I am the tongue
you are the marrow
you are the wound
I am the arrow.
There is a certain style or mode of cooking that I give to the world now which at the time of this writing has yet to be named. I will leave the matter of this naming to others, those who come after me, who follow my outline abroad amongst the confectionary sugar of history, which is how I think of my life, and which is itself a gift to all the little people much like myself also.
It might be called adaptive or additional, but I think for the people to understand and adopt these practices it will likely need a more poignant or colorful description. For now I suppose it makes the most sense if we call it sur la table avec Monsieur Dermot. Let me explain.
A true chef does not need to reinvent the revolving spheres that allow vehicles and other things of movement to go around. His time is a valuable resource that must be husbanded carefully when ready to create in the kitchen, as is true of any artist in his studio fashioning the products of his genius for the benefit of others even those one might deem unfit. Never forget, Michelangelo didn't paint every cherub's golden tendril, there were accomplices and acolytes who worked beneath the Master’s eye and so it is with me also, especially, in this case, when it comes to French onion soup. The world does not wait for yet more French onion soup like all the other soups involving broth and onions and a little sherry perhaps. The world expects a good deal more and this is my point.
Whole Foods does a very good French onion soup. Not bad at all. Decanted into a popinchaded tureen, sprigged with parsley or somesuch, and few would know that you didn’t spend hours weeping an endless series of onions into small pieces all afternoon, but instead were upstairs with your mistress dozing between hand-jobs and generally resting up for night. Unlike the Gospel according to St. Anthony, it does not best befit the chef to exhaust his faculties or occlude his palate. We are racehorses, not carthorses. Sculptors of beauty, not hewers of plain stone. Thus first go to Whole Foods and buy a large carton (or two) of their French onion soup and have them put it in a plain brown paper sack and bring it back to the quiet bosom of your private kitchen.
Now begins the new style, the augmentation of the everyday into the extraordinary.
More cheap sherry from the back of the cupboard is first, for body, but not too much body at that; as with all assets, embrace the well-proportioned bodice of just enough. Now take some fresh black Russian bread (and if one was not adding but instead stealing or re-inventing this is where the soup would be renamed Reilly Russian Onion Soup, but no, we have further to go before dawn and classical goals, we are for burnishing the history of an institution, not perverting some old dame in a railway siding of no import).
Essentially we are making croutons here. Cut up the bread into bite-sized pieces, discard the crusts in the dog’s direction. Toss bread in olive oil and posh salt. Press six garlic gloves through the garlic pressing machinery and ensure that they are smeared all over the bread like Vaseline on a boxer’s cut and then fry them in a hot skillet, turning all the time, until beginning to crisp. Hard to see them brown as the bread is black, follow your instincts here, we want a toasted garlic flowing into the soup, not the scents of burnt scabs.
Grate gruyère and emmental also if you have it. Plenty more than you’d imagine. Pour the soup into a suitable (preferably round) baking dish. Take as many very thin slices of chateaubriand (filet mignon) as you can reasonably afford and let them slip into the waters like the body of an unconscious rival being lowered from the back of a sailboat in the middle of Lake Geneva long after the gloom of midnight. Yes, raw. Float the croutons in a single layer. I aim high, but work fast. Cover the entire surface of the bowl with your cheese. Add more cheese. Now, in a professional kitchen, I would take the blow-torch out of the hands of the adorable young Mexican who is making Creme Brulée and dance the blue flame across the cheese until it browned and shimmered, crackling into a perfect crust. At home, unless you employ welding equipment in your line of work, put the bowl under the grill/broiler as close as you’re able and stand back. Use gloves. Everything will be liquidly hot and unutterably painful if it fuses with human flesh. Decant with ladle into fine china.
With practice you will learn to ensure that you have twice as much meat as toast while your dinner companions enjoy fractions in the precisely opposite proportion. If, over the years, you always guard use of the ladle they will never know the difference. And it will still be delightful. The best French onion soup in all of Christendom and far beyond the dreams of even Charlemagne. They will love you. There will be deep warmth, a thrall even, and this certain feeling that all of life’s limits have been removed. Those assembled will understand then that nothing’s as simple in its complexity as the perfect soup and thus will the Lion will lay down with the Lamb without thought of slaughter, such will be the sense of replete well-being. Call it what you will.