Snow day blog, people!…and it must be about soup -in this case a twist on a classic. I give you vegan french onion soup. Winter storm Grayson blows outside mightily (Grayson? really? what about Gregor or Gary even?…Grayson sounds like a Victorian butler in the library delicately placing a lump of sugar via silver tongs in my darjeeling, not a bully wreaking havoc in the northeast 😉 …) Anyway, I’m cozy inside, chilling with my laptop and getting to it. And, my few and faithful beloved readers, I think you’re really gonna dig this veganized version of THE French Chef’s Classic French Onion Soup.
A brief history of the… Soupe à l’Oignon Gratinée
I blame many of my procrastinations with blog completion on the Google machine. I am reminded of my dad when I was young…so often one of his eight progeny would direct a query only to be told to “look it up in the Funk and Wagnall’s” (my older readers will get this reference, pun intended…). I have a similar habit of looking up stuff constantly on the modern day encyclopedia of Google, then getting lost for a bit on an information deep dive. I shall spare you the unnecessary tangents and get to the heart. French onion soup or, soupe à l’Oignon Gratinée, has graced the planet for thousands of years (well, maybe hundreds.) Several sources credit ancient Rome with the concept of onion soup- apparently a soup for the poor due to the plethora of onions. The crouton in soup dates to medieval times as soups were served in crusts of old bread, “sops” which, at some later date, became the crouton in soup. French onion soup has been traced to the reign of Louis XV (mid-later 1700’s) where the court at Versailles court became enamored with it. “Aside from enjoying its hearty taste, they realized that it was also rather effective at covering the smell of a heavy night of drinking. It quickly gained the nickname ‘the soup of the drunkards,’ and to this day, it is the preferred hangover cure in many French households.” Ha! Who knew? It’s modern day popularity, however, has to be credited to the Queen, Julia Child.
Keys to the Perfect Vegan French Onion Soup
Taking a page from Julia, “the onions for an onion soup need a long, slow cooking in butter and oil, then a long, slow simmering in stock for them to develop the deep, rich flavor which characterizes a perfect brew. You should therefore count on 2 1/2 hours at least from start to finish.”
so…the key requirements are
- butter (I used Earth Balance, but of course)
- oil (I know, I know more oil! but it’s a relatively small amount and I used olive oil 🙂 ) Feel free to click here on an earlier post for info about the benefits being of oil-free, but sometimes ya gotta carpe diem!
- the “crouton”- thick slice of baguette
- the “gratin”- browned cheese over the crouton (I used Miyokos mozz– sooo good!)
- time (and your home will smell wonderful, at least for a while…)
- (hangover totally optional)
Trust the process
The first step is crying profusely (what with the onion slicing) then sauteing these babies in vegan butter and olive oil. >Hint: to minimize the tears, you can munch on a cracker, bread, or a pretzel whilst slicing. Also, I find that if I am wearing contacts my eyes don’t water, but I tend to cook without them so I can see close up.
Once coated in oil, simmer covered on low heat for 20 minutes. The onions will become almost see-through light yellow.
The next step is caramelizing (basically browning that occurs with heat that breaks down the sugars in the onions, imparting a sweeter flavor and brown color). The lid is removed and heat is raised while a bit of sugar and salt are added. This takes a few watchful minutes:
Flour is added to the golden onions and browned, forming a roux-like paste. After a few minutes, a cup of warm stock is contributed to the pot and the cooked-on bits are easily scraped up and incorporated. The consistency now is very thick and ready for the remaining stock, wine and seasonings.
Once again the soup is left to simmer for a good half hour. During this time, I sliced and toasted my baguette (about 1 1/2″ thick pieces) in a toaster oven. To cut back a bit on oil, I omitted buttering the bread. Once toasted, slather on the cheese. You can use pre-packaged grated vegan cheese, but I’m telling you it is worth it to splurge on Miyoko’s mozzarella (found mine at Whole Foods and Wegman’s and you can order online). Another alternative is Follow Your Heart cheeses. These are pretty much everywhere and are available at my local Shop Rite. Either way, be sure to completed cover the bread slice to avoid over-browning.
Julia adds grated raw onion to the soup once it is simmered and it is just the perfect addition; it really brings out a more complex flavor. Once the soup tastes to your liking ( I did add a bit of pepper and salt) it is ready to be ladled into crocks leaving enough room for the baguette slice (crouton).
Add the cheese covered “crouton”to each crock , and bake at 325 F. for half an hour. For the final few minutes, turn on the broiler and the cheese will brown beautifully.
Add a side salad (or NOT) and dinner is served!
“People who love to eat are always the best people.”
― Julia Child