French onion soup is one of my very, very favorite things and always has been. But most recipes have beef stock, and the alternatives are vegan, and vegan recipes always want to add textured soy proteins to dishes, even when totally inappropriate. So after some experimentation, I'm bringing you the perfect vegetarian French Onion Soup, complex and delish.
So let's get started. We need to caramelize the onions first, and I'm gonna share with you a much quicker way, which takes about 15 minutes instead of the usual 45.
First, heat up a saucepan with a table-spoon of sugar in it. Keep an eye for when the sugar starts to caramelize, cause then you have to...
Well folks, there's no way around it, but French Onion Soup involves a ton of, you guessed it, onions. You're gonna have to thinly slice three large onions, so get ready to cry like you haven't cried since the ending of Sophie's Choice. I recommend taking the opportunity to perfect your James Van Der Beek impression:
"Mommy, why can't I make my forehead shrink?"
As soon as they're chopped, toss them in the pan and stir them until they're coated evenly by the melted sugar, then add 2 glugs of oil.
Now here's the secret trick to make it go faster: add 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda and stir. Turn the heat up to medium-high.
Now just let it cook for 15 minutes, while stirring occasionally. Recommended activity for your 15 minutes of idleness:
- 1st 10 Minutes: Read a long-form journalism piece. My favorite this week is this piece that tells of murder and mayhem in 19th century Austin, Texas.
- Alternate: Get down on your knees and pray for your eyes to stop watering and your nose to stop running.
- Last 5 minutes: Mince 2 cloves of garlic.
Keep an eye on the onions though, you should add a few drops of water every time it starts to stick (the water also helps distribute the flavor!)
You'll know it's done when everything's a deep purple-brown color and the pan stops steaming. And there you have caramelized onions, so take a moment to congratulate yourself!
And On to the Soup!
You already minced that garlic, right? Chuck it in the pan with the onions and sauté for a minute or so.
Meanwhile, get your other ingredients ready: 1 bay leaf, thyme (or italian seasoning), 4 cups of stock, and 1/2 cup of vermouth. Now guys? Seriously? If you don't have stock in the freezer, DO NOT use OXO cubes, or any other stock cube. Just use water. I mean it. The cubes totally ruin any and all flavor, and make me go a bit like this:
What would you call that: mild disapproval?
Anyway, toss it all in with salt/pepper to taste, cover, and let simmer for about half an hour.
Recommended activity for 30 minutes:
- Visit www.jamesvandermemes.com. You won't even notice the time going by as you get lost in his many ridiculous faces.
FINAL THING TO DO
Turn on your broiler. Ladle the soup into ramekins, or bowls, or however you wanna do it (as long as it's oven safe, it doesn't matter too much, but I like the pretty ramekins, as in the intro photo). I tore bread slices in half, and twisted the bread into the top of the bowl. Try to keep the bottom wet (that's what she said) and the top dry.
Grate some cheese of your choosing on the top (yeah, yeah, I know gruyere is traditional, but it can be expensive. Parmesan is fine, and if you so desire it, so's cheddar). I have to be honest though, I think it tastes plenty good without any cheese at all (ducks and hides from French cooking purists).
Stick it in the broiler for a few minutes. Take it out when the cheese is bubbling or the bread starts to darken.
Et voila! Lovely warm, bubbly, crusty French Onion Soup!