Oct 18, 2010

Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup

Cream of mushroom can be a tricky soup because most people, us included, think of gelatinous goo that comes out of a can and is used in casseroles, however this cream of mushroom is nothing like a canned soup. It’s earthy, satisfying and if you follow Ina Garten’s original recipe (which can be found here), completely decadent. There were some significant changes made to the recipe however we felt they were necessary and made the soup healthier yet still incredibly tasty. The overall method in preparing the soup was similar but some of the butter and half and half were omitted, and we opted to puree the soup before adding sautéed mushrooms.  Ina also uses a mushroom stock as a base of the soup, however we added a little chicken stock for additional flavor. After tasting the finished product, it was difficult to imagine it any other way. We varied the toppings – Monica made Parmesan crisps and Caitlin made croutons. Both complimented the soup nicely and were easy to prepare; you could make both if serving for guests and let them have a little of each!

Ina uses shiitake, Portobello and cremini mushrooms – neither of us could find shiitake mushrooms at a reasonable price, so we used Portobello and cremini only. Ina’s recipe uses a total of 15 oz of mushrooms, so you can vary the type of mushrooms that you use, as long as you have 15 ounces total.

Caitlin: I thought this soup was delicious and hearty – a great meal on it’s own with a salad. After reading the ingredient list and seeing a stick of butter, half and half AND cream, I knew we needed to make some changes or my cholesterol was in for some serious damage. I made seasoned croutons with a day old baguette to top the soup, which added a nice texture and flavor.
Monica: I was a bit hesitant about making a cream of mushroom soup because when I think of it, I can’t help but think of Campbell’s soup.  You can take my word for it this is no Campbell’s soup.  Instead, it is comfort in a bowl. I added parmesan crisps to my soup instead of serving it with bread…the nutty flavor of the parmesan complimented the earthiness of the mushroom flavor perfectly.

Ingredient List
8 ounces fresh Portobello mushrooms
7 ounces fresh cremini mushrooms
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter
1 cup chopped onion
1 carrot
1 sprig fresh thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 cups chopped leeks, optional
¼ cup flour
1 cup dry white wine
½ cup cream
½ minced fresh flat-leaf parsley

Parmesan Crisps
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

3 slices of bread: I used a French baguette
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
1/8 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Clean the mushrooms by wiping them with a paper towel. Separate the stems from the caps, roughly chop and set aside. Then slice the caps into ¼ inch thick pieces and set those aside.

Start making the stock. Heat the oil and 1 tbsp butter in a large stock pot. Add the chopped stems, onions, carrot, thyme, 2 tsp salt and ½ tsp pepper – cook over a low-medium heat until soft and fragrant, about 10-15 minutes.

Add 6 cups water and bring to a boil. Add 1 or 2 bouillon cubes – we added chicken bouillon but if you want to keep it vegetarian, add vegetable stock. An alternative would be to add 4 cups water and 2 cups liquid stock. We felt the stock added another element of flavor, so add enough to suit your preference. Simmer the stock uncovered for 30 minutes.

In another large sauté pan, heat 1 tbsp butter (if using leeks, sauté them now), add the sliced mushroom caps and cook for 10 minutes until soft. Add the flour and cook for 1 minutes making sure all of the mushrooms are coated. Add the white wine and stir for another minute, making sure to scrape the pan.

This is where we vary the method from Ina’s recipe. She strains the vegetables out of the stock and adds the mushrooms without pureeing it. We felt a cream of mushroom soup needs to be pureed, with some of the mushrooms chopped and added after pureeing. SO, if following Ina’s original recipe, click hereIf following ours keep on keepin’ on.

Take half of the sautéed mushrooms (and leeks, if using), add them to the stock and stir. Puree the soup until creamy, then put back into the stock pan. Take the remaining sautéed mushrooms and very roughly chop, add these to soup.

Taste and adjust your seasoning. We added more salt and pepper to taste. You can also add crushed red pepper for spiciness.

Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the cream, parsley and more s&p if needed. Once the cream is added turn the heat down heat through but do not boil. Serve hot and enjoy!

If topping the soup with Parmesan crisps:
Heat oven to 300F.
Line cookie sheet with parchment paper. Drop 1 tbs of freshly grated parmesan onto the cookie sheet, space about 4 inches apart. Flatten parmesan with the back of a spoon. Bake for 6 minutes or until golden.

If topping the soup with Croutons
Heat oven to 375F. Slice the bread into cubes. Melt butter and olive oil adding salt and pepper. Toss the cubes in a bowl with the butter and oil making sure all of the bread is coated – add more if necessary. Add the Parmesan cheese and toss again. Put on a cookie sheet lined with Parchment paper and cook for about 7 minutes until browned.

¼ stick of butter instead of a whole stick was used.

Your mushroom choice will depend on what’s available and reasonable at your local market.

We both omitted the leeks – the onions in the base of the stock seemed sufficient, but of course adding them would increase flavor.

We added chicken stock to the mushroom base for another level of flavor, but if you want to keep the soup vegetarian, you can add vegetable stock.

A nice variation would be the addition of cooking sherry or a little more wine to pureed soup.

Drink of Choice
Caitlin: I opted to have a glass of the white wine I was using, I had a nice California Chablis. 
Monica: I was craving something a bit tart and refreshing to compliment my soup, so I made  fresh lemonade.  Again, since white wine was used in preparing the soup, you could also drink the wine you cooked with.

Caitlin: I wanted something a little upbeat so I had a mix of Bloc Party, Foals and Airborne Toxic Event playing.
Monica: As usual, I couldn’t choose just one album.  Instead there was something about the emotions in these songs, which complimented my warm bowl of soup perfectly:
1)   “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me” Smokey Robinson & the Miracles
2)   “Tender” Blur
3)   “Rebellion (Lies)” Arcade Fire
4)   “Hometown Glory” Adele
5)   “Alone Again Or” Love

A Recipe to Remember?
Definitely, the variations made this a great creamy and hearty soup.

Caitlin's Version

Monica's Version

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