First, let me introduce you to my father-in-law. What an incredible guy. My sister-in-law’s partner refers to him as “The Legend,” if that’s an indicator of just how cool he actually is. He is not young – he can tell you stories about when the Nazis came to France, though he was just a kid when the War started. He is very tall, like both of his sons, and is a tremendous sports fan. I mean bordering on obsessive. The man loves every sport – including the apparently well-known handball, in which the French excel, which is quite good since the Spanish seem to have dibs on everything else. But his two fave’s are football and basketball. He does not shout at his TV or place bets (though we do love a good lotto ticket from time to time). No, Jean sits calmly upon his sofa, occasionally informing the refs and/or players and/or coaches that they are idiots, occasionally catching a little shut-eye (intentionally or otherwise).
He is also a master of sorts in the kitchen, although his wife does quite a lot of cooking herself. The two of them are gentle geniuses – I suppose there is nothing unusual here about knowing how to make food taste good. But Jean’s talents are rooted in very old traditions. He was raised by farmers, although he worked in a bank for most of his adult life. Still, I hope to post here on his many incredible skills, from befriending the guys with licenses to distill liquor, to knowing which mushrooms growing in the forest taste lovely and won’t kill you instantly, to jamming and jarring just about any fruit you can throw at him. And much, much more.
But for this moment, just days away from the Winter Solstice, I thought I would share with you the simplest recipe I have ever come across in my life: Jean’s Onion Soup. Be warned: you may be tempted, as I have been, to eat it for three consecutive days without complaint.
You will need:
1 onion per person
1 soup bowl worth of water per person
1/4-1/3 cup of the little pasta of your choice per person (any of the ones in the minute pasta list here will work)
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp olive oil
milk or unsweetened soy milk
cilantro (optional – Jean would probably scoff if he knew I added that one)
1. Slice the onion roughly, however you like. Put the onion, water, oil and salt in a pot.
2. Turn on the fire about medium heat and go about your business. It’ll need to cook like that for about 20 minutes. So long as you know it’s not boiling over, you’ve done the hard part (I know, right?).
3. After 20 minutes have passed, and you can smell oniony deliciousness coming from the pot, remove the lid and add your pasta and your pepper, making sure to stir it a little so the pasta doesn’t stick. Taste the broth at that point to make sure you don’t need to add anymore salt. Go slowly with the salt – as Jean has told his children exactly 754,398 times each, you can always add salt at the table.
4. Leave it to boil long enough for the pasta to cook, and remove from heat when it’s done.
5. Spoon it out into bowls, adding a splash of milk or soy milk, fresh cilantro if you fancy, and a pinch more pepper.
Et bon appetit!