Yesterday I looked at the calendar and realized fresh morel mushrooms will be available in less than two months. That thought caused an intense craving for something mushroomy. And since Wednesday is soup day, mushroom soup immediately came to mind. I've made several different recipes, including a killer French recipe calling for lots of butter and cream. It's delicious, but I wanted to cook a soup that doesn't make me feel guilty after I eat it. The Greens Cookbook by Deborah Madison contains a wonderful recipe that tastes good and isn't loaded with fat.
The recipe calls for an optional wild mushroom stock, which gives the soup a beautiful woodsy flavor. Water can be substituted for the stock, but it's so simple to make I can't see the point of skipping this step. The stock is also good to have frozen in the freezer, to enrich sauces and other soups. The key element in the stock is dried mushrooms. I used dried porcini mushrooms sold in little bags at the grocery store. I love good dried mushrooms, but the ones at the grocery are not fit for anything but stock, in my opinion. The smell of the porcinis as you saute them with onions, celery, carrots, white mushrooms and herbs is reason enough for making the stock.
The finished stock is strained when it's done and can be reduced further to give it a deeper flavor. But, I didn't do that because I thought it tasted fine. And I wanted to have leftover stock to stash in the freezer. A freezer loaded with stock and tomato sauce gives me a deep sense of peace
The finished soup, after being pureed. I like to put sliced sauteed mushrooms on top of the soup just before serving it. The soup recipe calls for 1/2 cup heavy cream, much less than other recipes that I've used. However, it really isn't necessary to use it. The soup has such a deep, rich flavor, it can stand alone without it. Next time I make this soup, I'll leave the cream out.
By the way, if you're ever in San Francisco, do yourself an enormous favor and visit Greens restaurant, where this soup is served. The food and the view of the marina is fabulous.
Bresse Mushroom Soup
From "The Greens Cookbook" by Deborah Madison
2 Tbsp. Butter
1 yellow onion, sliced
1 tsp. Salt
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 Tbsp. Parsley, chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 pound mushrooms, roughly sliced or chopped
8 ounces mushrooms, thinly sliced for garnish (optional)
6 cups mushroom stock - recipe follows
2 slices bread, any kind ( I used whole wheat)
1/2 cup light cream
Chopped chives, parsley, or tarragon, sliced sauteed mushrooms for garnish
1. Heat the butter in a soup pot until it foams; then add the onion and salt. Cook over medium-high heat for 3 minutes to soften the onion, stirring frequently.
2. Add the garlic, parsley, and cook 2 minutes more. Pour in the wine, raise the heat, and reduce it for another 3 minutes.
3. Add the mushrooms and stew them with the onion over medium-low heat for 6-8 minutes, giving them a stir partway through the cooking. Pour in the stock and bring it to a boil. Lower the heat, add the bread, and simmer for 20 minutes.
4. Let the soup cool slightly; then either briefly puree it in a blender, leaving small pieces of mushroom, or puree it longer, making a smooth, creamy soup. Heat the soup again and stir in the cream. Taste it and season with more salt, if needed, and freshly ground black pepper. Serve with the fresh herbs or crème fraîche in each bowl. I saute some sliced fresh mushrooms and add them to the soup just before serving.
Wild Mushroom Stock
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1-1/2 Tbsp. Olive oil
4 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced or chopped (optional)
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 medium onion, chopped into 1/2 inch squares
1/2 cup leek greens, roughly chopped into 1-inch pieces (optional)
4-6 thyme branches or 1/4 tsp. Dried thyme
2 bay leaves
6 branches parsley, roughly chopped
3 sage leaves or large pinch dried sage
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp. Salt
9 cups cold water
1. Cover the dried mushrooms with 1 cup hot water and set them aside.
2. Heat the olive oil in a soup pot, add the vegetables, herbs, garlic, salt, and cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes.
3. Next add the dried mushrooms and their soaking liquid plus the 9 cups cold water, and bring to a boil; then simmer for 45 minutes. Strain the stock through a fine-meshed sieve. Use it as is or return it the stove and reduce it further to intensify the flavor as much as desired. Generally it takes about 15 minutes at a slow boil to reduce the volume of liquid by 1 cup.
Variation: For a darker colored stock, caramelize the onion separately first. Heat the oil, add the onion, and cook it until it has turned a very dark brown, stirring occasionally at first, then more frequently as it gets darker. Add the remaining ingredients plus the water, bring to a boil, cook as above, and strain.