Reminiscing about the times when I could eat painlessly.

It seemed like only yesterday. Actually, it was only yesterday. Or maybe a few days ago…when I could eat, nay gorge, without feeling like someone were running a potato peeler down my raw congested throat.

Fine. Maybe I’m verging on the dramatic. But I AM in pain. I’ve had this blasted throat infection for three days already, and other than toast soaked and disintegrated in chicken noodle cup-a-soups, my stomach hasn’t seen a fat chewy crunchy crispy chunk of anything since Wednesday morning (excluding the buttered shortbread biscuit I attempted to ingest after dinner a while ago…chomp, yum, so buttery, crunch, love these chocolate coated biscuits…yay, happy me, real food finally, chomp, swallow…ACCK! Someone get this darned potato peeler out of my throat!)

It took me back to a Friday almost two weeks ago, when I’d cooked up some bubbling hot French onion soup and layered it with homebaked croutons and slices of gruyere, blasted under the broiler, topped up with more soup, more slices of gruyere, and blasted again for final ultimate goeey cheesiness. Sweet and rich, with that deep, mellow fullness you get from adding both beef and chicken broth…such a perfect wintertime dish, makes me seriously wonder why people usually recommend chicken soup for the common cold and not bubbling hot french onion soup with melted sheets of gruyere hanging over the top instead. Anyone? Any doctors out there?
I did a mix n’ match between recipes I found from Alton Brown, the Food Network foodie geek (only used the bouquet garni as inspiration), Luke at Cookography (took the butter, onion and liquid proportions from here…I also started off using the oven technique described in this recipe for browning the onions…but later learned that it’s much simpler to just do this all in a pot on high heat), and Delia Online (followed her croutons gig, and also switched to her onion browning technique when the ovenbake method took too long).  The result was a comfy, heart-warming bowl of bubbling french onion soup.

Thick sheath of gruyere, with hot onion soup bubbling up to the top through the cracks

Scary looking piece of gruyere cheese dripping with onion broth

My only regret is that I didn’t have those pretty little ramekins that every other online french onion soup brewer and photographer seems to own…Santa, I swear I’ve been good this year.

I paired the soup with a roast beef and dutch cheese on ciabatta sandwich. This creation is probably as store-bought as my haughty cooking -passions will ever allow me to go…fresh (store-bought and prodded for freshness) herb ciabatta rolls, deli-sliced roast beef, spicy dutch cheese (which turned out to not be spicy at all, but was still perfectly melty for a sandwich), caramelized onion and mushroom gravy (inspired by the onion remnants of my French onion soup, with some mushrooms and beef broth thrown in…the only part of this sammy that I can truly claim to be homemade), a tiny leaf of lettuce for good measure, and a smear of essential Waitrose hot horseradish sauce (so irresistable that I finished a bottle of this, singlehandedly, in a week).

I even tried the sandwich with some of my dad’s incredible turkey (which I’ve decided we should always have in stock 365 days of the year because I love it so much), and it was equally phenomenal.

Exponentially less phenomenal is my throat, which at the time of writing this post, still stubbornly refuses to let anything but the blandest and clearest of liquids trickle down. Counting the hours till my meds finally kick in and reign things back in order, but till then, it’s back to the chicken noodle soup bowl for me.

Author: InaFryingPan

With a family legacy of ingenious cooks, a nutritionist and chef-extraordinaire mother, and a father who introduced me to steak and caviar when I could barely reach the table, I had no choice but to acquire a keen awareness of food during my childhood years in Dubai. But it was only after I found myself on a college campus in Philadelphia – far away from home, too cheap as a student to spend on anything other than pizza, and with dorm rooms that had little rat-holes of kitchens if they even had them at all – when I developed a heightened appreciation of food. An appreciation of food that I once ate every night at the dinner table in Dubai, but that was now an entire ocean away. I lusted for the culinary treasures that lay outside the stale walls of my college dining hall, hijacked friends’ kitchens to try my hand at something, anything , remotely edible, and greedily raided different websites in search of highly-rated restaurants. With my move to New York to work for a consulting firm that secretly harbored self-professed foodies, my appreciation transformed into a passion, an addicition. I felt like everyone around me in New York was talking about food: where to get the best cupcakes, pizza slices, banh mi, kati rolls, pho, fried chicken, and every other food item out there that is just a plain old dish in some part of the world, but that’s become hyped to unforeseen proportions in New York. What fuelled my addiction over time was travel to different cities, both for work and play, which gave me unfettered access to the culinary havens of not only New York, but also of DC, Virginia, Chicago, Houston, Vegas, Austin, Seattle and even a little city called Bentonville (Arkansas!). After 9 years away from home, I’ve finally taken the leap to come back to Dubai – with not just an awareness, but genuine appreciation and passionate addiction for what I’d taken for granted as a child. Mom, I’m back to reclaim my seat at your dinner table, and to rediscover this city with its ever-expanding menu of international flavors.

5 thoughts on “Reminiscing about the times when I could eat painlessly.

  1. Priyanka says:

    wow….u seem to be a great chef!!! obviously the passion comes thru all ur writings!…great going….rashmi fwded the link of your blog….will wait for more ….real nice stuff……all d best!

    1. InaFryingPan says:

      Thanks for the kind words Priyanka! I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m a great chef, just one whose not afraid of trial and (lots of) error! Thanks for stopping by, Rash is such a sweetheart for forwarding the link!

  2. Radz says:

    Did you use only yellow onions for this or a mixture of red and yellow ?

    1. InaFryingPan says:

      I used 4 huge white onions from spinneys (al ghurair)…definitely no red, they won’t caramelize right for this…i think yellow works too. I read that vidalias are the best (, but not sure if and when they’re available in Dubai, and even if they were, they would probably cost an arm and a leg! Go with the white ones, they did the trick for me! :)

  3. Saleem says:

    Ma soup was great and next time when you serve soup make sure we have nothing more to eat. Would love to have the soup once again.


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