This is a fusion of two dishes I’ve made before—vegan french onion soup and vegan grilled cheese—which happen to go together perfectly. The deeply caramelized onions have a unique dark sweetness to them, and the addition of sherry and thyme gives a hint of acidity that is nicely balanced out by rich and melted vegan cheese. I loved everything about this dish, from sweating and caramelizing the onions for almost two hours (it smells amazing) to melting the cheese on toasted fresh focaccia bread, to dipping the sandwich in the soup, to savoring each sloppy bite.
for the cheese
1/2 can full-fat coconut milk
1/2 tsp coconut vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp agar powder
1/2 TB tapioca flour
1 TB nutritional yeast (nooch)
for the soup
3 large Vidalia onions
5 TB Earth Balance
1 TB flour
1/2 cup sherry
4 cups homemade vegetable stock with one Not-Beef bouillon cube added OR
Imagine brand mushroom stock
5 springs of fresh thyme, tied with baker’s twine
2 bay leavesto make the sandwiches
focaccia bread, sliced
To make the cheese
Combine all of the cheese ingredients except for the nooch in a small saucepan. Whisk briskly continuously until the mixture comes to a boil. Remove it from the heat, stir in the nooch and transfer it to a small pyrex dish. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for an hour.
To make the soup
Start by slicing the ends off of the onions and peeling them. Slice them vertically in half, then slice each half thinly into half-moon shapes. In a large dutch oven, melt the Earth Balance over medium-low heat. Add in the onion and sprinkle with some salt. Cover and let them sweat for 45 minutes.
Uncover, stir and sprinkle with a little more salt. Allow to reduce and caramelize for 45 minutes to an hour more, stirring no more than two or three times, to allow the color to deepen.
Sprinkle the onion with flour and stir well for about a minute. Add in the sherry to deglaze the pot, then stir to combine. Allow to simmer for 5-7 minutes more, then remove about 1/2 cup of the onions and place to the side.
Return to the soup, and then throw in the thyme sprigs and bay leaves. Slowly pour in either the vegetable stock along with the Not-beef bouillon cube or the mushroom stock. Simmer for about 10-15 minutes more.
To make the sandwiches
While the soup is simmering, heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Remove your cheese from the refrigerator and mash it around with a fork. Spread a thin amount onto a piece of focaccia. Place a little Earth Balance onto the hot skillet, then place the focaccia on top of that, cheese side up. Once the focaccia is toasted, quickly flip it over to allow the cheese to slightly melt, only a second or two, then spoon some of the reserved onions over the top. Toast another piece of focaccia, then place that on top of the sandwich.
Return to your soup, remove the bay leaves and thyme, and transfer to crocks or small bowls. Serve immediately with the hot sandwiches.