Wild mushrooms help in making creamy soup dreamy
It's way easier to open a can of soup than to make it. I get it.
The red and white can of cream of mushroom soup defined part of my childhood and early adult meals-in-a-bowl. It also stood solidly as an add-in for various casseroles, like tuna noodle or green bean.
The only thing I didn't like about that soup was the puny number of mushrooms cut into tiny uniform squares.
When we all feared fat in any amount, I created a from-scratch, nearly fat-free mushroom soup and substituted nonfat milk, blended with fat-free sour cream (yes, there was such a thing) and used cornstarch to thicken it, so it looked like cream of mushroom soup. Since fat is the transportation on which flavor rides, that soup definitely lacked a flavor punch.
A short while back, my local farmers market had a fresh mushroom vendor selling four or five different locally raised mushrooms. I realized that what I could get from this farmer would make an excellent mushroom soup.
There's nothing wrong with standard white button mushrooms. Other mushrooms, like shiitake, carry stronger mushroom flavor notes and contribute subtle flavor differences, along with different colors and textures.
One of the mushrooms I found and purchased was a lion's mane mushroom. Up until then, I'd never seen or tasted a lion's mane mushroom. It was beautiful looking fresh, and I believed it would make a terrific contribution to my soup. In the end, when cut and simmered, it mostly disappeared in the broth.
This farmer also had some beautiful shiitake mushrooms with which I was very familiar, having used them in many Asian stir-fries.
The other unique mushroom was a blue oyster. It was more a cool gray than blue but looked interesting, so I bought some of those, too.
I stopped at a local market to get some shallots since shallots are a classic addition to cream soups; if I'm being a little fancy.
I headed home and started cleaning my mushrooms and trimming their stems, along with slicing the shallots and mincing the garlic.
Next, I brought out my trusty Dutch oven and started melting butter in it. I could have used olive oil, but I believe butter has a subtle sweetness and would blend well since I would finish my soup with heavy whipping cream.
In went my shallots and garlic, and I sautéed them until soft and then added my pile of fresh mushrooms. When they started to throw off some of their liquid, I let them cook for about two minutes and then added chicken broth and sherry along with soy sauce, salt, thyme and white pepper.
I used white pepper because I really like how it tastes and looks in a cream soup. Finally, I stirred the cornstarch into the whipping cream and added it to my soup. My soup began to thicken nicely without coming to a boil. Done.
I couldn't wait to ladle it into a soup bowl and give it a try. Wow, it had to be the best cream of mushroom soup ever. Plus, it was packed with mushrooms. No more red-and-white can mushroom soup for me.
Give it a try.
• Don Mauer welcomes questions, comments and recipe makeover requests. Write to him at don@ theleanwizard.com.