Better Vegan French Onion Soup
Source: Cook's Illustrated, Better Vegan Category: Vegan Soups and Stews
Prep Time: 15 min Cook time: 4 hrs 15 min Total Time: 4 hrs 30 min Serves 6
About this recipe
There are many variations of this classic French soup, but this version is the best. It is redolent of sweet caramelized onion flavor and is deeply satisfying. Combining two types of vegetable broths and water added to maximum flavor. We toasted the bread before floating it on the soup to prevent extra sogginess and added a modest amount of vegan cheese so the broth wasn't overpowered. It takes some time to make this soup, but be patient, the result is well worth it.
3 Tbsp. avocado oil, plus extra for greasing the pot (I use La Tourangelle Avocado Oil )
6 large yellow onions (about 4 pounds), halved and cut pole to pole into 1/4-inch-thick slices
Pink Himalayan salt (I use Sherpa Pink Gourmet Himalayan Salt, 5 lbs Fine Grain)
2 cups water, plus extra for de-glazing
½ cup dry sherry wine
4 cups vegetable broth
2 cups Vegan "Beef" Broth
6 sprigs fresh thyme, tied with kitchen twine
1 bay leaf
Ground black pepper
6-12 1/2-inch slices gluten-free bread (see notes)
8 ounces shredded meltable vegan cheese (about 2 1/2 cups) (see notes)
1. Prepare the ingredients.
2. For the soup: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Generously grease inside of heavy-bottomed large (at least 7-quart) Dutch oven with avocado oil. Place 3 Tbsp. oil in pot and add onions and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, covered, 1 hour (onions will be moist and slightly reduced in volume). Remove pot from oven and stir onions, scraping bottom and sides of pot. Return pot to oven with lid slightly ajar and continue to cook until onions are very soft and golden brown, 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours longer, stirring onions and scraping bottom and sides of pot after 1 hour.
3. Carefully remove pot from oven and place over medium-high heat. Using oven mitts to handle pot, cook onions, stirring frequently and scraping bottom and sides of pot, until liquid evaporates and onions brown, 15 to 20 minutes, reducing heat to medium if onions are browning too quickly. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until pot bottom is coated with dark crust, 6 to 8 minutes, adjusting heat as necessary. (Scrape any fond that collects on spoon back into onions.) Stir in 1/4 cup water, scraping pot bottom to loosen crust, and cook until water evaporates and pot bottom has formed another dark crust, 6 to 8 minutes. Repeat process of de-glazing 2 or 3 more times, until onions are very dark brown. Stir in sherry and cook, stirring frequently, until sherry evaporates, about 5 minutes.
4. Stir in broths, 2 cups water, thyme, bay leaf, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, scraping up any final bits of browned crust on bottom and sides of pot. Increase heat to high and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 30 minutes. Remove and discard herbs, then season with salt and pepper.
5. For the croutons: While soup simmers, arrange baguette slices in single layer on baking sheet and bake in 400-degree oven until bread is dry, crisp, and golden at edges, about 10 minutes. Set aside.
6. To serve: Adjust oven rack 6 inches from broiler element and heat broiler. Set individual broiler-safe crocks on baking sheet and fill each with about 1 3/4 cups soup. Top each bowl with 1 or 2 toasted bread slices (do not overlap slices) and sprinkle evenly with cheese. Broil until cheese is melted and bubbly around edges, 3 to 5 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.