Place 2-3 slices of toasted baguette on top of the soup (not overlapping). Grate as much gruyere on top of your soup and croutons and you’d like and broil on high for 3-5 minutes, depending on oven temperate (watch these carefully as they can easily burn under the broiler). Let rest for 5 minutes before serving, but the bowls will still be hot! Enjoy!

With love,

From Jess’ Kitchen

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