French Onion Stew

This is a soup of love; a soup which takes a while to make but comes out tasting like a bowl of warmth; not physically, but as an expression of love through the labor of cooking. As the weather begins to cool and the sun recedes earlier and earlier, the blankets, wool socks and hearty soups are once again making an appearance in the apartment. A new rhythm of life is imposing itself once again, no more are the warm summer afternoons to share with friends on a sunny terrasse. Long cold nights spent inside, in the cozy shelter of home, surrounded by good company (and good food) are upon us once more. The mourning of summer need not be sad. Soon there will be peaceful snow laden afternoons; steam rising off of a warm cups of coffee in the morning; warm cookies right out of the oven; all of the joys winter has to offer. 

However, if the passing of summer is still hard to swallow, this soup is the antidote to those blues. A twist on a winter classic, french onion soup, aims to recreate all the wonderful flavors but turn it from a delicious entrée into the main event. I call this soup a labor of love because of the amount of cutting, over 6 lbs of vegetables go into this soup – and all of them need to be chopped. With all those vegetables, it allows us to untap a world of flavor. From the soft sweet onion, to the crisp and earthy celery – they all play a role. 

While the onions are certainly the star of the show, the supporting part is played by one of my favorite ingredients: dried shiitake mushrooms. I know these are a frequent ingredient on my blog. They are packed with flavor, cheap and also the water used to rehydrate them makes a pungent mushroom borth, which of course we will use in our soup. Instead of bread, I opt for hearty pot barley. A delicious chewy grain which will keep its structure when cooked in the soup. Of course, as any good french onion soup, we top the soup off with a generous layer of gruyère cheese for some ooey-gooey goodness with each bite. I hope this soup finds a way into your kitchen, and the hearts of those who surround you soon. 

P.S. Is it even possible to make a stew look appetizing in a picture?!?! If you’ve figure out the secret please let me know

Active time: 60 minutes

Cook time: 60 minutes


  • 2 oz dried shiitake mushrooms (55 grams)
  • 4 – 4 ½  lbs yellow onion
  • ¼ cup neutral oil 
  • 1lbs carrots
  • ¾ lbs celery
  • 1 ½ cups frozen peas, thawed
  • 3-4 large sprigs of thyme
  • 8 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup pot barley, rinsed
  • 250g gruyère cheese, grated
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper


  1. A few hours before beginning to cook. Soak the mushrooms in 2 ½ cups of room temperature water. 
  2. Chop all the yellow onion into thin slices. Heat a large dutch oven on medium heat. Add in the ¼ cup of neutral oil with the onion as well as a few generous pinches of salt and lots of freshly cracked black pepper. Sauté for 45-55 minutes stirring occasionally. Cook until the onions have become about a quarter of their starting size, are completely soft and have browned. They should be entirely caramelized. 
  3. While the onions cook down, dice the carrot and celery. Remove the rehydrated mushrooms out of their liquid and squeeze them gently to remove excess liquid (do not throw away the broth). Remove the stems and cut the mushroom caps in half. 
  4. Now we will filter the mushroom both to remove any sediment. I personally pour it through a coffee filter, however a fine mesh strainer with a paper towel in the bottom should do as well. Set aside until required. 
  5. After the onions have cooked down, add in the carrots, celery, peas, mushrooms, thyme with another few generous pinches of salt. Sauté for 6-8 minutes stirring occasionally. 
  6. Add in the 8 cups of vegetable broth, the mushroom broth, the pot barley and more freshly ground black pepper. Turn the heat up to high until it reaches a boil. Turn the heat down to simmer and simmer with the lid ajar for 45 minutes Taste to see if barley is cooked through. 
  7. Once barley is cooked through, adjust for salt. Add in salt ½ tsp at a time until well salted. I typically add a tsp, however it will depend on how salted the vegetable broth used was (if unsalted, more will be required). Additionally, while stirring the salt in, carefully pull out any thyme sprigs which float to the top. 
  8. Serve into large bowls and top with a few generous pinches of gruyère cheese. Enjoy while hot in the company of those you love! 

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