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  • Recipe Redux: Vegetarian “Beef” Broth & French Onion Soup

    Sunday, September 21, 2014

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    My house smells like I cooked a big ole roast!

    And yet….

    Paul and I gave up eating beef years ago (for various reasons, but mainly for better health. OK, there may have been a moment when our eyes met those of a sweet Jersey cow at a town fair…).

    This month’s Recipe Redux challenge (technically the team over at RR calls them “themes”, but I find a good challenge in them most months) involved dehydrated foods. While I have more gadgets hanging around my kitchen than I care to admit, I’ve never really been inspired by the idea of dehydrating food. No matter how many late night Ronco infomercials I’ve happened upon, I just never got it. Sort of like how I don’t get canning. Part of this is probably attributable to my lack of patience…it’s the same reason I don’t make cookies very often; after one batch I’m kinda bored and thinking about all of the things I’d rather be doing. Plus, I have (what admittedly may be) a somewhat irrational fear of homemade food that has been canned, preserved or otherwise saved-for-too-long by amateurs who have a hard time following Ikea furniture assembly instructions, much less the more scientific requirements of successfully preserving food. So, there’s that.

    But, almost immediately , I knew what I was going to make with a key dehydrated ingredient. Really, it’s kind of going to blow your mind. Maybe?

    Dried assorted mushrooms_edited

    Needless to say, I left the dehydrating part up to the professionals and headed out to pick up dried mushrooms.  I chose to go with a variety including shiitake, porcini, woodear, oyster, and candy cane (you should be able to find variety packs at your local natural food store or co-op). You could use fresh mushrooms for this recipe, but you’d need to use a lot and, chances are, the flavor of the end product won’t be as rich and ‘meaty’ as using dried. If you can’t find dried mushrooms locally, there are lots of resources online.

    Have I mentioned….

    Mushrooms are kind of magical.

    (Not in the way that your crazy, kind of “off” uncle found them magical “back in the day”, but in a way that somehow–inexplicably–they become….beefy if prepared the right way).

    Vegetarian French Onion Soup_Kindred-Kitchen_edited

    OK, I know it’s been a long time since I’ve actually tasted beef, and that my judgement could reasonably be questioned since I actually like tofu. But, judging by this….and this….and this…I’m not the only one who believes in the magic of mushrooms as a meat substitute.

    And seriously, my house still smells like a real-deal burger joint….and all I made was mushroom broth and soup.

    ….amazing, savory, rich, fool-your-meat-eating-foodie-friends mushroom broth.

    Vegetarian French Onion Soup_bowl_Kindred-Kitchen_cheese_3_edited

    My discovery of the wonders of mushroom broth was born out of a stunning realization that French onion soup is not vegetarian. I know, right?! How was a newly-minted non-beef eater who had never laid eyes on a recipe for this classic supposed to know that a soup that is built around one vegetable would use a beef broth?! After the initial shock and sadness that one of our favorites soups may never cross our lips again wore off, I declared to Paul that I would find a way to make it at home, and that we would never miss the cow.

    As I started to experiment with recipes, I wondered if it might have been the cow component that made the soup so yummy. Over the course of many tries (and failures) at making a vegetarian-based broth, it was over a grilled portobello mushroom ‘burger’ that it occurred to me that mushrooms may be the answer. After doing a little research, turns out the there’s a natural compound in mushrooms that create that umami sensation that is often illusive in vegetarian cooking, and it’s particularly pronounced in dried varieties.

    If I was was the kind of girl to shout “eureka!”….

    This broth is the final result of my quest for a carnivore-fooling French onion soup. It comes together pretty easily and can be used in any recipe that calls for beef broth. Freeze it to have it on hand in a pinch (I love the trick of using ice-cube trays and, once frozen, piling the broth cubes into a big freezer bag–ready to drop into recipes to add flavor and depth). I preserve the re-hydrated mushrooms and saute them to serve along side eggs, on veggie burgers or in vegetarian meatloaf. Oh, I should mention one important thing–since you’re making a mushroom concentrate (of sorts), the broth will taste, let’s call it, a little funky during the first stage of the process. Don’t worry, once you add the additional water, it all comes together.

    Vegetarian French Onion Soup_bowl_Kindred-Kitchen_cheese_5_edited

    As the broth simmers away, you can get started on the onions for the soup. Pop a baguette in the oven, grate the gruyere and you’re good to go. No meat and you’ll never miss it.

    Vegetarian French Onion Soup_bowl_Kindred-Kitchen_cheese_9_edited

    Recipe Redux: Vegetarian “Beef” Broth & French Onion Soup

    servings: about 7-8 cups of soup | time: about 1.5 hours

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    For the Mushroom Broth

    8 cups water, divided (see directions)

    2 tsp. seasalt

    3 cups assorted dehydrated (dried) mushrooms

    1 large carrot

    1 large rib of celery

    1 large bay leaf

    2 tsp. dried thyme

    2 tsp. whole peppercorns

    1 large clove garlic, peeled and partially crushed



    For the French Onion Soup

    3 large sweet onions, peeled, cut in half and sliced into thin half-moons

    2 TBSP. unsalted butter (or omit and increase olive oil to 6 TBSP.)

    4 TBSP. olive oil

    1 tsp. kosher salt

    3 TBSP. white rice flour (you can use white flour if gluten is not an issue for you)

    1 cup red wine

    Mushroom broth

    French baguette (I sued gluten free)

    Gruyere cheese


    Make the Mushroom Broth

    1. Place 6 cups of water in a large, covered saucepan

    2. Add the salt and bring to a boil

    3. Reduce heat to medium and add the mushrooms, carrot, celery, bay leaf, thyme, peppercorns, and garlic

    4. Cover and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low to keep the broth at a very low simmer

    5. Simmer, covered, for 40 minutes

    6. Place a fine strainer or sieve over a large bowl. Pour the broth into the bowl, setting the solids aside

    7. Add the remaining 2 cups of water. Your mushroom broth is done!


    Make the French Onion Soup

    1. Warm a large covered Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the butter and olive oil (or just olive oil if omitting butter) and heat for 1 minute

    2. Add the sliced onions and salt. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes

    3. Remove the cover from the pan, add the white rice flour and cook over medium low heat for 10 minutes

    4. Increase the heat to medium and add the red wine. Cook for 5 minutes

    5. Add the mushroom broth and simmer for 7 or 8 minutes, just until it thickens slightly


    To serve

    1. Ladle about 2 cups of the soup into oven-proof bowls

    2. Top soup with a thick slice or two of French baguette. Top each with 3-4 TBSP. grated gruyere

    3. Place soups under a broiler for 2-3 minutes until cheese melts (skip this step if you don’t have oven-proof bowls)

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    6 responses to “Recipe Redux: Vegetarian “Beef” Broth & French Onion Soup”

    1. OK – did you plan this- adding your link right after Lindsey’s
      “how to dehydrate mushrooms” post? Perfect recipe combos 🙂 I adore French Onion Soup and mushrooms and I don’t eat much meat so this recipe is right up my alley 🙂

      • @Deanna–how serendipitous that my post happened to be next to Lindsey’s :)…kind of cool, right? What a fun theme this month (and it gave me an excuse to finally post “beef” broth recipe….not sure what I was waiting for…).

    2. I will absolutely be making this soup as the weather gets colder. I LOVE french onion soup but as a vegetarian I usually have to pass. This mushroom broth sounds fantastic. Pinning to save for later!

    3. Your recipe looks and sounds scrumptious.

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