Southern California is finally experiencing colder weather, which means the state is going into complete winter mode. People are either wearing sweater layers in 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15.5 Celsius) weather or putting puffy coats on their dogs. When I first start experiencing cooler weather, I get into a baking, soup, and tamale mode!
Well, I am currently in a soup mood. One of my favorites is the classic French onion soup, which always leaves me feeling satisfied and warm. Over the years, I have tried at least a dozen recipes where I have made vegetarian alterations. I have finally perfected my preferred style of French onion soup—animal-friendly, not too sweet, or undercooked. The soup also has the softest, most favorable sweet onions and a peppery-garlic-bay leaf-onion broth that is super savory. Since I have altered so many recipes to perfect this one, it’s not surprising that this soup can easily be changed to the audience’s preferred tastes by adding different ingredients and spices to the broth base.
I decided to make French onion soup last week but did not write down the exact measurements. After a week, my husband and I decided it was time for a new batch. Luckily I remembered to write down the directions. I really want to start writing down exact recipes to share with my future children and their children. Growing up, my mother and father would have hand written recipes on crumpled sheets of aging paper. My parents would cook these generational recipes so many times that they can now cook them up with their eyes closed. I find it humbling that I am now asking my parents to write me down these exact recipes. Sharing generational recipes connects us to those who came before and is a good example of why I decided to study public, local, and community history. It is through the telling and doing of everyday life—our hopes and fears, everyday encounters, and daily ritual habits—that we create and experience history. And personally, sharing and cooking up family recipes fills me with joy.
Anyways, I suppose this is why I am big on up keeping traditions… and starting new ones. So, hopefully, my new family tradition is French onion soup. The preparation is fairly easy and requires about 1.5 hours of time. If you’re in a rush, you can eat this soup as is. From my experience, it is better to let the soup simmer in a crock pot for at least 3-5 hours. That way, the onions become extremely soft and tender. The soup will also take on stronger onion flavors for a sweet and savory taste! Definitely worth the wait. Plus, it can be very calming to hear the rain, drink a cup of tea while wrapped up in a blanket and smell the scent of a simmering onion soup.
Here are the recipes for my vegetarian stock and French onion soup. I hope you enjoy!
Vegetarian Stock Ingredients:
- 2 medium-sized chopped carrots
- 4 sweet peppers
- 1 medium-sized sweet onion
- 1 medium-sized chopped potato
- 5 baby portabella mushrooms
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon minced onion
- 1 teaspoon chili flakes (optional)
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 4 thinly sliced garlic cloves
- 2 dry bay leafs
- 8 cups waters
Bring 8 cups of water to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan. Add all vegetable ingredients and simmer on a medium heat for 10 minutes. Add spices, soy sauce, and garlic cloves. Let simmer on low for 20 more minutes. Stir occasionally. Add additional salt and pepper to fit your taste preferences. Once you are satisfied with the taste of the broth, use a colander to separate the broth from the vegetables.
French Onion Soup Ingredients:
- 8 cups vegetable stock (see above for recipe)
- 6 medium-sized sweet onions cut into thin rings
- 4 thinly sliced garlic cloves
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 1 tablespoon cooking olive oil
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar (optional)
- 1/4 cup red wine (optional)
- 1/2 cup shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano (Optional and can be left out for vegans)
Add the coconut oil and cooking olive oil to a pan. Heat the pan on a medium-high heat until the oil starts bubbling. Start adding the onion ring slices while stirring to ensure that all of the onions get a light oil coating. Make sure all of the onions are evenly distributed within the pan and bring the pan to a medium-low heat for about 10 minutes. Pour in the sugar and stir to help the onions caramelize faster. Once the onions start browning, you can add the red wine and garlic cloves. Cover the pan and stir occasionally. This entire process should take anywhere between 30-45 minutes depending on how soft you prefer your onions. The longer you cook the onions, the more flavorful the results will be.
Once the onions have finished cooking, you have two options: you can either add the onions to the vegetable stock and simmer on the stove for 30 minutes. Serve and top with shredded Parmesan cheese and your choice of bread.
The second option involves a longer cooking time but is my preferred method. Add all cooked ingredients into a crock pot and simmer on low heat for at least 3-5 hours. Then top with the shredded Parmesan cheese and bread choices.