This vegetarian twist on a classic soup uses a secret ingredient we all have on hand from our holiday baking. It lends a depth of flavor and aids in making a quick rich, stock from the already caramelized onions, so you'll never miss the traditional beef. Thyme is also the traditional herb used in this soup but I don't always have it on hand. Rather than buy a specialty ingredient, I just use a dried bay leaf which I always have hanging around.
And, as for cheese, use what you like. Gruyere or Swiss are traditionally used, but since I've thrown tradition out the window, go for whatever melting cheese strikes your fancy. I used Provolone, and in a pinch tested it with a mix of Monterey Jack and Grana Padano. —Jennifer Perillo
large onions, sliced
dried bay leaf or a few sprigs of fresh thyme
Salt & freshly ground peper, to taste
2 1/2 cups
clove garlic, crushed
one-inch thick slices of baguette, toasted
shredded Provolone, Swiss or any melting cheese of your choosing
Melt butter in a 6-quart stockpot over medium-high heat. Add onions, bay leaf and season with salt and pepper; stir to coat well. Saute until they begin to soften and become golden, about 15 minutes. Cover pot and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, covered, until onions are softened, about 20 more minutes.
Remove and discard bay leaf. Stir, scraping up browned bits at bottom of pot. Raise heat back to medium-high and slowly pour in the water. Add garlic clove, sherry vinegar and molasses. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 10 more minutes. Taste, and season with additional salt and pepper if necessary.
Preheat broiler. Evenly ladle soup into 4 oven-safe bowls. Place one slice of toasted baguette on top of each. Evenly sprinkle cheese on top and place on a rimmed baked sheet. Cook under broiler until cheese is golden and bubbly, 3 to 5 minutes.
Jennifer Perillo is the Consulting Food Editor at Working Mother magazine, and a regular a contributor to Relish Magazine and FoodNetwork.com. She shares stories about food, family and life at her blog In Jennie's Kitchen and in her debut cookbook, Homemade with Love: Simple Scratch Cooking from In Jennie's Kitchen (Running Press 2013).