–This entry should have gone up yesterday, but after the soon-to-be described soup, my cousin brought out the Apple Pie Liquor. All attempts at productivity were … drunk.
A few year’s ago, the husband of one of my friends went vegetarian. He and his wife were out to eat one day and he ordered French Onion soup. She asked him if he’d decided to give up on the vegetarianism because of his soup choice, and he was dismayed to learn that the lovely soup could really be more aptly named beefy onion soup. Cheesebread on top notwithstanding, he was not thrilled. I personally would have felt betrayed, because soupy, savory onions topped with bread and broiled cheese is at least one (probably two or three) definition of perfect.
Lately, my husband and I have been reducing the prevalence of meat in our diet for a variety of reasons, so I’ve been playing creatively in the kitchen to recreate some of our favorite dishes. Last night, with chilly winter air and the above memory in mind, I decided to see if I could vegetarian-up a classic French onion soup.
Turns out, it wasn’t even that hard. I used mushroom bouillon base to make replace beef consomme, and the result was as delicious and hearty as the beef version I’ve so adored. When baking, I am obsessive about measuring my ingredients, but with all savory cooking, I tend to wing it. Below is sort of a recipe, but please taste and adjust as you go.
Faux-French Onion Soup, makes 6 appetizer-sized servings (like the one in the picture)
3 onions, thinly sliced (I used 2 sweet, 1 red)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T butter
salt (tiny bit to start, more to taste once the soup part is done)
ground thyme (a ridiculously small amount. Just hold the jar or canister parallel to the stovetop and gently tap the bottom with your fingers until a bit of thyme comes out)
red wine (roughly 1/2 cup)
flour (about a tablespoon)
scant 1 T mushroom bouillon base (could sub vegetable base, etc for similar results, or prepared broth for a less intense flavor)
2 cups of water
bread (slices, cubes, whatever you prefer, just enough to put a nice layer onto each filled soup ramekin.)
cheese (good melty white cheese, sliced, shredded, whatever you prefer)
Melt butter in a sauce pan on medium high heat. Add in onions, garlic, salt, and thyme. When the onions begin to soften, turn the heat down. Stir occasionally so the onions don’t burn, but rather turn a beautiful caramelized brown over about 20 minutes.
While the onions cook, toast your bread in the oven, or in the toaster if you are using slices. We used slices, so after the bread was toasted, we used the ramekins as cutters to make the toast into perfect size circles to set onto the soup.
When the onions are caramelized to your satisfaction, add the wine and turn up the heat to medium high. Stirring frequently and paying attention, let the wine boil off until the onions are no longer cooking in liquid. They will have a bit of a wine-y shine to them, but the pan will essentially be dry. Turn the burner back down to medium low. Add the flour, stirring to coat the onions, and cooking the flour just enough to not taste like raw flour anymore.
Add about half the water and all of the mushroom base. Once the base is fully incorporated, continue adding water until the right onion-to-broth ratio for your personal taste has been achieved. Simmer your soup for a bit. Maybe 5 minutes? I don’t know. You’re pretty much done with that part. Taste it and adjust the seasonings if you like. I think a tiny dash of balsamic vinegar would have been nice at this stage, but not everyone agreed, so we skipped it. For now. They’ll see next time.
Preheat the broiler.
Pour the soup into the ramekins. We had a lot of trouble with this step, so we ended up dividing the broth between the ramekins, then scooping in the onions with a spoon afterward. Top each one with toasted bread and cheese. We used slices of provolone that needed to get used up, centering one slice over each ramekin so that the cheese could melt down the side. It looked pretty, and gave us nice melty cheese to scrape off and eat after we finished our soups.
Put the ramekins on a baking sheet or your broiler pan and set them under the broiler. For ours, it took about five minutes to melt the cheese and lightly brown it in places. Just keep an eye on them, because once cheese starts to brown, the darker color will absorb heat more and more rapidly, and you’ll end up with little charred soups before you know it.
Take them out of the oven and let cool long enough that you can be reasonably assured you won’t melt your tongue off. Enjoy.