I don’t have a strong sense of which foods are going to kill me or not so I let my body crave what it wants in new found moderation. If fresh vegetables are available and the recipe looks like it will taste good, I’ll cook vegetarian. If it’s after a hurricane and I’m eating foods only fit for a revolution, I will make the best of it and make them taste as good as I can. I provide two recipes here for vegetarian and traditional French Onion soup with a little help from a very young mentor.
The concept of mentor is a funny one as I see far to often my former student employees becoming my mentors in their new specialized field of expertise. Tracey was a student in culinary arts until money became an issue and since then she has worked in some of the finer restaurants in America from Cape Cod to Florida.
She is visiting Paradise for a short visit and I was talking to her about my relearning to eat properly, cooking meals for one and using coffeepot cooking for portion control which she sort of raised her eyebrows over. I was telling her about cooking French Onion soup in my coffee pot and she asked if I thought I could do it vegetarian. I said no because the color would be all wrong and the biggest part of French Onion soup was visual because it is rather easy to do very well.
Well being young and brash, Tracey bragged that she could convert any food recipe to vegetarian and because of her culinary arts background and using better ingredients, hers would be as good or better than the original.
So lets look at a comparison of the methods.
Step one was to add the onions to the butter and salute them in the coffeepot. She preferred the white onion I had used a yellow one. She didn’t believe that the coffee pot would do as good a job as a human and a skillet.
In fact the coffeepot was superior because after putting the ½ onion sliced in quarter inch slices and separated into rings in 2 tablespoons of butter and 1 level teaspoon brown sugar, we went out to lunch and didn’t bother checking the pot again for two hours. When we got back, they were perfect, no charred edges, no dried out onions and all were perfectly glazed. From my experience, the time is quite flexible to saute the onions because the temperature is perfect. Anywhere between between ½ hour and a few hours is fine
For broth, I used beef and Tracey wanted vegetable but I refused saying the color was all wrong. She said use Chef’s Magic. I said no because it was Chemicals. Tracy correctly asserted that it was just caramelized sugar and caramel color with a little soy so I said OK.
Next step was to put the can of broth and coloring into the onion rings and add a ½ cup of good dry sherry to the pot and cook covered for enough time to drive around the island about 4 hours. I had used beef broth. When we got back to the house the soup was done.
The toast was a diagonal cut on the long Italian role toasted in a toaster. Tracey said that the new “in vogue cheese” for French Onion was an aged provolone so slices were placed on the toast and microwaved for 20 seconds.
The toasted cheese was floated on the bowl of soup as shown in the top picture.
Tracey’s soup was excellent. I personally doubt that many would recognize this as a vegetarian substitute for the original recipe. The rich onion flavor and the flavor and aroma of the sherry more than offset any losses from not using the beef broth.
As to the cheese, both were flavorful and good. I had used Baby Swiss .Tracey had suggested the aged provolone. Since the Swiss is about ½ the price, I am more likely to use it in the future. Tracey was happy the soup came out so well.
OK Tracey, you proved your point with at least with one meal. If you like French Onion soup at all, it can be made vegetarian with no loss in enjoyment. I proved my point; it can be well made in a coffeepot.