Thursday, December 27, 2007

Mushroom Soup: not from a can

If you are lucky enough to live in a city with the Palomino* restaurant chain, go forthwith and have a bowl of Portobella Mushroom Soup. If you love mushrooms with Hobbit-like passion, you will want to march into the kitchen and abscond with gallons, or, as I once suggested, "You may want to swim in it." As a professional career advisor, I can tell you that neither is a good career move, and it will be just your luck to have a cadre of U-Tubers on site at this critical moment in your life.

Another option is to go home and make your own. My favorite is based on "Hearty Mushroom Soup" from Mark Peel and Nancy Silverton At Home: Two chefs cook for family & friends (Warner Books, 1994, p. 79-80). I have taken two approaches to this soup, and both play on the soup's intense flavor. One is broth-like, and one is very dense, almost like a sauce. Your choice, of course.

For those days when chopping onion or mincing garlic is either unthinkable or impossible, please substitute good quality dried onion and garlic. "Good quality" does not mean the crumbs and dust that have been in your pantry for five years.

Mushroom Soup #1 -- not from a can

1 oz. dried mushrooms (half dried shitakes, half other dried mushrooms -- most recently I used 1/2 oz. porcini)
3 T butter
3 T. flour
1 small onion, finely chopped [or 2T Penzey's dried minced onions]
4 cloves garlic, minced [or 1 tsp Penzey's dried minced garlic]
1 to 1-1/2 pounds white button mushrooms thinly sliced
4-8 oz. crimini or portobello mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried marjoram (or oregano)
4 c. hot beef broth (Penzey's Beef Soup Base, for instance)
2-4 c. hot water

1. Soak the dried mushrooms in hot water. I put the mushrooms in a bowl , microwave for two minutes, and let them sit and soak for 10 minutes. Pour off the water. If you are very diligent, pour the water through a coffee filter and add it to the soup with the beef broth in Step 3.

2. In a large soup pot or dutch oven, melt the butter until the foam subsides, and then add the flour, stirring for about two minutes until you have created a smooth paste. Add the onion, garlic, and fresh mushrooms, stirring until the mushrooms release their liquid (five minutes). Lower the heat and add the salt, pepper, dried mushrooms, thyme, and marjoram (or oregano). Cook until all of the mushrooms are soft, stirring often. (five minutes)

3. Add the hot broth slowly, stirring to make sure that you have no lumps. Add the water, cover and simmer for 90 minutes, or until the dried mushrooms are tender.

4. Serve with a garnish of chives. A good host will offer guests the chance to add a teaspoon or so of Sherry at the table.

Thicker Mushrooms Soup -- Not from a can

Make the following addition:

In step 3: While the soup is simmering, make a very dark blond roux. Melt 4 T butter and then add 4 T flour. Stir carefully for about 30 minutes, or until the roux is very dark golden brown, or until you get tired of this activity. Add 1/2 cup soup at a time to the roux, to a total of 2 cups. With 30 minutes of simmering time remaining, slowly whisk the roux into the soup. The goal is a nicely thickened liquid. Keep the heat on very low, keep stirring and watch for sticking.

Leftover Mushroom Soup

Not that you'll have much to work with, but:

1. Heat the leftover soup in a saucepan or in a casserole dish in the microwave. Add thin-sliced raw russet or Yukon Gold potatoes and bake at 375 until the liquid is absorbed and the potatoes are tender. (60-90 minutes)

2. Use thick soup as mushroom sauce on steak or burgers, mushroom omelets or on vegetables.

*Palomino cities as of 6/4/10: Cincinnati, Dallas, Indianapolis, Minneapolis.

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