You can only ignore onions so long. Take out the torn fishnet bag and grab five. They’re as small as lemons or plums or tiny apples you find in orchards. Grab two more. That’s fine. Chop away the ends, halve, peel, cut, so the paper-thin slices are not half-moons, but slivers, like when a little kid stares at the sky and says, “Look, it’s God’s thumbnail.”
Set the very wide, very deep saucepan over medium heat. Add a chunk of butter. Pour one-Mississippi-two-Mississippi of olive oil. Swirl and watch the butter melt, tie-dye into the oil, bubble and foam. Add the onions. Listen to them hiss in agony for a moment before setting a lid on top—not the right fit, but it never is, never matters—and walking away. A baby needs to cry itself to sleep sometimes.
A few minutes later, come back and stir. The onions should be sweating and wilting. Cover. Go away. Come back. Stir. Dance this dance for 15 minutes, or so, till they turn amber and stick to the bottom of the pan. Lower the heat. Cover. Come back. Stir less frequently now. But don’t forget them. They need you.
After 30 more minutes, the onions should look like caramel-colored jam. Taste one. Feed another to Smith. Pour a splash of your red wine into the pan and scrape at the dark bits stuck to the bottom. Pour one more, smaller, splash. Raise the heat and let the drunk onions find their footing while you open a dusty box of beef broth. Empty into the pan. Splash your white robe as you do. Raise the heat all the way and bring the soup to a boil. Drop to a simmer. Season with salt, pepper, to taste. Burn your tongue.
Get the crusty “harvest” bread and cut two videotape-thick slices. While you do, wonder what makes a bread harvest-y. Some sort of whole wheat flour, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds. So. Seeds. Toast the slices. When they pop-up, burn your pinky finger trying to see, Is it enough? Toast again. But hit the eject button early. Almost crunchy like a crouton. But not quite.
Ladle the soup into two bowls. Oven-safe. Right? “Yeah,” Smith says. Set the toast on top. Cover with grated mozzarella and parmesan and consider whether you should lie about this later. Cover in gruyere. But really. Mozzarella and parmesan, because you bought both in bulk and why spend more when you don’t need to? Set the bowls on a baking tray, then slide below the broiler. Pour more wine as they bubble and brown.
Pick up your spoon as soon as you sit down, then blush as Smith raises his glass of wine to you and says, “Cheers!” Set down your spoon. “Cheers,” you say. “Cheers.”
Emma Laperruque is a baker, food writer, marathoner, and northeast-prototype now living in the south. She documents her kitchen on dourmet.com and wants to be your friend on Instagram (@dourmet)