I adore caramelized onions. I can’t stand raw onions (that offensive flavor lingers in your mouth all day!!), but onions that are cooked to death until they literally melt in your mouth are perfection. The best part of French onion soup is the sweet and savory caramelized onions stewing in a fragrant broth, but it’s too bad that this soup classically is made with beef broth. As you’re aware, I would personally rather not slurp up liquefied cow essence (but as a friend of countless meat eaters, I hold no judgement towards those who do!). My favorite broth is mushroom broth, and I figured that the mushroom flavor would bring out a lot of earthiness. I also added some extra depth to the dish with garlic, thyme, and white wine. I swear that any meat eaters will not miss the beef! As a side note, the soup itself is vegan and gluten free – this obviously changes if you add cheese and bread.
- 3 large onions, sliced thinly
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1 tsp salt
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 2 tsp dried thyme (or 3-4 fresh)
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 quart mushroom broth
- 3 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
- salt and fresh ground black pepper
- gruyere or swiss cheese (optional)
- crusty sliced bread (optional)
Heat the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Once melted and bubbly, add the sliced onion. Add a teaspoon of salt and stir well to coat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid cooks off and onions just start to brown (about 30 minutes). Reduce heat to medium-low (or a bit higher) and continue to cook for about an hour, until onions are very soft and evenly brown. The onions cook down a great deal – see before and after pictures below. Add garlic and cook for a few minutes until softened.
Add wine to deglaze, along with thyme and bay leaves, and cook until wine is very nearly cooked off (this is called au sec, meaning ‘almost dry’). When wine is cooked down, add the mushroom broth and tamari/soy sauce. Bring to a simmer and then leave simmering at least 15 minutes, covered. You can simmer for longer if desired, and the flavors will meld more with time. Season to taste with a bit more salt, if needed, and black pepper. Pour into oven-safe bowls or ramekins and top with some dry or toasted bread and thin slices of swiss or gruyere cheese, and put in the oven at 450 degrees for 5-10 minutes until cheese is bubbly.