I am envious of our customers.

You walk into the store armed with recipes and guests lists, with merry plans of Julie & Julia dinners or office parties or picnics recreated from your travels in Provence. Sometimes you enter with an arsenal of questions: how does one cook blood sausage without it bursting? What makes the Pave Jadis so lemony? which salt is best for caramels? But when you leave our checkered floors, I know you are headed towards infinitely pleasing kitchen successes. I love hearing reports of the lavish spreads you prepare, the delighted praise that your friends bestow on your efforts.

What you may not know is that as often as you come in for advice, I come away the richer. Like this Tuesday, when in a fog of fever I recalled the conversation Rachel and I had with a lady during one of our first weeks. She was making apple onion soup and wanted to serve it with little cheese toasts; I argued for the delicately aged Maitre Seguin while Rachel put her money on a traditional Comté or Beaufort. This memory was a sun-break on a wet and stuffy winter afternoon. I needed nothing more than a hearty soup of onions tempered with the sweet tang of apple.

I bolstered it with unfiltered cider and coriander, and the slice of Macrina baguette (perfection in bread) with toasty Comté soaked up the life-giving liquid. The apples and the onions adopted each others’ best qualities, while the mellow broth took on color and complexity over the steady heat of the stove. It was warm and sweet and sexy enough to break through my stuffed up sinuses, and given that I am sitting here, fever-free no less than 24 hours later, a little bit of a miracle.

Apple Onion Soup

2 onions, thinly sliced
1 tart apple, cored and sliced into ½ inch wedges
6 cups chicken stock
½ Etienne Dupont apple cider
2 tbsp butter
2/3 tsp ground coriander
salt and pepper to taste
A gruyère style cheese – Comté or Beaufort

Melt the butter over medium heat in a large pot. Add the onions, salt, pepper, and coriander, cover. Meanwhile, slice the apples, lay them in a shallow dish and pour the cider over them.

Now that the onions have steamed for a few minutes, uncover and stir occasionally until they have softened and started to yellow, about 20 minutes. Add the apple slices and any cider that has not been soaked up. Cook for an additional 20-30 minutes, until onions and apples are brown and caramelizing. Add the chicken stock, stirring to loosen the bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Let simmer for 20 minutes.

Slice and toast the baguette. If you have oven-proof bowls, put two slices on baguette at the bottom, fill with soup, sprinkle with your cheese of choice and put in under the broiler until the cheese is crackly and brown. Watch it like a hawk. If not, broil the cheese on the toast separately, and then lay on top on the filled bowls of soup, letting it sit, soak and expand with liquid goodness for a few minutes before digging in.

Note: I never peel anything, fruit, vegetable or mineral (citrus fruits, melons and bananas being the necessary exceptions to this rule). It seems cruel to strip the poor things of their pretty garments before leading them to consumption. Feel free, however, to peel the apples if that better suits your fancy.