The whole family was stranded at the Dulles Airport over the holiday, waiting for our delayed plane to arrive. Leo was running all over an empty gate area jumping on chairs pretending to be a superhero and Lucy was making the sign for “more” and digging through my giant purse for food so we decided to sit down and have some dinner. The only place to sit down with the kids to eat that was still open was a “French bistro.”
Eating out can be tricky now that we are vegetarians. Lenny and I looked over the menu and the only things we could eat were a side of fries and a beet salad. Who wants to eat a beet salad in an airport? Right? While munching on french fries, Lenny kept looking at the menu. He said being a vegetarian hasn’t been hard for him so far (only a few months), but right now he really wanted a french dip. Because, what super-authentic french bistro in an airport doesn’t have a french dip, right?
I took this as a personal challenge. The night after we got back I made french dips. They were not only vegetarian… they were vegan. Not only were they good… they were great.
I posted a photo on Instagram and so many people asked me for the recipe that I actually made them again and wrote down what I put in them.
Here’s the thing about this recipe, it’s kind of an all-afternoon kind of thing. If you want to skip the gruyere spread and use veganaise or some other kind of cheese- go for it! If you don’t have time for the au jus maybe experiment with mushroom both or vegetarian “beef’ bullion cubes. I even heard that lipton french onion soup mix is vegan… it’s not exactly clean eating but it’s probably better for you than your average airport french dip right?
Anyways, if you are going to do it all, make the au jus and the “gruyere” way ahead of your mushrooms… you’ll thank me later. I made some errors both times I made these, mainly, using pans that were too small for both the stock and the mushrooms. What a mess! But they were so worth it!
FOR THE AU JUS
2-3 types of dried mushrooms (think they were 1 oz boxes) I used porcini and and shiitake
1 bunch of celery
1 bundle of parsley or greens (I used carrot tops)
1/2 a white onion
teaspoon of peppercorns
YOU MAY NEED
vegetarian chicken boullion cubes (I used Edward & Son’s Not-Chick’n)
vegan Worcestershire sauce (Annie’s brand)
liquid aminos (or soy)
salt to taste
2-3 tablespoons earth balance butter
Place the mushrooms, peppercorns and all of the veggies in a large stockpot and cover with 10 cups of water. Cook over high heat until the stock begins to boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 1 hour. Strain the stock and return to the pot and continue to reduce until you only have about 2 1/2 cups of stock left. Season with salt. Here is were you decide if the stock will be rich enough for a dip. I ended up adding one chicken bouillon cube to my stock at this point. When it was time to serve I added a few drops of liquid aminos, vegan Worcestershire sauce and a dollop of Earth balance butter to each ramekin.
FOR THE GRUYERE SPREAD
3/4 cup of cashews soaked in water for at least two hours, preferably overnight, drained
1 tablespoon of white miso
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
two cloves on garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons white wine (I used sauvignon blanc)
1-3 tablespoons of water
Place all of the ingredients, except for the water in your blender and blend on high. Add water, one tablespoon at a time until the mixture is smooth and creamy and has a hummus-like thickness.
FOR THE SANDWICH AND FILLING
1/2 of one large white onion thinly sliced
3 springs of thyme- leaves only
5 large portobello mushrooms- thinly sliced
salt and pepper
One french baguette
Cook onions in large skillet with 2 tablespoons of olive oil on medium heat, stir regularly. Add thyme and mushrooms once the onions have started to caramelize. Keep and eye on your mushrooms, until they start to release liquid they could burn easily if crowded in the pan (I know you’re not supposed to crowd mushrooms but who has a pan big enough to hold 6 portobellos without crowding them a little!). Add more oil if this is a problem, I added 2-3 more tablespoons when making mine. Sauté until the mix is dry and add red wine and finish on high heat for 1 minute. Season with salt and generous amounts of salt and pepper.
NOW ITS TIME TO ASSEMBLE!
If you’ve made your au jus ahead of time put it back on the stove and warm it to almost a boil. Ready four ramekins for dipping. This is where I placed a little vegan Worcestershire sauce, liquid aminos and earth balance butter in the ramekins.
Heat your oven to 400. Slice the baguette in to 4 equal pieces, then slice lengthwise to create four buns and place on a large baking sheet. Generously spread the buns with the gruyere spread. With your oven rack in it’s highest position put your bread in and turn the oven to broil. The bread should be warm and brown in about 2 minutes- check it constantly so it doesn’t burn… you know your broiler better than I do.
When your bread is done, divide the filling between the the four buns. Put a pretty toothpick in it if you have one.
Eat your sandwich! Dip it! Are you exhausted? You’ve earned it.
Sorry for the terrible photos- they were all taken when it was dark in my kitchen! I promise to do better next time!