I actually planned dinner tonight. We were going to have salmon and roasted vegetables with couscous and feta (one of Mike’s favorites, and something W scarfed down an entire bowlful of when he was about 9 months old, although I’m certain he won’t be as enthralled with it now). But the thing about planning ahead is that it is on those days you will open the trunk of your car and find two giant bags of mushrooms leftover from that cooking class on the weekend that must be used, even though they are now frozen solid.
Mushroom soup it is. I adore mushroom soup, but rarely make it, unless I am for some reason stuck with a surplus of mushrooms that are beginning to dry up. I wish I had a bit of ham, but I didn’t. That’s OK. I pulled out my favorite mushroom soup recipe, then thought perhaps I should do a little more sleuthing, just in case there’s something more interesting that could be done with them.
A quick search on epicurious came up with a highly rated recipe from Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook that was an almost identical combination of onions, butter, button mushrooms, stock and cream. See? I’m not so dull after all. The only differences are, I use a clove of garlic; Anthony simmers a sprig of parsley (and removes it before pureeing), and I add a spoonful of flour to the cooked mushrooms before adding the stock. I also generally opt for less butter, a combination of butter and oil (1 tablespoon of each, vs. his 6 tablespoons of butter – yum) and half and half over full-on cream. If you add it at the very end, which is typical anyway, but even if you add it at the end of mashed potatoes or other things, you can get away with using less, and the flavor is more predominant.
Creamy Mushroom Soup
Button mushrooms are fine to use in a cream of mushroom soup, and it’s a great way to use them up if they are starting to dry out. Try meatier portobello mushrooms and exotic varieties such as shiitake, oyster and cremini to give it more substance and an intense flavor. To make a vegetarian soup, leave out the ham and use vegetable stock.
3/4 lb. mushrooms (button, shiitake, cremini, oyster, portobello, or a combination)
1 Tbsp. canola or olive oil
1 – 2 Tbsp. butter
1 onion or 3 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 cup diced ham (optional)
3 Tbsp. sherry or brandy (optional)
1 Tbsp. flour
3 cups chicken, beef or vegetable stock
1/2 cup light sour cream, half and half or whipping cream
Salt and pepper
Clean the mushrooms and slice half of them. Finely chop the other half. Heat the oil and butter in a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat, and sauté the onion, garlic and mushrooms until the moisture evaporates and the mushrooms begin to turn golden.
Add the ham and cook for a minute. Add the sherry and cook until it evaporates, then add the flour and cook, stirring, for another 2 minutes. Add the stock and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes.
Remove the soup from the heat and stir in the sour cream or cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serves 4-6.