I love French onion soup. I love it, I love it, I love it. It’s so delicious and comforting and it brings back some great memories of dinners with friends growing up. But in restaurants, I almost always have to pass up this delicious favorite. Why? Because it’s made with beef broth. Ugh.
|These are the major parts of French onion soup. And life in general.|
But the thing is, I’ve had great vegetarian French onion soup. I know it exists. My friend’s mom has made (what I remember as) the most amazing, vegetarian French onion soup. Granted, I haven’t had it since 8th or 9th grade, but oh, it was so good.
So it’s been a goal of mine to create the most amazing vegetarian French onion soup ever. I’ve tried and failed in the past, and it was very sad. Then I forced the thought from my mind and tackled other recipes rather than get frustrated by this one. And then, completely randomly, I saw this simple recipe posted at Smitten Kitchen back in April. There was a suggestion I had never seen before – use mushroom stock for a vegetarian version. Well, vegetable stock hadn’t worked out well for me in the past, so I figured I might as well give mushroom stock a try. I immediately made some adjustments and saved it. I mean, I love soup, but I feel like it’s really just not as good when you eat it during warm weather. My experiment would just have to wait.
Well, it snowed in DC on Saturday, so I think it’s now officially cold enough for me to start making soup regularly (I eat soup in the winter time like it’s my job). Also, I recently found a kosher bakery where I bought a lovely baguette that was just begging to be used, and I had a bottle of dry white wine ready to go. Clearly the stars were aligning and this weekend was my time to finally make a great, vegetarian French onion soup.
So I did. And it was better than great. It was amazing. Mission accomplished.
French Onion Soup
Adapted from The Smitten Kitchen
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour (I used whole wheat, mostly because it was there)
1/2 cup + dry white wine (I used a chardonnay)
8 cups mushroom stock (low sodium, if you can find it)
2 cups water
Salt and pepper to taste
1 to 2 cups (to taste) grated Swiss*
8 to 12 1-inch thick rounds French bread, toasted until hard
*The world of kosher cheese is sadly limited. And the selection of kosher cheeses available to me in DC is even more limited. So my options, while adequate, are not necessarily the best. For cheese, I used Miller’s Swiss cheese slices. Each bowl got one long slice of cheese, either ripped up in pieces and sprinkled on top or cut in half and layered on. If you have shredded Swiss cheese available, then use the measurements above and heap it on.
1. Heat the oil in the bottom of a stock pot over medium to low heat.
2. Add the onions, toss to coat them in oil and cover the pot. Reduce the heat some more, cover, and walk away. No, seriously, go away. The onions don’t need you right now. What they need is a 15 minute break. It’s not you, it’s them.
|Wait for it…|
3. After 15 minutes, uncover the pot, raise the heat to medium-low, and stir in the sugar (it helps draw out the water and helps the caramelization process). Let the onions caramelize for the next 30 or 40 minutes, but make sure to stir them often. If they start crisping, lower the heat. You want them to be dark golden brown, but they have to stay soft. Also, I will tell you from personal experience, if you don’t let the onions caramelize properly, your soup will not be French onion. It will just be oniony soup, which is very much not the same thing. It’s sad when this happens, trust me. If it looks like they need some more liquid, add some wine, a little at a time.
|Wait for it….|
5. Add the stock and the water slowly, stirring as you go. Once all of it is in, bring the soup to a simmer and let it do it’s thing for another 30-40 minutes, partially covered. Feel free to salt and pepper to taste during this time (Note – if you’re adding cheese to the top, go easy on the salt since the cheese will add some to the dish as well).
Your soup is now done. In fact, it’s delicious. It’s also vegan, so if you don’t eat cheese, please enjoy this amazing soup right now. It’s amazing. For those of you who do eat cheese (and who still have the patience to continue smelling this amazing soup but not yet being able to eat it), please continue reading to get the full effect…
6. Toast your French baguette rounds until they’re hard (but not browned, so set them in your toaster on a very low setting and keep an eye on them). Take a stick of butter/margarine and lightly coat both sides of each round.
7. Preheat the oven to 325F. Line a cookie sheet with tin foil and place your oven-proof bowls on it. Ladle some boiling soup into them.
8. Top each bowl with as many slices of bread as you will fit, and cover those with cheese( see cheese note above). Place in the oven for 20 minutes, then put it on broil for an additional three, or until the cheese is bubbling and starting to brown.
9. Remove the bowls from the oven (carefully, they’re very hot) and serve immediately. If you want, feel free to sprinkle on some dried oregano or herbs de Provence.