I am here to tell you to take heart, both you who are kosher, and you who are vegetarian. You will never miss the flavor of beef in this incredibly rich and savory broth. As to the cheese, my brother prefers gruyere, but depending on your preferences, I have made it with havarti, swiss, sharp cheddar, and parmesan, and sometimes a combination of these. All are delicious! Bon appetit!
Vegetarian French Onion Soup
(makes 6-10 servings)
- 1 lb. button, white, portobello, or fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced
- 2 Tablespoons butter
- 1 oz. dried shiitake or porcini mushrooms
- 1 cup of hot water
- 1 Tablespoon of sesame oil
- 1/2 cup of dry wine
- 2 Tablespoons of flour
- 3 Tablespoons of mushroom soy sauce
- 1 Tablespoon of tamarind paste
- 4 cups of water
- 1 Tablespoon of pareve chicken soup powder (Telma or Osem)
- Fresh ground pepper to taste
- 2 tsps. smoked Maldon salt
- 2-4 large sweet onions (about 2-1/2 lbs.), peeled and sliced into short strands
- 1 lb. good quality cheese, shredded (I suggest gruyere, sharp cheddar, havarti, or parmesan)
- 1 loaf crusty French baguette or Italian bread with a diameter that somewhat fits your serving bowls when sliced
In a 6-8 qt. saucepan, sautè fresh mushrooms in butter until very tender and much of their liquid has evaporated, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Add wine and continue to sauté until it has greatly reduced, about another 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, soak dried mushrooms in hot water until soft. Add to fresh mushrooms along with soaking water after liquids have reduced. Continue to cook on medium heat for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Purée mixture as finely as possible with a stick blender.
In another large frying pan on low to medium heat, sauté the onions in the sesame oil until they begin to brown and caramelize. Add flour and continue to cook for 5 to 10 minutes more. Add the four cups of water gradually while continuing to cook on medium heat until mixture comes to a boil.
To onion mixture, add mushroom soy sauce, tamarind paste, pareve soup mix, fresh ground pepper, and smoked salt. Lower heat to simmer. Add puréed mushroom mixture and continue to simmer soup on low heat for about an hour, stirring occasionally.
When ready to serve, toast half-inch thick slices of bread. Place oven-proof bowls on a shallow baking sheet. Ladle in soup. Top with toasted bread slices. Sprinkle generously with shredded cheese. Place tray in oven so that cheese is about 6 inches from the broiler element and broil until cheese is melted and browned around the edges. Serve immediately.