You are going to hate me for this “recipe”. I call this, “direction, not perfection vegetarian French onion soup”. The truth is, ever since I tried French Onion soup, I have wanted to make a vegetarian rendition. A number of things had to happen before I was ready to take the plunge yesterday:
1. My fiancé’s mother gave us a large bag of dried mushrooms.
2. I had thought about this for months — and had a lot of ideas floating around in my head from other recipes I’d seen.
3. I had leftover gruyere and parmesan in the fridge…at the same time (destiny!)
4. I had an open bottle of red wine leftover from Friday night’s shindig and no cork in sight.
5. I had a pretty big headache, and thus the patience to make a dish that would take a lot of time.
I’ve mentioned this on a lot of my food posts that cooking (as opposed to baking) is part art. It’s about knowing what ingredients do on their own and trusting them to work together. I would have never fathomed trying to make vegetarian French onion soup had I not discovered making broth from dried mushrooms. I don’t think that anything else would cut it. This soup needs a distinct rich deep flavour. There’s just too much going on in most veggie broth’s.
OK – so – how long did I spend making this? In total, I would guesstimate 2/2.5 hours — but I was working at a leisurely pace. It was worth the wait. My neighbours must have been salivating at the smell in our hallway.
“Recipe” — serves 4: I’m bolding all the ingredients, rather than listing them first
7 small onions – sliced thinly (I could have stopped at 6, but I wasn’t feeling even numbers for some reason). Save yourself the grief of hours of tears and pull out a food processor, if you have one.
2 tbsp. olive oil
1.5 tbsp. butter
Melt the butter and oil in a large pan/pot over medium low (4) heat, add the onions and toss to coat. Set your timer for 15 minutes and leave it alone!
To make the broth:
1.5 cups of dried mushrooms (porcinis, or a mixed blend)
10 cups of water
3 bay leaves
2 tbsp. Herbs de Provence (or thyme. I used this because I didn’t have thyme and this blend contains it)
1 tbsp. oregano
1 tbsp. sea salt
1 tbsp. ground pepper
put all of this into a large pot set on medium heat (6) and just let it sit. You won’t need it for awhile!
When your 15 minute timer goes, stir your onions for the first time. Add 1 tbsp. of water (may as well scoop it from the broth pot). Now, you’ll have to watch it a bit more, but still be patient with it. After another ~5-7 minutes, add 1 tbsp. of maple syrup or brown sugar to the onions. This will encourage the sugars to come out. Set your timer for another 20 minutes. Stir about once every 5 minutes.
Once your onions are nice and golden/soft/sweet (timer should go off about now), add 1/2 cup of red wine to them and 5 minced garlic cloves (my cloves were small, you could do 3 if they are large). It will turn them purple and will scare you. Don’t be scared! 5 more minutes, then you’ll be ready to add the broth!
By this time, your broth will have cooked down — I strained and added 7 cups of broth to my mixture and saved the last cup for another recipe (dahl). At this point, I had to let it cook down for 45 mins to 1 hour. I also had a LOT of yummy rehydrated mushrooms leftover. Waste not. Mince them up and add a bit to the soup (~1/4 cup rehydrated mushrooms - I wouldn’t go for more, as onions need to be the star. Use the rest in another recipe (like dahl!).
To finish the soup you’ll need oven-safe bowls, sliced toasted baguette or focaccia (I used focaccia because that’s what I had), sliced gruyere and grated parmesan. Don’t skimp on the cheese. I would have used more, had I had it.
Set oven to broil! Put the oven rack on the second notch from the top (to accommodate the bowls). Fill each bowl with soup. Top with bread, then cheese.
Broil for 5-7 minutes, until the cheese is melted, bubbly and a little golden. the bowls are smoking hot, so be careful! HEAVEN!