You would think all French Onion soups are vegetarian, right? Wrong! The base of the classic French onion soup is beef stock. This isn’t known to a lot of vegetarians until they are part way thru a pipping hot bowl. Years ago I wanted to give this classic soup a vegetarian twist without sacrificing the complex layers of flavors of the classic.
I always like to take a standard classic recipe and add my twist to it. Wanting to give it more layers and intense flavors I thought why not add more onion. The classic way to prepare this soup is just with standard yellow onions. Caramelized these onions taste great, but I wanted more! So I added shallots, to give more onion flavor but also a bit of a garlic bite as well. The other addition I made was to add leeks, they add a fresh addition. These two along with the classic yellow onion gives layers and layers of onion flavor. Sometimes I will use one sweet onion in place of one of the yellow onions and it just increases flavor and sweetness.
As with so many of my vegetarian recipes I went right for the mushrooms to replace the beef. A good mushroom broth replaces the beef stock and still gives a rich base. Even if you don’t like mushrooms this broth blends with the caramelized onions and other ingredients to just be a layer of flavor not the main star. Note, I did try using vegetable broth but the flavors of most store bought vegetable broths were to strong and didn’t work with the flavor that I wanted. Also adding Cognac to deglaze the pan as well as red wine gives a flavor boost. I typically use a Syrah for this. Most recently I used DeLille Cellars 2014 Signature Syrah, the savory, smoky characters works well with the onions but also then as a pairing this wine goes wonderfully.
The last change I made to make this classic recipe my own was to change up the topping that you broil and get gooey and crisp. Typically it is a slice of bread and cheese on top, which is great, but a challenge to eat. I always think that here you have this pipping hot soup and you’re eating it with a spoon and yet it’s a challenge to cut into that slice of bread with a spoon. So one time I was making a caesar salad to go alongside and when I was making the croutons for the salad I thought why not just use those for the soup topping too! Mixing freshly made croutons with cheese and parsley give the perfect crown to this delicious soup.
This is a very straightforward and simple recipe actually, you can make the soup early in the day or even the day before, just gently reheat and then ladle into your bowls and top and broil and the last minute. Serve along with a great salad and of course a great wine. I love to serve a Syrah or Viognier with this soup. This weekend when we had this soup we enjoyed a 2014 Signature Syrah from DeLille Cellars a Washington Classic and a Viognier from Williamson Wines in Healdsburg, CA. When pairing French Onion Soup you want to choose a Rhône style wine, think Syrah (Shiraz), Viognier, Roussanne, Grenache. Bon Appétit!
- 1 stick unsalted nutter
- 2.5 pounds yellow onions- sliced thin (about 4 medium onions, for fun replace one with a sweet onion)
- 2 large leeks- sliced
- 3 shallots- sliced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme, tied together for easy removal.
- 3/4 cup Cognac
- 2 cups red wine, Rhône style
- 8 cups mushroom broth
- salt & pepper to taste
- 1 baguette
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup Swiss cheese - grated
- 1/2 cup Gruyere - grated
- 1/2 cup Parmesan - grated
- 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley- chopped
- In a large heavy bottom pot melt butter over medium high heat. Add in sliced onions, shallots, and leeks stir around to coat with butter. Add in bay leaf and stir occasionally, for 20 minutes until the onions get golden brown in color. Around 15 minutes add in sugar to help with the caramelizing. The Onions will caramelize and the pot will burn slightly on the bottom.
- Deglaze the pan with the Cognac and stir around and boil for 2 minutes. Then add in the wine, thyme, ½ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper. Bring back to a boil for 10 minutes.
- Add in the mushroom broth and bring to a gentle boil. Lower heat and simmer for 20 Minutes. Taste for salt and pepper and add to your taste.
- Cube the baguette, and place in a large bowl. In a small saucepan melt the butter and olive oil and add in garlic, just keep on heat for a minute or two.
- Toss mixture with cubes and spread out on a parchment lined baking sheet. Toast in the oven (350) for 15-20 minutes until golden. Remove and set aside till ready for assembly.
- Ladle soup into oven proof bowls, (place on baking sheet)
- Mix the cheeses and parsley with the croutons and top each soup bowl. Broil for 6 minutes or so until just melted and golden!
- Note I say this serves 6-8, it all depends on the size of your bowl.
- Another addition I have made when Chanterelles are in season, slice and sauté Chanterelles and toss them with the crouton topping! Yum!!