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For the love of fungus: Creamy and delicious mushroom soup

February 23, 2007

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I love me some fungus. Well, not just any fungus, of course. The kind that is heaped in baskets at your grocery store… mounds of brown or white caps or springy yellow tops, clusters of white tendrils or hills of fluffy golden folds. I’m talking about mushrooms, people.

Mushrooms are delicious. Meaty, earthy, fragrant — pick your appealing adjective. They’re the perfect vehicles for sopping up sauces or for adding rich texture to a dish. Some are hearty enough just to throw some flame on and tear into with your teeth. One of my favorite vehicles for mushrooms is mushroom soup. I love the way that the earthy goodness of mushrooms mingles with herb-tinged cream and butter. All the better to sop up with a thick piece of crusty bread, and lick off the back of your spoon. (My stomach is grumbling at the thought.)

I’m quite convincing aren’t I? Well, it turns out that I am. According to my husband’s backgrounder, I have converted him to fungus-lover. It’s true: He used to wrinkle his nose at mushrooms and push them onto my plate. (No complaints from me on that one.) Now, his spoon is battling mine for the dregs of mushroom soup.

I guess I can’t take full credit for the delicious soup we’re offering today, though. Below my husband confesses that I inadvertantly threw down the mushroom soup gauntlet: I had always held that a mushroom soup we had in Brussels was the best I’d ever had… until recently, when I said Daniel Boulud’s might be better. Apparently my swooning over the mushroom soups of two French-speaking chefs was just too much for him. He secretly determined to make a better mushroom soup in his own kitchen — thus sealing my love forever.

Well folks, you can’t buy my love with mushroom soup (I only accept blueberry currency). But if you could — this would be the soup that would win my undying affection. It’s rich, it’s creamy, it’s delicious — and most important, it’s mushroomy. Pick up your spoons and man your bread crusts… It’s mushroom soup time.

Click here to download the recipe for this Mushroom Soup.

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Backgrounder…

Before I began cooking, I despised mushrooms. I don’t know why. I mean, with their richness and color, mushrooms are the ultimate symbol of the bounty of the Earth. Today, I love them. I use them often in my cooking. Heck, I’ve grown to like them so much that when I’m at the grocery, I smell and paw them even when they aren’t on my list — because I might find an excuse to use them. By the way, this is all the doing of my wife, who has loved mushrooms for so long that I actually began cooking them with before I even liked them, with pleasing her in mind.

I think I can trace my love of mushrooms to when we were in Brussels a few years ago. Now, this isn’t to show off how well traveled we are, but instead to speak about the mushroom soup we had at Aux Armes de Bruxelles. I don’t know whether I was ready to like mushrooms or we had been on the road all too long, but this experience set the standard for all mushroom soups that would come afterward. It was rich, creamy, earthy and slightly sweet.

For a long time, I just ignored my wife’s love of mushrooms and mushroom soup. This changed recently when we had the good fortune to be in New York and at Café Boulud. She turned and said to me, “This mushroom soup might be better then Brussels.”

It was a sign to me. I couldn’t lose my wife’s palette to a Frenchman or to a Belgian. I decided I must learn to make a soup from our own kitchen that would make her this happy. This recipe is the result of my first serious foray into challenging these classics.

In my effort to do so, there are two lessons. First, this recipe uses honey mushrooms. They are not commonly available, but I’m really using them as a stand-in for a wild mushroom of your choice. I chose them because they have a sweet odor and flavor that I thought was important to the dish. However, if you want to use all shitake or another strong, earthy mushroom, I would fully recommend it.

Second, I use heavy cream in this recipe for body. There is something about the texture of cream that brings to life to the dish. It clearly cancels any chance for this dish to be low-fat or vegan, yet the depth it adds takes it beyond the typical soup. Personally, I feel like this is an example of where you can add an inch to get a mile. So, if you are practicing some dietary limitation, you should try modifying with milk or similar replacement.

So, OK, my wife taught me to love mushrooms. My disposition has changed. Hopefully, this soup will assist you in reaching the same result.

