Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Cheesy Vegetarian French Onion Soup

French onion soup is the perfect cheesy delight
     One of my favorite gooey, cheesy, guilty pleasures is French onion soup. I always think of it as being a restaurant staple, as they broil it. Dishes that come out sizzling seem somehow more difficult. But it’s actually not at all true. If you have a soup pot and a broiler, it is easy to make French onion soup.

     When I order it at restaurants, it is delicious but often too salty. I can only eat a few bites before I’m reaching for my water glass. But mmm are those few bites delicious! In an attempt to remedy this problem, I make a vegetarian version, substituting organic, low sodium mushroom broth for beef broth. Mushrooms lend the same underlying meatiness that beef flavor does, but without all the grease and salt. I also add one to two cups of water to the soup, letting it cook off into the broth.

     This version is as (or I think more) cheesy and satisfying as the original, but much healthier and vegetarian.  It is also remarkably easy to make and packs a nice wallop of impact for guests as it comes out of the broiler sizzling.

     This time I added actual mushrooms as well, but I’m giving you the recipe without them, as I think it tasted better without them. It’s certainly more traditional without mushrooms.

French Onion Soup
Difficulty:Ant Icon 32x32pxAnt Icon 32x32px
Time: 1 hour
Makes: 6 servings


3 large sweet onions, sliced
4 shallots, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup dry sherry
6 cups organic low sodium mushroom broth
1 tablespoon thyme
Pepper to taste (there should be enough salt in the broth, but if not for your tastes, feel free to add it)
1-2 cups water
1 loaf French bread (baguette or other), sliced and toasted
2 cups grated Gruyere, Swiss, provolone or a mixture of all three
Slice the onions along in opposition to their layers, creating long thin slices

    Heat oil in a large soup pot on medium. Add sliced onions and sauté. You may need to adjust the heat higher or lower depending on your stove. You want the onions to soften and caramelize, not burn. When they begin to soften, add the shallots and sherry. Sauté, stirring occasionally for 2-3 minutes, enough time for the sherry to cook down and the onions to fully caramelize. Then add garlic. Cook one more minute, enough time for the garlic to become aromatic, then add mushroom broth, water (optional), thyme and pepper, and turn the heat up to high. When it begins to simmer, reduce heat, but keep the simmer going, stirring as needed for 15 minutes.
Soup coming to a simmer.  I used mushrooms this time, but it changed the consistency and I like it better without them.
    Spoon soup into bowl, filling about halfway. Add two slices of bread and top with more soup just to insure they become fully saturated. Top with generous portion of cheese.

The Gruyere is beginning to bubble up and change color in the broiler.
     Place under the broiler for 3-5 minutes. Keep a close eye on it. You want the cheese to completely dissolve, bubble up and turn brown. When this happens remove from broiler and serve. Use a plate underneath the bowl as it will be really hot to the touch.

     I love this recipe for this spring weather, rainy, but not too cool. French onion soup is cozy, like a watch-the-spring-rain-and-the-greening-of-the-world-from-my-window kind of dish. It’s light and little bit sweet, while being earthy and very satisfying. Perhaps it will warm me from the inside out, giving me strength to venture out into the rain. Maybe tulip shoots are also steeling themselves against the weather, preparing to expose themselves to damp, thawing air. Perhaps I should go find out.


  1. Aromatic, delectable and delicious - Evil Dictator of Taste makes me think I have tasted this luscious French Onion Soup! It certainly makes me want to!!!

  2. This soup looks cheesy and delicious! We're expecting rain here all weekend, so this sounds especially good. I love French onion soup, but I know what you mean about it being too salty. I hate when that happens.