Friday, June 6, 2014

Elegant French Onion Soup

French Onion Top Shot TheIndyVegan

There's something about Europeans and their cheese - even their vegan cheese is better than ours. My family and I went to Europe this summer, and every amazing vegan restaurant we found didn't seem to use any brands of vegan cheese we know and love in the states. They use something better. Something different. I couldn't tell you what, but the best mozzarella I've ever had, vegan or otherwise, resides in Florence, Italy at a little place called La Dolce Vegan. In Paris, there's this beautiful restaurant called Le Potager du Marais. Don't ask me where it's located or how to get there - I could barely speak to anyone, let alone figure out my way around. But Andrew and I happened upon  it one day and it had a beautifully made french onion soup with this mysterious cheese again. If I ever find it, I'll let you know. It could be some mythical recipe passed down from vegan french chefs of yesteryear, or it could be something produced in the area. Again, if I knew French, I might have been able to find out. But instead, I got to be the silly American pointing, butchering words, and smiling in defeat. 

french onion from paris
French Onion Soup from Le Potager du Marais in Paris, France
The one thing I will say is Le Potager du Marais inspired me. With every elegant dish I did not think I could eat as a vegan, I learned that these recipes that were seemingly impossible to replicate were not so. I had never had french onion soup before we went Paris, and I don't think I could speak to it's authenticity. But I do know it was delicious. And in the hopes of paying homage to this quaint, parisian, vegan restaurant, I made my own. The vegenaise mixed with the daiya may sound odd, but it's the only way I knew how to get the velvety cheese sensation that comes with french onion soup. It will help the daiya spread and provide a wonderful creamy texture. As to be expected, your ingredients are everything. If you don't like the wine you use or the flavor of the broth you have, the soup will not be good. So take care in choosing your ingredients, and give this one a try.

Elegant French Onion Soup
Serves 2-4 people, pending appetite assessment

1/4 cup olive oil
3 yellow onions peeled and thinly sliced
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
1/4 cup red wine (you can also use a dry white)
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp minced garlic (about 1-2 cloves)
5 cups vegetable broth (if you're feeling ambitious, this bouillon recipe is to die for)
Salt & pepper to taste

6 slices of toasted french bread (I used a mini loaf of pugliese bread, because it is also dense and absorbent, and it was on sale at Kroger)

4-6 tbsp vegenaise
1/4-1/2 cup Daiya cheese (I used a mozzarella / cheddar blend)

* I use a mandolin slicer to get a really thin slice on my onions. But you can also do it by hand. Either way, slice those in half moon slivers.
* Heat your pan on medium / low. Sprinkle a little salt in the pan, add your olive oil, and place your onions and thyme sprigs in the pan when the oil is hot. If they're sizzling too much, lower the heat. They start out white and hard, and in the end should by very soft and a deep, dark, golden brown. This takes about 25 minutes. Be sure to keep them moving with a spatula or wooden spoon.
* When your onions are cooked, add your red wine. Allow it to nearly evaporate (about 5-10 minutes). 
* Add your flour and mix around, cooking for another 2-5 minutes to get rid of the flour flavor.
* Add your broth and garlic, and cook for about 10 minutes. Remove your thyme sprigs.

* Mix you vegenaise and cheese in a bowl, with a little salt and pepper to taste. Place a spoonful (this depends on the size of bread you're using) on each piece, spreading it out, and put in on a baking sheet and place in a broiler until bubbly and melted.
* Laddle your soup and top with your cheesy toast. Serve immediately.

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