Introduction: French Onion Soup (vegetarian)

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There are few things more wonderful on a chilly day than French Onion Soup. Slightly sweet, rich, salty, and topped with bread and melty cheese? It really doesn’t get much better than that.

This is a new and improved version of the soup I made several years ago - I've gone through countless onions to get to this point, but it's now nearing soupy perfection.

I like to make a really big batch and freeze some - it does take a while to make but is well worth it!


I’m making a huge pot and freezing some, but the quantities below can be scaled back if preferred

Large heavy bottomed pot with a tight-cutting lid (mine is 5 quarts and the onions and leeks just barely fit)
Knife and cutting board
Large wooden spoon
Measuring cups/spoons
Stock pot/second large pot (optional, if you want to make your own stock)
Fine mesh strainer (optional, if making stock)
Crocks/oven-safe bowls (make sure they can withstand high heat)

12 pounds yellow onions (can substitute in some red too if you’d like)
3 pounds leeks
2 oz dried porcini mushrooms (shiitake or other work too)
8 tablespoons (1/2 cup or 1 stick butter)
4 oz sweet vermouth (can leave out/substitute for wine or a bit of vinegar if you prefer)
1/4 cup flour
3 oz vegetarian demi glacé (I get mine online but you can substitute reduced veggie stock if needed)
1 tablespoon dried parsley
Salt and pepper
3 dried bay leaves
4 quarts of vegetable broth (optional, if not making stock from your veggie scraps)
2 tablespoons sugar (optional)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (optional)
1 - 2 cloves of garlic, crushed (optional)
Crusty bread (a baguette works well)
Swiss, fontina, or other similar nutty, melty cheese

Step 1: Getting Ready (lots of Slicing and There Might Be Some Tears)

1. Place dried mushrooms in a large measuring cup or bowl
2. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil and pour over the dried mushrooms and allow to soak while you prepare the onions/leeks
3. Place your large pot on medium high heat and if making stock place your second pot on medium heat
4. Add butter to your pot and allow it to melt
5. To prepare the onions, (get ready for some tears - it’s a lot of onions): rinse the onions to remove any dirt/grit and then cut both off ends, slice through the center, then remove the outer later/skin (if making stock place these removed portions in the second pot)
6. Place cut side down on the cutting board and cut into 1/8 - 1/4 inch slices and add to the melted butter. Repeat with remaining onions
7. To prepare the leeks: wash the leeks and then cut off the root end and cut off the tops where the green and white portion meet (if making stock place the green portion in the second pot)
8. Slice lengthwise through the leek and run under water to rinse away and sand/grit, the slice into 1/8 - 1/4 inch half circles and add these to the butter and onions
9. Place a lid on the pot
10. If making stock, add water to the second pot to cover the onion/leek scraps

Step 2: Simmer Down

1. Allow the onions and leeks to cook covered, approximately 15 minutes, then remove the lid and stir gently
2. Replace the lid and continue cooking, stirring every 15 minutes until they have released all their juices and become soft and translucent
3. Cook uncovered stirring every 10 - 15 minutes until the onions snd leeks are a deep, caramel brown and are thick and jammy. For 12 pounds of onions this takes a long time (3 - 4 hours), but it’s a labor of love and is really worth it in the end

If making stock:
1. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and allow to cook uncovered while you prepare the onions and leeks

Step 3: Souped Up

1. Scoop the mushrooms out of the liquid (don’t discard the liquid!) and chop fine, adding to the onions and leeks, stirring to combine
2. Add the vermouth (or wine/vinegar) to the pot and stir, cooking for about 3 minutes
3. Add the flour and stir well, cooking an additional 3 minutes
4. Slowly add the reserved mushroom liquid, holding back the last 2 tablespoons or so as they may have bits of sand/grit that would ruin your delicious soup
5. If making stock, now is the time to carefully pour it through the fine strainer to remove the onion/leek ends and skins, leaving you with yummy, onion-y broth that can be added to your soup! If not making broth, add 4 quarts of vegetable broth and stir to combine
6. Bring to a simmer, then add demi glacé and bay leaves and stir well
7. Allow to simmer, stirring occasionally (and making sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot and burns) until the soup is thickened and reduced slightly

Step 4: The Final Touches

1. Taste your soup and add salt and pepper to taste, as well as dried parsley
2. If you’d like, you can also add garlic, sugar, and/or balsamic vinegar - I prefer just balsamic
3. Once you’ve perfected the seasoning, turn off the heat under the pot and scoop soup into oven-safe crocks or bowls
4. Top each serving with a slice of toasted bread (1/4 inch thick - you can also rub the bread with a clove of garlic after toasting for a little extra flavor) and a layer of cheese (very thin slices or grated work best for even melting)
4. Slide the bowls under the broiler and cook until the cheese is melty, lightly browned, and gooey
5. Remove from the broiler, allow to cool slightly (it’ll be very hot!), and enjoy!

* Freezing tip *
I like to make extra French Onion Soup (since it takes a while to make) and then freeze it in 1 or 2 cup portions. Then whenever I feel like delicious soup for lunch (or dinner), I just heat it up a portion in a small pot on the stove, top with bread and cheese, and broil to melt/brown the cheese!

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