Wild mushrooms help in making creamy soup dreamy

  • Cream of mushroom soup.

    Cream of mushroom soup. Courtesy of Don Mauer

 
 
Updated 1/28/2021 9:41 AM

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.

Cremini mushrooms
Cremini mushrooms - Gettyimages.com

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.

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Lion's mane mushrooms
Lion's mane mushrooms - Gettyimages.com

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.

Shitake mushrooms
Shitake mushrooms - Gettyimages.com

This farmer also had some beautiful shiitake mushrooms with which I was very familiar, having used them in many Asian stir-fries.

Blue oyster mushrooms
Blue oyster mushrooms - Gettyimages.com
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

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.

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