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Onion soup without beef stock?

Does anyone have a recipe for onion soup without beef in it? My mother has stopped eating beef and what she misses most of all is onion soup. Anyone? Thanks in advance.

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  1. I think the original stuff, as the story goes, was made by the French King's chef at the deserted hunting lodge out of lost & found items including an onion, some butter to brown them in, and a bottle of champagne or white wine. Salt, pepper, and onward from there.... I would simmer a bay leaf in the broth while it flavors up from the onions, perhaps also thyme. A little Marsala couldn't hurt. That's for a totally vegetarian soup. I also don't see anything basically wrong with chicken broth in it, or pork broth if your mother doesn't mind meat of another kind. Does buffalo / bison count as beef? The taste is quite good if it's just beef she doesn't want to ingest.

    1 Reply
    1. re: LindaJ

      <<Does buffalo / bison count as beef?>>
      I'll have to ask her that! Thank you for the idea. Thanks all for your feedback. Her choice to abstain from beef is religiously, not nutritionally motivated. I did try to make onion soup with a chicken stock but it lacked a certain depth I had hoped to find -- but perhaps I need to fortify with wine, though it's hard to imagine that I didn't. I add wine to EVERYTHING. Thanks most kindly.

    2. I don't see why it couldn't be made by replacing the beef stock with chicken stock. When I was in Argentina, the French onion soup was clearly chicken broth based with lot's of wine flavor. This was a little add considering the emphasis on beef there. But it was delicious.

      1. I actually always use chicken stock, and I think cook's illustrated prefers that. However, if the reason for no beef stock is nutritional, then there's no reason to fear beef stock.

        1. If you want to make a veg version, there's a brand of "brown stock/flavoring" that's meat-free (it's pretty much just salt and spices) and very tasty.

          1 Reply
          1. re: piccola

            Actually, it is more accurately stated thus: 'If you don't want to make it the original--- that is, totally vegetarian ---way, just add beef or chicken stock, instead of water.' There's a reason it's NOT called "French Onion and Beef or Chicken or Pork or Lamb or Bison or Venison or Pheasant or Elephant Soup"! It's ONION soup! (Suggested reading, and recipe, Michael Ruhlman's "RUHLMAN'S TWENTY: 2O Techniques, 100 Recipes; A Cook's Manifesto". See "Technique #4 : ONION"

          2. How long are you caramelizing the onions? I once made onion soup forgetting that I didn't have beef stock in the house, and got a lot of complexity from just caramelizing the onions a little longer. Those onions were going for more than an hour (probably closer to two) on very low heat before I added any flour, wine or chicken stock. Also, what kind of onions are you using? My onion soups turn out much better with large Spanish onions than regular onions.

            1. Another thought would be to make a combination of onion stock (by browning the onion skins in the oven with mirepoix) and soaking dried mushrooms. The subsequent "brown water" from soaking dried mushrooms is quite rich and flavorful and helps substantiate a vegetarian onion stock with a lovely earthiness.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Carrie 218

                I tried a mushroom stock with one batch of onion soup and found that the mushroom flavor competed too much with the onion. It was good, but not the soup I was going for.

              2. Onion soup in Bourdain's Les Halles cookbook requires chicken stock, not beef.

                1. I have always made onion soup with chicken stock. I was surprised to find this to be the case when I looked up recipes. The dark, rich flavor comes from carmelizing the onions to a dark pulp.

                  See Alton Brown's recipe on foodtv.com. It uses an electric skillet to carmalize the onions. Keeps the heat just right during the looooong process.

                  1. i prefer chicken stock and deeply carmelized red onions as well.

                    1. I made Bolurdain's onion soup this afternoon, the board got me thinking about it. It uses chicken stock and balsamic vinegar and port. Whether my onions were especially sweet, just supermarket onions, or it was the port and balsamic vinegar it was pretty sweet. It mellowed as it cooked but I still found it pretty sweet.

                      1. Michael Ruhluman gives a classic stockless soup in his "Ruhlman's Twenty." Everything depends on sweating the onions slowly until they caramelize. Sweat 7 to 8 pounds of thinly sliced Spanish onions in 1 tablespoon of butter in a heavy pot--preferably enameled. Sprinkle with 2 teaspoons of salt and cover and cook until they begin to steam. Then uncover and reduce the heat to low. Once the onions give up their liquid, they won't take a lot of attention until toward the end when the liquid cooks off. Stir now and then to prevent the onions from sticking and burning. Depending on how low the heat is and how broad the pot it can take up to about five hours and is worth it. Grind some pepper on it. As the onions take on color, stir them more often to prevent them from burning. Once the onions are caramelized, add six cups of water and bring to a boil and then down to a simmer. Add 1/3 cup of sherry and adjust seasoning. If you like you can add a bit of red wine vinegar and/or red wine. Ladle into bowls and finish with slices of oven-dried croutons of country bread and a good melting cheese like gruyere, browned under the broiler.