We have food sensitivities that limit the use of some products, which is why you see suggestions for non dairy cheese, etc. I figure that onion soup is kind of like spaghetti sauce, meatloaf and other classic recipes--every family has their own version. This is mine, and it can certainly be altered. Traditionalists will probably want to use beef broth, leave out the molasses, and use butter with the oil to caramelize the onions. Sherry can be substituted for the beer and tawny port, and would be more 'authentic.' My recipe may look like it contains a lot of alcohol, but it cooks off and the flavors remain. If you use veggie stock, I would probably leave out the beer. It's also helpful to use a food processor to slice up the onions.
**Chilling the onions first (overnight if possible) reduces the tear inducing sulfuric fumes slicing onions emits.
***I often let this soup mellow overnight in the fridge. The flavors improve, although it IS pretty tasty right away.
For a pot that serves 4-6 people, you will need:
large dutch oven or stock pot and a broiler pan, or jelly roll pan
6 -8 large sweet or yellow onions
1/2 cup stout beer
4 Tbsp avocado or olive oil
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/2 tsp black pepper (or to taste)
2 Tbsp molasses
10 cups water
rosemary - fresh if you can get it or about a Tbsp dry
2 bay leaves
5 whole cloves of garlic - peeled but don't crush
1/4 cup tawny port
your favorite crusty bread - gluten free or not - toasted and cut into croutons
1 cup grated melty cheese such as Gruyere if you eat dairy - Daiya dairy free Swiss, mozzarella or cheddar if you don't
2) Add the onions. They should come close to filling the pot halfway. Trust me, they will cook down drastically.
3) Slowly caramelize the onions. This is different than sauteing for stir-fry. The goal is to slowly (I'm saying this twice on purpose) develop the natural sugars in the onions until they are browned, semi-translucent and sweet. Allow about 30 min. Add the whole garlic and saute for about 10 min more. Adding the cloves whole keeps the garlic from cooking too quickly, allowing the sweetness and rich flavor of the garlic to permeate the soup without becoming overpowering.
Look at how much those onions and garlic cloves have cooked down!! And those brown bits on the bottom of the pan? That's a good thing. It's not scorched food, but sugars from the onions and garlic.
4) Add the herbs, salt, beer, pepper, port and molasses. Stir well. Wait until the foam from the beer has dissipated.
5) Add your water or stock. Bring the soup to a simmer. Don't worry about covering the pot. You actually WANT the stock to reduce a bit. Maybe by about 1/3. The reduction helps concentrate the flavor, which helps mimic the richness it would have if you used beef stock and butter. Taste it once in a while to check the flavors until they please you. Allow about an hour, maybe 2. This is some great KNITTING TIME!!!!!
6) Turn your broiler on and put individual servings of HOT soup into oven proof bowls - this is critical. If the bowls aren't high heat proof, they can explode in the oven. Put the bowls of soup onto the jelly roll or broiler pan.
7) Toast some of your favorite bread until it is slightly dark. I used a multigrain/ whole grain bread. Chop the toast into large crouton size bits.
8) Place croutons on top of the individual portions of the soup and cover with the grated cheese (or non-cheese), then pop them in the oven to broil. It will take about 3 - 5 min depending on your broiler.
Once you remove them from the oven, let them sit for a couple of minute because they will be crazy hot and we don't want any burned fingers or mouths. Use this time to dish up a lovely salad, pour a glass of wine, and call your loved ones to join you if they aren't hovering around the kitchen in anticipation already.
The soup freezes well, lends itself well to large batch preparation, is cheap to make and . . . well, yum.
Enjoy! - Kimberly
If you are looking for a nice, French inspired knitting project to go with your soup's simmering time, might I suggest one of these lovely projects? (they're all hyperlinked to Ravelry).
Dinner it the Eiffel Tower Shawl by Jessie Dodington
The Eiffel Cowl by Jennifer Lang
The Eiffel Tower Square by Marilyn Wallace