I may be in the process of ruining my enjoyment of dining out. Little by little, as I learn more and more in the kitchen, I enjoy meals out less and less. Has that happened to you yet?
Somewhere around the time I cut 8 pounds of onions into identically shaped and sized 1/4 inch slices for French Onion Soup I have ceased to enjoy most French onion soup available for purchase. The stock is not deep and flavored enough; texture is off because the onions were not cut evenly; the color is not dark enough because the onions were slowly browned for 5 hours; too much cheese; too little bread; the wrong kind of cheese and bread; the list goes on. The mashed potatoes were not passed through a ricer. The sauce on the meat is cloudy. The sweetbreads are not pillowy and crispy enough. Pasta is not homemade and neither is the butter and why in the world are they trying to make bread cause clearly they are not succeeding.
The thoughts keep on coming and getting in the way of enjoying the moment. When I can't find fault, or when I had two drinks to deter my mind from the crazy food criticism, well, then I really have fun.
My food is far from perfect. I certainly don't criticize because I think I am better. I learn, test, play more. I have fun doing. Eating out is becoming harder but maybe that's a good thing. Maybe it will keep me in the kitchen playing more. Or maybe I'll just have the two drinks every time I eat out to take the edge off.
Ingredients: 1 tablespoon unsalted butter; 1 medium yellow onion, chopped; 1 garlic clove, sliced; 2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed; 1 small butternut squash, about 1 pound, peeled and chopped; 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth; 1/2 heavy cream; 2 teaspoons olive oil for garnish; 2 tablespoons creme fraiche, chunky bread crumbs and chopped parsley- all for garnish also.
I always weight my squash- for some reason, those little suckers are heavier than you would think. If you end up with a heavier one, reserve the extra for another use or adjust all the quantities to match your squash.
Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed pot over low heat and add onion, garlic, thyme, salt, and pepper. Cover and sweat for 15 minutes - or until the onions are melted but not at all browned.
Add the squash and sweat covered still over low heat for 15 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken or vegetable broth and increase the heat to medium. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for about 30 minutes or until everything is soft.
Allow it to cool at room temperature for 30 minutes- the flavors do wonders together during this time. Blend the soup well, until it has the texture of a smooth soup. Return to the pot over low-medium heat and gently incorporate the cream.
Serve a bowl garnished with creme fraiche, a few drops of olive oil, some bread crumbs and a little bit of parsley.
Enjoy your meals at home or wherever you are!
Photography by Jennifer Olson.