Hi, my name is Jenna, and I’ve been a Food Network junkie for about 15 years now. I can’t say I love 100% of their programming, but I still remember the traumatic experience of learning something from Food Network that I absolutely did NOT want to know. French Onion soup is made with beef stock/broth. This was not good news to me. I had grown up having this delicious soup at non-kosher restaurants. The beef stock isn’t kosher there, and beef stock and cheese is never allowed. I just had to stop eating one of my favorite foods, cold turkey. mmm...bubbly cheese, how I missed thee. This happened when I was 10 or 11, by the way. So I went years without French Onion soup, but I finally started to realize I could achieve its rich flavor with no beef involved (I always choose cheese). All it takes is a few hours to milk (caramelize) the onions for all the flavor they’ve got. This is a simple recipe, but it is not a quick, weeknight recipe. However, your patience will pay off.
2 lbs yellow onions, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
3-4 T olive oil
1 T salt
6 cups water
1 small pkg dried porcini mushrooms
1 cube beef bouillon (parve! yay!)
1 T flour
½ T balsamic
½ T soy sauce
½ t dried thyme
½ t dried rosemary (optional)
1 ½-inch slice good baguette per serving
1 thin slice fresh mozzarella per serving (gruyere preffered)
caramelize onions over low heat in 3 T olive oil. This will take a long time, like 1 to 2 hours. If you are cooking over a low enough flame, you won’t have to stand over the stove the whole time. For the first 45 minutes you only have to stir them about once every 10 minutes. You can let the onions stick to the pan a bit, but stir again before they burn. Sprinkle some salt in every once in a while, starting at about 20 minutes into the cooking time. You can add a little more oil after 45-60 min too.
make broth by putting 6 cups of water up to boil. once it’s boiling, add the dried mushrooms and the bouillon. you may want to crumble and dissolve the bouillon in about ½ cup of the hot water so you don’t get clumps of saltiness in your broth. let it all boil for 2 more minutes then turn off the flame. let the flavors steep for at least 30 minutes, still keeping an eye on the onions and stirring them to prevent burning.
when the onions are caramelized and have reached a rich brown color, sprinkle them with 1 T flour and stir, cook for about a minute. Then add soy sauce and balsamic and a little broth to get all the sticky onions off the bottom of the pan. Add the rest of the broth, carefully avoiding the reconstituted mushrooms and any grit, you may need to leave some broth in the pot just to be careful. Rinse the mushrooms, and slice about half of them and add them to the soup. Add the rosemary and thyme. Simmer the soup for 20-30 minutes.
meanwhile, make the garnish. All you need is toasty bread and cheese. You can use storebought croutons and shredded cheese, or you can make your own toast and broil cheese on top. I did something in between, a little closer to the fancier version. I think the best way is to make the toast and broil the cheese on, but I don’t have oven safe serving dishes, so I toasted the cheese directly on the toast and “floated” them in the soup. I also added a little shredded monterey jack cheese to the soup under the crouton.