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Vegetarian french onion soup with red wine croutons

Posted By Karen @ Leaf + Grain On January 14, 2013 @ 10:24 am In Kitchen | Comments Disabled

Vegetarian french onion soup with red wine croutons

technique adapted from Cooks Illustrated

A long, slow simmer in the oven ensures the onions are caramelized – not burned – which can easily happen on the stove-top.


  • for the soup:
  • 2 tablespoons neutral, medium-heat oil (like grapeseed oil)
  • 7-8 medium yellow onions (about 5-6 pounds), thinly sliced into half or quarter moons
  • 1/3 cup dry sherry
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup mushroom broth*
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • for the croutons:
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
  • 1 small Italian or French loaf (day-old is fine), sliced into 1″ cubes
  • 1/4 cup good red wine
  • Gruyere cheese shavings (about 3 ounces)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Prepare the soup: Preheat oven to 375 deg F. Position rack in the center of the oven (you might have to remove the second rack to accommodate a pot with a lid). Meanwhile, heat oil in a 4 to 5 quart dutch oven (on the stove) on medium heat until shimmering. Add the onions along with a big pinch of salt, and stir well to coat with the oil. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes, until the onions are soft and translucent. (You can also do this part in the oven – it will take 30 to 45 minutes for the onions to reach the soft stage.)
  2. When the oven finishes preheating, give the onions one final stir and spread them evenly on the pan bottom. Set the lid askew on the pot, and place in the oven. The onions will need to cook for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Check after 45 minutes, giving everything a good stir, resetting the lid again askew. Begin checking the onions about every 10 minutes at the 1:20 hour mark – you don’t want the onions to burn, but if they’re deeply golden brown with some burnt bits stuck to the bottom, they’re ready.
  3. Remove the pot from the oven, and immediately place on stove on medium heat. Add 1/4 cup water and begin deglazing the the pan, loosening any baked on bits. Cover and simmer for 10 more minutes.
  4. Pour in the sherry and thoroughly deglaze the pan. Simmer until most of the sherry is evaporated (about 5 minutes). Add the vegetable and mushroom broths, plus the thyme and bay leaf. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for about a half hour.
  5. Prepare the croutons: Heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium until shimmering. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant. Mix in the bread cubes, stirring to soak up the oil. Saute until the cubes are toasted on all sides. Drizzle the wine evenly over the croutons and heat for a few additional minutes to dry out the cubes just a bit.
  6. Preheat the broiler.
  7. Ladle the soup into broiler-safe bowls. Layer croutons on top. Drape gruyere shavings over the croutons. Set bowls on a rimmed baking sheet and place under broiler. Remove when cheese begins to bubble and turn brown. Serve immediately.
  8. * To make a quick homemade mushroom broth, purchase a 1/2 ounce bag of dried porcini or cremini mushrooms. Empty the bag in to 1 cup of very, very hot water and soak for about 20 minutes. Remove the mushrooms (use for a different purpose), and strain the mushroom broth through cheesecloth or a coffee filter to catch dirt residue.
Prep Time: 20 minutes       Cook time: about 3 hours       Yield: 4 servings

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