Monday, April 2, 2012

French onion soup with quinoa & mushrooms

Who doesn't love a big bowl of light yet comforting French onion soup on a rainy April day?  (I can't believe we're into April already!)

I love love looooooooove F.O.S. but manage to be hungry about an hour after eating it.  Soups always fill me up quickly but don't quite satisfy like a more substantial bowl of chili would.  Kinda makes sense if you think about what's in it: broth, onions, maybe a slice of bread and cheese. As yummy as it is, that's hardly enough to constitute an entire meal... even after multiple bowls of the stuff.  Trust me, I've tried.

Until now, that is.

Yesterday, I played Dr. Frankenstein in the kitchen and updated the classic French onion soup into a protein-boasting, muscle-building, will-absolutely-keep-you-full-for-hours one pot meal that still has the same great flavors as the original.

Presenting -- for the first time ever -- quinoa and mushroom French onion soup!

Colorful it is not, but delicious it damn sure is!

I'm not quite sure how I came to this recipe, but I know what started the mushroom craving.  Matt and I visited this delightful little French bakery in the Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pittsburgh.  Of course I got a pastry (chocolate eclair a.k.a. the best pastry of my life) but there was a $5 credit card minimum, and this chick had no cash.  This chick never carries cash.  Yeesh.

Anyway, for some odd reason I didn't want to get more pastries (?!), so I checked out the other menu options.  There was a mushroom barley soup bubbling away behind the counter, calling my name.  I answered.  Thank goodness I did because it was delicious.  And thus began a week-long yearning for mushroom soup.

Then I saw the weekly grocery flyer advertising onions on sale.  It had been a while since I made F.O.S. but I was hankering for something more substantial.  Why not add a few items to the soup?  Like mushrooms!!!!  (Yes, all those exclamation points were necessary.)

But, though mushrooms would add body and flavor to the soup, it wouldn't do much in the way of upping the protein content of the meal.  If only there were some infinitely adaptable and quick way to...


And the rest is history.  Also, dinner last night, lunch today, and lunch tomorrow for one lucky person.  Matt and I are going to duke it out over the last serving of soup.

Because this soup is totes (that's how the kids are saying "totally" if you didn't know) worth fighting for.  I'm going to take a completely uneducated guess and say The Hunger Games is really about brawling for quinoa French onion soup.  Winner gets the soup.  Loser gets celery.

(I don't like celery much.)

All of the wonderful trademarks of French onion soup -- fragrant beef broth infused with red wine and sweet caramelized onions -- with some new friends, sauteed mushrooms and fluffy, poppy, nearly-perfect-protein quinoa.  Still think it's a girl's soup?

I got a call at 4:15 today from my husband with the very manly appetite saying he was s-t-i-l-l satisfied and full from lunch.  He had this soup and some gross celery.  Don't credit the celery; instead, hail the soup.  Sing its praises!  And make some now.  Or else you'll be stuck with celery for dinner, and you definitely don't want that.

Quinoa French Onion Soup with Mushrooms
(adapted from this base recipe)
-makes 10 cups, roughly 5-6 servings

A few notes: To the mushroom haters out there, you can omit them if you really want, but you'll barely notice them amidst the quinoa and onions.  The subtle flavor they add to the soup is worth it, in my opinion!  Also, I skipped the bread and topped my soup with only cheese.  To do so, either pop an oven-safe bowl with the soup and topped with cheese under the broiler for a few, or microwave until melted.

1.5 pounds yellow onions, thinly sliced
10 ounces sliced mushrooms
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon olive oil 1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 quarts (8 cups = 64 ounces = 1.9 liters) beef stock
1/2 cup red wine
1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
Ground black pepper
6 slices Swiss cheese

Melt the butter and oil together in the bottom of a large stock pot or Dutch oven over moderately low heat. Add the onions and mushrooms, toss to coat them in oil and cover the pot. Reduce the heat to real low and let them slowly steep for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, uncover the pot, raise the heat slightly and stir in the salt and sugar. Cook onions and mushrooms, stirring frequently, for 30 to 40 minutes until they have turned an even, deep golden brown. Be patient with this step!

After the onions are fully caramelized, add the flour and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. Add the wine in full, then stock gradually, stirring between additions.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add quinoa.  Bring to a simmer and simmer partially covered for 30 to 40 more minutes, skimming if needed. Correct seasonings if needed but go easy on the salt because the cheese will add saltiness later.  Remove from heat and cover until serving.

Toast slices of baguette under broiler until just beginning to turn golden.  Remove and arrange as many as you need to fit in the opening of the soup bowls you'll use on a piece of foil . Top the bread slices with a slice of Swiss cheese and return to the broiler until the cheese is melted and beginning to bubble. Meanwhile, ladle out the soup into bowls for eating. Remove from broiler and slide bread and cheese layers onto soup and, enjoy!


  1. Replies
    1. Right after adding the stock before simmering the soup. Thanks for pointing that out!

  2. Thanks for mentioning mushrooms. I have a cup of FOS leftover & was going to add Quinoa but needed another veggie. Great minds creatively thinking alike..

  3. Thanks for mentioning mushrooms. I have a cup of FOS leftover & was going to add Quinoa but needed another veggie. Great minds creatively thinking alike..