Vegetarian French Onion Soup
Adapting two recipes I've used in the past as guides, plus strong opinions about what I like about it, I thought I'd actually write down what I did this time.
Typically if I'm making this soup, usually winging it a bit, I am making it for a bit more than four people. So the above recipes are not quite enough and the below is effectively a doubling of them.
A not super pretty picture of a very tasty bowl of soup (we'd had not quite enough cheese shredded on the last couple bowls).
- 4 pounds yellow onions, peeled, trimmed, cut in half and then cut into about quarter inch half circles.
- 1 stick (8 tablespoons) of butter or equivalent other fats. I've used olive oil in the past as well.
- 1 cup dry sherry. Actually tonight I didn't have quite enough, but it's fine.
- 6 cups veggie stock or water. Some recipes absurdly only use water. Tonight I used a quart of home canned veggie stock plus 2 cups water.
- 1/3 cup white miso. This came from the first link above and helps add some savory and salt. I didn't double this as 2/3 cup seemed like way too much.
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme or somewhat less dried.
- Black pepper
- More salt if you want (or taste near the end and add more)
- A lot of Gruyere shredded (or Comte or Emmentaler or even American Swiss if you can't do the others). The second recipe linked calls for 8 ounces (!) for half this amount of soup.
- Bread or other starch to put the cheese on.
- In a big soup pot, start cooking the onions on medium low heat, stirring regularly and well until very golden. This will take an hour or more. No really. You can rush this with baking soda or sugar (the second recipe above calls for sugar) but when I've tried both in the past I've been disappointed. Sugar makes it too sweet and the baking soda gives the onions a weird texture by the end, though both do in fact speed up the Maillard reaction. Fun fact: I have been mispronouncing "Maillard" for twenty years kind of like "mallard" the duck when it's "mai-yar". ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
- Add the veggie stock and thyme and black pepper to the onions and stir well.
- Add the miso to the water (warm from the tap) and whisk it in so it blends well when you then add it to the soup.
- Add the sherry.
- Stir and let it come to a medium simmer for a bit.
- Meanwhile, get the oven warmed up and then turn the broiler on. Note: next few steps we have to do in stages with two bowls at a time (only two fit on the sheet pan), making about six bowls with a little soup leftover.
- Toast some bread. Doesn't have to be too dark, but enough so that it doesn't immediately turn to mush in soup.
- Dish out some soup into a fairly open bowl. Float the toast and a bunch of Gruyere. Make sure some is along the edges for crispy cheesy yummy.
- Broil for a few minutes until melted well and some of the cheese is starting to brown.
- NOM NOM NOM
My favorite restaurant version of this soup is currently from Cafe Presse in Seattle. Theirs is not vegetarian as they also roast chicken as a speciality so make their own chicken stock. Unlike a lot of restaurant versions, theirs is not too sweet or absurdly salty or weirdly striped with fat. Whenever I make it at home I'm reminded that I would not want to actually cook in a restaurant because doing this in a commercial kitchen, serving it from 11AM till 11PM maintaining high quality would have some very challenging logistics.