And all that’s just a long-winded way of saying I’ve got a ton of posts lined up, but I’m being slow about actually posting them. And now I’ll have to line-jump a bit, because its Barefoot Bloggers time again, and I’ve got Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup to share with y’all (chosen by Chelle of Brown Eyed Baker) and I’m already late on this.
I gotta admit, I sorta dropped the ball on this one. I nearly forgot until we were halfway through our weekly shopping trip at Iavarone and I wandered past a display of dried porcini mushrooms and sorta froze in my tracks as the realization slowly came to mind that I was supposed to be making soup this week and I HADN”T CHECKED THE RECIPE. I had no idea what I needed, beyond the obvious – mushrooms, some sort of liquid dairy product. Probably butter. No clue.
So, I had to wing it. We bought white button mushrooms and shiitakes, and a package each of dried porcinis and dried morels (totally unnecessary but hey, what the hell). I bought some 2% milk, because I did remember that the recipe called for both half-and-half and heavy cream in pretty large quantities and there was just no way I was making it as written. I’m the kind of person who’d just need to look at a bowl of soup that rich and I’d gain 5 lbs. No sir, this recipe needed to lighten up a bit.
Getting back to the point, though, I sort of trusted to my pantry and fridge to supply me with any other ingredients for the soup, and for the most part, I got lucky – we had a single leek hanging out in the crisper drawer from last week, some dried thyme on the wall-o-spice (remind me to share some pictures of that soon) and fresh parsley wrapped up in a damp paper towel in the fridge, I had butter and flour already since they’re pretty standard pantry items. Of course it was at this point that I looked at the recipe and realized I’d forgotten the portobellos, but I figured that white buttons are just a milder version of creminis, which are a baby version of portobellos, so they’d probably be an ok substitution. Especially since I’d be using porcinis and morels, some of the most flavorful mushrooms in the world. I wasn’t too concerned.
And then, last night, I started pulling things out of the fridge and off the pantry shelves to make the soup for dinner, and brought the recipe up on my computer to check on the order of operations.
That’s when I saw the white wine on the ingredients list, and realized I didn’t have any.
That’s also when I realized I’d stupidly used up all the white button mushrooms in dinner the night before, completely forgetting that I STILL HAD TO MAKE SOUP.
Staring at my motley mis en place, I realized that with my intentional substitutions and accidental omissions, this soup was hardly going to resemble the Ina’s original. Dammitall, and it’s only my second BB recipe. FAIL.
But, we still needed dinner and I still needed to make something to post, so I figured that with as much as I was already changing the recipe, I’d just try to follow Ina’s method and wing the rest.
And honestly? It was great. It was rich, silky, highly aromatic and flavorful, but not at all heavy. I know that had I made the soup with the amounts of half-and-half and cream that the recipe called for, I would’ve been hard-pressed to eat more than a few spoonfuls of it. But this lighter version had all the flavor without all the heavy dairy fat, and I was able to enjoy a whole bowl of it without feeling like I’d swallowed a 5lb boulder. Much the opposite, in fact – my substitution of lemon juice for white wine made the finished soup light, tangy, and fresh.
Because I changed the recipe so much, here’s my version. I can’t speak for the original, though I’m sure its delicious, but I think this is a great lighter alternative that I hope at least stays true to the spirit of Ina’s recipe.
Creamy Wild Mushroom Soup with Lemon and Thyme
Based on Ina Garten’s Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup
I didn’t really measure a lot of things while making this soup, so I’m giving remembered approximations here. If I make this again, I’ll be sure to pay better attention to measurements and post an updated recipe. I will say that I tried to half most of the measurements in Ina’s recipe, and it made exactly the right amount for two people as a side with dinner.
Feel free to mix and match mushroom varieties here – as long as you’ve got at least 2-3 kinds, and at least one of which is very flavorful (like porcini) you should end up with a very tasty soup. This particular combination worked well for me, but as it was almost entirely unintentional I would not be surprised if there’s one that’s better.
4-5 large fresh shiitakes
1/4 each dried porcinis and dried morels
1 cup boiling water
1 carrot, diced
1 stalk of celery, diced
1/2 white onion, diced
1 leek, diced and rinsed well
5 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 tbsp EVOO
2 1/2 cups chicken stock or broth
3/4 cup milk (I used 2%, but anything other than skim would probably work fine)
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp flour
1 tbsp creme fraiche
juice of one lemon (about 1/8 cup)
1 tsp dried thyme (or a couple sprigs fresh)
1/2 tsp black pepper
salt to taste
Place the porcinis and morels into a bowl and pour over the boiling water. Let stand for 20-30 minutes or until the mushrooms have softened.
Wipe the shiitakes clean with a damp towel. Separate the stems from the caps and set aside, then dice the caps into bite-sized pieces.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the carrot, onion, celery, and garlic (and fresh thyme if you’re using it). Chop the shiitake stems and add them to the pot as well. Cook the veg gently until they begin to soften, but do not brown, about 5 minutes. Add the stock and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes. The stock will reduce to probably closer to 1 1/2 cups. At this point, remove it from the heat.
Remove the porcinis and morels from their hot tub and rinse very well in a colander, then dry slightly on a paper towel. Chop the porcinis and morels relatively finely. (Personal preference – I love the flavor of dried mushrooms but not the texture, even after they’ve been reconstituted, so chopping them finely cuts down on the unpleasant mouthfeel for me. You can chop them more coarsely if you don’t have my ridiculous hangups.)
Line the colander with cheesecloth (I used 4 layers) and strain the water that the mushrooms soaked in into a bowl – this will remove any dirt and grit and leave you with a deliciously fragrant mushroom broth. Rinse the cheesecloth, put it back into the colander, and strain the enhanced chicken stock into the same bowl as the mushroom broth. Twist up the cheesecloth and squeeze it to get as much liquid out of the veg as possible (be careful if its still hot!). Discard the veg and set the stock aside.
Clean and dry the saucepan you used to make the stock and put back on the stove at medium heat. Add the butter – when it melts, add the diced shiitake caps, chopped porcinis and morels, diced and rinsed leeks, dry thyme, and pepper. Sautee until the musrooms and leeks are softened and have given up most of their water and are starting to brown around the edges. Deglaze the pan with the lemon juice, and cook a minute or two more until most of that liquid has evaporated/been absorbed. Add the four and stir to coat all the veg in the pan evenly, and cook for another minute or so to get rid of the raw flour taste.
Slowly add the stock back to the pan, stirring constantly to ensure no lumps form. Once all the stock has been incorporated, bring to simmer just to be sure its heated properly, then remove from the heat. Add the milk and creme fraiche, then taste for seasoning and add salt as needed. If desired, garnish with some chopped fresh parsley. Serve immediately.
We ate this with some red-wine braised hanger steak and simple sauteed spinach, which made for a pretty decent steak-house-dinner-at-home sort of meal. The steak was actually especially interesting to us because after braising it, J tossed it into a really hot cast iron skillet to sear the outsides, and although the end product was a touch on the dry side, it had a very similar texture and flavor to pork carnitas. Which got us thinking – could we use this alternative cooking method to make an Italian or Mediterranean beef carnitas? Probably. This may be revisited later.