French onion soup - something that sounds so appealing on a menu, but no, how could you possibly eat that plus an entree if you've had all that cheesy goodness to start? Way better to make it at home. And I have the perfect recipe for you - from the Food 52 Cookbook Then have a salad after and you can still feel virtuous.
What's even better is that this French onion soup is dead easy to make with a store bought stock, but it becomes totally transformed into the best restaurant quality when you make your own. Don't be scared off - if you can turn on your oven and roast some veg, you've got it in the bag. And the stock is totally vegan, if you care, or even if you just want to eat more vegetables.
When I was in my twenties, I served French onion soup to two vegetarians, not realizing that the beef stock I used was not ok! They loved the soup, and then confessed that they were sick later. Oops! I wouldn't make that mistake today...Here's how to make a great all veggie stock according to Mark Bittman's cookbook VB6:
Fast and Flavorful Vegetable Stock , Slower Variation
adapted from Mark Bittman's The VB6 Cookbook
2 medium or 1 large onion, quartered
4 carrots, cut into large pieces
2 celery stalks, cut into large pieces
1 pound button mushrooms, washed but left whole
4 - 8 whole garlic cloves, unpeeled but crushed
1 bunch fresh parley, including stems
4 sprigs fresh thyme, or 1 tsp. dried thyme
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
4 bay leaves
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Roast the veggies - onion, carrots, celery, mushrooms and garlic on a half sheet pan or roasting pan lined with foil (no clean up!), for 30 - 45 minutes or until lightly browned.
Put the roasted veggies and everything except for the final salt and pepper in a stockpot with 3 quarts of water. Boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes to an hour. (The longer it simmers, the deeper the flavor.)
Remove from heat and strain out the vegetables. Salt and pepper to taste.
Keeps for a week in the fridge and 3 months in the freezer. (Use for everything and anything calling for stock!)
Now on to the French Onion soup of your culinary dreams:
French Onion Soup
adapted from the Food 52 Cookbook by Amanda Hesser and Marrill Stubbs
3 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons olive oil
4 - 6 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
3 lbs. onions, sliced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
6 cups vegetable stock, preferably homemade (or beef stock)
2 cups red wine, or beer
To serve: 2 slices crusty bread for each person
Cheese - can be sliced deli provolone, or better: 1/2 cup each gouda, gruyere, and parmesan mixed together OR see vegan variation below.
In a large stockpot, melt the butter and olive oil. Add the garlic and cook slowly for 5 - 10 minutes until caramelized. Add the onions, large pinch of salt, a few grindings of pepper, the thyme and bay leaf and stir.
Cook over medium/low heat until the onions are very soft, about 20 minutes.
Pour in the stock and wine or beer, bring to a boil, and simmer, uncovered for 1 - 3 hours. Taste and add more stock and/or salt and pepper as needed along the way.
To serve, put one slice of bread in the bottom of a deep bowl. Add a ladleful of soup. Then take one additional slice of bread for each person, and top with cheese. Toast that bread in a toaster oven until melted. Place the cheesy bread on top of the soup.
Be transported to a happy place.
(For a vegan variation with no apologies, sprinkle the second piece of bread with panko, salt, LOTS of freshly ground black pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil. Toast as above, and drop into the soup.)
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Homemade stock convert
South Brunswick Public Library