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Mushroom Soup
Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups shitake mushrooms (chopped)
1/2 cup honey mushrooms (or other mushroom) (chopped)
1/2 large onion (diced)
2 cups chicken broth/stock or water
1 cup heavy cream
3 cloves garlic (minced)
3 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp fresh thyme (chopped)
1 tsp fresh rosemary (chopped)
1/2 tsp fresh marjoram (chopped)
1/2 cup sea beans (optional)
salt
pepper

Equipment:
Blender — Immersion/Hand or Stand

Directions:
1. In a pot over medium heat, add the butter and the olive oil. Once the butter has melted and stopped frothing, add the onion and salt liberally. Let cook for 3 min. Add the garlic and continue to cook for another 3-4 min or until the onions are translucent.

2. Add the mushrooms. They should soak up the liquid in the pot. Let cook for about 4 min or until a nice fragrance wafts up at you. Add the thyme, rosemary and marjoram and let cook for another 2 min.

3. Add the stock to the pot and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for at least 20 min. At this point, you should really rely on your taste buds. You want to taste the broth for mushroom flavor. Season here if need be, or let cook longer (up to 20 more min) if you feel the mushroom flavor isn’t optimal. If you are using sea beans, be careful not to oversalt the soup. The beans are very salty. Once the broth is ready, add the heavy cream.

4. At this point, you will need to blend the mixture. Let cool for at least 5 min if using a stand mixer. Blend the mixture in batches until relatively smooth. This is a texture choice for you. Return to the stove top, taste and heat to a simmer and cook until ready to serve.

5. This step is optional. The sea beans add a crunchiness and saltiness. In a pan over high heat, add about a teaspoon of olive oil. Once the olive oil begins to shimmer add the sea beans. Cook for 2-3 min or until the sea beans have turned a bright green.

6. Once the sea beans are cooked and the soup is hot, pour the soup into a bowl and garnish on top with sea beans. Serve hot. Enjoy!

11 comments

  1. mmmmm… I’ll have to make soupmaster boyfriend make this for me! We both already love mushrooms (myself to a rather startling degree) so no need to change our palettes, but I have been looking for an excuse to go buy a garland of those dried Polish (boletus?) mushrooms from the deli down the street. Thanks for being my enabler😉


  2. mmm. looks fabulous. my vegan version uses potato to make it taste creamy, with good results–you could supplement the potato with milk, too, if you wanted low-fat high-calcium soup.


  3. Looks wonderful. I’m eating a bowl of mushroom-barley-escarole soup as I’m reading this…it is definitely mushroom soup season in my kitchen, too.


  4. Mushrooms definately make it into my top 5 favorite ingredients list (how does chocolate stuffed mushrooms sound?). When I still lived at home, my step brother and sister would always get in trouble for pulling the cheese off the pizza, and the skin off the chicken. I always got in trouble for stealing mushrooms off the pizza.

    Now I don’t know weather to make this or the mushroom soup from smitten kitchen like I had planned. Maybe I will make one Saturday and one Sunday.


  5. Once again, your photos could be framed! Now I’ve got a reason to go to Brussels, besides chocolate.

    One of my favorite French writers, Janine Broussard, has a scene in one of her books in which the characters eat a rustic mushroom soup. I’ve loved it since then. I’m doing mushrooms this weekend, too, BTW.


  6. Ohh..I love all mushrooms !!🙂 gosh, your photographs are so wonderful, I love that shot with all the strips of mushrooms frolicking in the soup..yummys !!


  7. oooo those sea beans are the perfect garnish for a cream of mushroom soup. they’re so vivid and fresh. did i mention the soup looks fantastic too?🙂


  8. If you puree the soup longer, or in a blender and pass the soup through a chinois You’ll find that the texture is quite a bit smoother and the mushroom flavor intensifies. Also, add a bit(depending on the amount of soup) of champagne or white wine vinegar and the overall flavor will come together better. To taste, you don’t want to taste the vinegar, but you’ll taste the more developed flavors.


  9. Looks so good! I hated mushroom soup until I realised that it didn’t have to come out of a tin! I love the series of pictures too.


  10. looks delicious but your photos are covering over the top half of the recipe


  11. I love a good creamy soup, but not the fungus. I can tolerate mushrooms in a dish where they might be masked by certain other flavors, but plain….uh, they sorta don’t excite me. Texture maybe?? Funky taste?? I dunno.

    There are few… very few ingredients that I don’t eat. This is one.



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