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Marvelous mushroom soup. January 21, 2012

Posted by ourfriendben in recipes.
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Silence Dogood here. It’s snowing here at Hawk’s Haven, the cottage home our friend Ben and I share in the precise middle of nowhere, Pennsylvania, and I confess that I’ve been watching the birds at our feeders rather than writing this blog post. Colorful birds against the white backdrop is one of the consolations of snow. So is the excuse it gives to cook something rich and comforting, like homemade cream of mushroom soup.

I’d been lucky enough to be gifted with a huge boxful of freshly harvested gourmet oyster mushrooms a few weeks ago and, wanting to cook them at their freshest, I’d chopped and sauteed the entire bunch with button mushrooms and sweet onions, along with Trocomare (spicy herbed salt), black pepper, and a pinch of garam masala and ground fenugreek.

I’d been using the cooked mushrooms in and on everything from lasagna and pizza to a topping for rice, but there were still plenty left. So I decided to get decadent when the weather turned really cold and make cream of mushroom soup. It turned out to be so delicious that our friend Ben has been begging me to make more ever since. When I heard we’d be hit with snow today, I hit the store and got the ingredients to make a fresh batch. OFB was ecstatic!

Mind you, this is rich, decadent comfort food, not something you’d want to eat every week. (Remember that word “cream.”) But it’s easy to make and so delicious! So here you go. This recipe serves two generously, three comfortably, or four if you’d just like a cup. Needless to say, if you’re lucky enough to get a windfall of oyster mushrooms, by all means use them! But this is the version I’m making tonight:

                     Silence’s Supreme Cream of Mushroom Soup

1 small (8-oz.) carton button mushrooms, chopped

1 small (8-oz.) carton baby bella mushrooms, chopped

1 package (8-oz.) gourmet mushrooms, mixed, or one carton shiitake mushrooms, chopped, or equivalent amount of mushrooms of your choice, or splash shiitake broth concentrate (I find this in health food stores)

1 large sweet onion (Vidalia or WallaWalla type), diced

1/2 stick butter for sauteeing

1 pint light cream

vegetable stock (any boxed brand is good)

salt (we like RealSalt) or Trocomare

fresh-ground black pepper or mixed peppercorns

1/2 teaspoon garam masala, or more to taste

1/2 teaspoon ground fenugreek, or more to taste

Marsala wine

bourbon (optional)

Melt butter in a heavy pan (I love my LeCreuset Dutch oven), and saute the onion until it clarifies. Add the spices, stir well to blend, then add the mushrooms. Continue sauteeing, stirring frequently to prevent sticking, until the mushrooms cook down and release their liquid. Add more butter and/or a splash of veggie stock as needed to prevent sticking. When the mushrooms have cooked down, reduce heat to low and add a cup of veggie stock, stirring well to blend. Add the cream, again stirring well.

When the soup heats up, taste and adjust seasonings. You can also add more veggie stock at this point, if desired. The goal is a rich, silky soup with a lot of added body from the cooked mushrooms and onions, so if you add more veggie stock, make sure you don’t thin it down; give the soup a chance to thicken up again as it slowly simmers. Finally pour a ring of Marsala just inside the rim of the pan and fold it into the soup. I like to add a splash of bourbon to intensify the flavor; you could add port instead, or skip this step. Taste again after five minutes, give a final tweak to the flavors, and serve.

I enjoy serving this soup as a meal in itself, accompanied by a crunchy salad and thin buttered rounds of French baguette that have been crisped in the toaster oven. The baguette rounds add a delightful crunch to complement the creamy soup, and of course the salad adds a refreshing mix of raw veggies to counteract all that cream.

Want to dress up the soup even more? You could hold back a little cream, and pour it over the top of each bowl in a spiral, then give each bowl a final grind of pepper, immediately before serving. Or roast a whole baby bella mushroom cap with a drizzle of olive oil in the toaster oven and add it on top of the cream/pepper spiral in each bowl.

But frankly, I’d save all that for a state dinner, and simply enjoy the hot soup, crispy, buttery baguette slices, and crunchy salad with a glass or two of Cabernet and the company of those you love. Life doesn’t get much better!

                  ‘Til next time,

                              Silence

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