Were you a picky eater as a child? As a kid, I wasn't really a picky eater. My sister was, though. Until recently, she didn't eat seafood or green things. And this was in addition to the other unusual things that most people don't eat: offal, exotic animals, brussels sprouts.
I, on the other hand, ate almost everything. I say almost because on that very short list of things I hated were mushrooms. I thought they stank. And you know, they still do, kind of, except now I very much enjoy their meaty, earthy scent. I enjoy them so much that I had a craving for mushroom soup recently and promptly spent two days researching recipes. In the end, it came down to this one by Ina Garten (although Smitten Kitchen's came in a close second), with the recipe modified to my own preferences: more mushrooms (2x more), the addition of chicken broth, less cream. The result was spectacular, if I do say so myself.
[Be forewarned, this is not a quick under-taking, but i do think it's very very worth it]
Ingredients (makes 1 large batch of soup, enough to feed 4-6 people)
- 1 lb. fresh shiitake mushrooms
- 1/2 lb. fresh portobello mushrooms
- 1/2 lb. ounces fresh cremini (or porcini) mushrooms
- 1/2 oz. dried mushrooms (I used oyster ones, but feel free to use any kind available at your supermarket)
- 1 tablespoon good olive oil
- 1 pats of butter, 1 tbsp each
- 1 cup chopped yellow onion.
- 1 carrot, chopped
- 2 chicken (or beef) bouillon cubes
- 1 sprig fresh thyme plus 1 teaspoon minced thyme leaves, divided
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 leek, white and light green parts
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
Clean the mushrooms by wiping them with a dry paper towel. Don't wash them! Separate the stems, trim off any bad parts, and coarsely chop the stems. Slice the mushroom caps 1/4-inch thick and, if there are big, cut them into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.
First, we make mushroom stock. Rehydrated the dried mushrooms with 1 cup of hot or boiling water. Don't accidentally pour the water out, we're going to use this in the broth. Let it sit while you prepare the vegetables. Then, heat the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large pot. Add the chopped mushroom stems, 2/3 of the onion, carrot, the sprig of thyme, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until the vegetables are soft. Add the rehydrated mushroom liquid, 4 cups water and 2 chicken bouillon cubes, bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. Strain, reserving the liquid. You should have about 4 cups of stock. If not, add some water. It will be nice and brown, like this:
Next, in another large pot, heat the other pat of butter, add the remaining 1/2 chopped onion and the leeks. Cook over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes, until the leeks begin to brown. Add the sliced mushroom caps and cook for about 15 minutes, or until they are browned and tender. Add the flour and cook for 1 minute. Add the white wine and stir for another minute, scraping the bottom of the pot to pick up all those lovely brown bits. Add the mushroom stock, minced thyme leaves, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
Lastly, add the half-and-half, cream, and parsley, season with salt and pepper, to taste, and heat through but do not boil. Serve hot, drizzle with truffle oil if you're feeling fancy, and garnish with thyme or parsley.