Years ago, when Irving and I had cable, we used to watch America’s Test Kitchen (which I suppose is on PBS and not really cable, but we don’t even have bunny ears anymore!). That show is crazy scientific! The recipes are literally run through a test kitchen and tweaked and tinkered with until they are just right. If you follow their directions, it will turn out every time.
Our mouths always watered when we watched, but one time they showed how to make French Onion Soup and Irving literally got up out of his chair, said we were going to the Le Creuset outlet to get a Dutch Oven pot, and making the soup that night. And we did. And this weekend Irving veganized it for us—delicious!
Side note: is it freezing where you are? Because it is here! And I know that the Seattle temps are mild compared to some other places in the country—my brothers and their wives all live in Chicago…brrrr—but it never gets much below 40 around here. And since it has been in the 20’s and my trusty jacket is an unlined rain coat it has been cold!!! This soup was a very welcome dinner this weekend!
^^^ Out with my favorite guys for a winter parade—our annual tradition of snowflakes and sushi! It’s not really snowing—it’s artificial—but it was certainly cold enough!
Traditional French Onion Soup is made with a base of chicken and beef stock. I’ve been asked before how in the world we could veganize it, which I always find kind of funny. First, you can veganize anything. Anything. Second, have you ever tasted chicken or beef stock? (In your pre-vegan days of course!) They have no flavor—just watery, really. So swapping it out is no big deal. Let the onions do the work—that’s where the flavor is!
Traditionally the soup is topped with slices of baguette and then loaded with Gruyere cheese. I have yet to find a veggie cheese that is actually worth bothering with—they look cheesy, but don’t usually taste like anything special. That said, I tried this soup both ways—with Follow Your Heart Mozzarella, and just plain toast. Pick your fancy—either are yummy and the flavor is essentially the same!
^^^ with cheese
David loved this soup! He gobbled up a whole bowl of it, with a side of Brussel Sprouts. Really? Really? I didn’t think kids were supposed to do that, but apparently they do! So let your kiddos surprise you and serve them up a big bowl of this too! The caramelization of the onions gives a really nice sweetness to this soup!
To follow this recipe you’ll need a couple of kitchen tools/equipment, but I’ll also include ways to get around those in case you don’t feel like running to your closest outlet mall to pick up a Dutch oven. Are we the only ones who do that?
French Onion Soup, adapted from America’s Test Kitchen
This soup takes about 4 hours to make, with lots of inactive time. It’s very easy, but takes a while to develop the flavor. Plan ahead!
3 T olive oil
5 pounds yellow onions, halved and cut “pole to pole” into long, 1/4 inch strips (6 or 7 big ones) (do not use Vidalia, Walla Walla, or other sweet varieties—they will be too sweet)
1 1/2 t salt, divided
2 c water, plus extra for deglazing
½ c dry sherry
4 c veggie broth (I like to use Rapunzel’s veggie bouillon cubes)
6 sprigs fresh thyme, tied with kitchen twine for easy removal from pot
1 bay leaf
Baguette, sliced into ½ inch slices
Vegan mozzarella cheese (optional)
Clove of garlic, sliced in half
Dutch Oven (or other oven safe pot with a tight fitting lid—I think that in a pinch you could use a deep roasting pan and TIGHTLY cover with foil. You don’t want any of the onions’ liquid to evaporate)
Oven safe serving bowls (optional, see note at end)***
Adjust your oven rack so that your Dutch oven will fit. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Place olive oil in bottom of pan and turn pan to coat with oil. Add onions and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, covered, for 1 hour (onions will be moist and slightly reduced in volume). Remove pot from oven and stir onions, scraping bottom and sides of pot. Return pot to oven with lid slightly ajar and continue to cook until onions are very soft and golden brown, at least 1 hour more (2 hours total, minimum), scraping pot again after 1 hour.
Carefully remove pot from oven and place over medium-high heat. Using oven mitts to handle pot, cook onions, stirring frequently and scraping bottom and sides of pot, until liquid evaporates and onions brown, 15 to 20 minutes, reducing heat to medium if onions are browning too quickly. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until pot bottom is coated with dark crust, 6 to 8 minutes, adjusting heat as necessary. (Scrape any fond that collects on spoon back into onions.) Stir in 1/4 cup water, scraping pot bottom to loosen crust, and cook until water evaporates and pot bottom has formed another dark crust, 6 to 8 minutes. Repeat process of deglazing 3-4 more times, until onions are very dark brown. Stir in sherry and cook, stirring frequently, until sherry evaporates, about 5 minutes.
Stir in veggie broth, 2 cups water, thyme, bay leaf, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, scraping up any final bits of browned crust on bottom and sides of pot. Increase heat to high and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 30 minutes. Remove and discard herbs, then season with salt and pepper.
For the croutons: While soup simmers, arrange baguette slices in single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet and toast under the broiler until golden brown. Remove from oven and rub each slice with an open side of a clove of garlic. Set aside.
Set individual broiler-safe bowls on baking sheet and fill each with about 1 3/4 cups soup. Top each bowl with 1 or 2 baguette slices, garlic side down. If desired, sprinkle with veggie cheese. Place sheet into the oven and watch carefully, removing as soon as toast is golden and cheese is melted. Serve in the bowls, being very careful as they will be hot!
***Note: If you don’t have oven safe bowls, or might be serving this to your favorite 3 year old, follow the first instructions for the croutons. Then, instead of placing them into bowls, turn them over on the baking sheet, top with cheese and just broil/toast the bread. Once toasted, add to bowls of soup and serve. They will seem crunchy, but as soon as they hit the soup they will melt right in!
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