French Onion Soup with a Halal Substitute for Wine
Those of you who have read and/or cooked from the My Halal Kitchen cookbook will probably already know about this recipe, which is classically French, and a Halal twist by me for the red wine that is traditionally used to flavor the broth. I love that it is one of those recipes in which everything was used up, perhaps in times of scarcity and in the winter months it is an especially warming soup. I highly suggest you make the beef broth to go with it. It just doesn’t taste the same without it.
I grew up having this soup on special occasions (without any wine at all) and my favorite part of it was the cheesy toasted bread on top. I always wondered how they managed to do it, and why it actually tasted so good in the soup when it was dunked in there so nice and deep. Once I started making it myself and found the proper Halal substitutes, I was blown away by how easy it started to become since the whole process was demystified over time. I hope to do the same for you here, as well as encourage you to try it if you’ve never done so before. As I already said, but it’s worth mentioning again, it really is such a perfect dish for chilly winter evenings.
I have a few notes ahead of sharing the recipe again (the first time was in the My Halal Kitchen cookbook):
1) try to have beef broth made ahead of time- it will make your life so much easier just to have it on hand, otherwise the length of making this soup is just ridiculously long;
2) if you don’t have grape juice on hand, an interesting and tasty substitute I’ve found to be is Pekmez, the Turkish grape molasses (but you only need a tiny amount, since it is very concentrated);
3) if you can’t use Gruyere cheese, you can substitute any type of white cheddar or raw milk cheese, it will taste just fine.
FRENCH ONION SOUP with a HALAL SUBSTITUTE FOR RED WINE
Makes 4 bowls of soup
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups thinly sliced yellow onions
2 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1-1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper (optional)
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup concord grape juice (not from concentrate) OR 1-1/2 teaspoons grape Pekmez (Turkish molasses)
1 teaspoon raw cane sugar (optional)
1 quart beef broth (preferably homemade), about 4 cups
1/2 loaf French bread, cut into 12 equally-sized pieces about 1-inch thick each; alternatively use Sourdough bread slices, cut into equally sized pieces.
2 cups freshly grated Gruyere cheese or any type of white cheddar or raw milk cheese, shredded or thinly sliced
In a 4-quart Dutch oven over medium heat, melt the butter. When the butter begins to froth, add the oil. Once the oil is warmed, add the onions and salt. Reduce the heat the medium-low and cook, stirring constantly, for 15 minutes, until the onions have softened and are well-browned.
Add the flour to the Dutch oven and whisk or stir with a spoon until the ingredients are well-combined. Gently add the grape juice or molasses and sugar (if using) and mix well. Add the beef broth and stir to combine.
Set the oven to the broil setting. Alternatively, if you have more time, heat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Back to the soup, raise the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce the heat to medium and simmer, covered, for 20-30 minutes.
During the last five minutes of the soup cooking, place the bread slices on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Scatter the cheese evenly over the bread and place the baking sheet under the broiler. Broil for 3 minutes, until melted and browned; alternatively, if using lower heat at 350 degrees F, cook for about 7-10 minutes. Remove from the oven.
Remove soup from heat an ladle into deep bowls. Place a slice of the cheese bread on top of each bowl. Dunk the bread slightly into the soup and serve.