December 27, 2010
Forest Mushroom Soup
by Gareth Mark
Recently I attended a Holiday Meal event at an upscale restaurant that started with a Forest Mushroom Soup. Or so they claimed. It was a tan-colored insipid broth with a few bits vaguely recognizable as "mushroom" floating in it. I put away my business cards so no one would ask me for an opinion. Here's what I expected when I read "Forest Mushroom Soup" on the menu.
First, you'll need a good mushroom broth. Typically, I bring a gallon of spring water to a boil, then add 3-4 ounces of dried shiitake mushrooms and a tablespoon or so of porcini powder. Turn off the heat and let those mushrooms rehydrate for 30 minutes or so.
Next you'll need duxelles. In this case I used one onion and one carrot, finely diced, which I sautéed lightly in a generous amount of rather neutral extra virgin olive oil. I might consider butter, but decided I'd make this soup vegan, which sort of eliminates the butter option. Meanwhile, I drained those lovely rehydrated mushrooms, then chopped them. They can be a bit rubbery, so be careful. The 'shrooms went into the pan, along with sage salt, two leaves of fresh sage minced, two cloves of garlic minced, and about a tablespoon of minced fresh parsley.
Sage salt is something I made at the same time I made rosemary salt, and it's made the same way. Fresh herbs, lightly bruised, are layered in a jar with kosher salt. Wait 3 weeks. Done.
The amount of duxelles I made was about twice what I needed for the soup, but it refrigerates well. Put about 2-3 cups of duxelles into a saucepan along with about 6 cups of mushroom broth and bring to a simmer. Freeze the rest of the broth.
Finally, you'll need about half a pound or so of mushrooms, roughly chopped. I used a mixture of shiitake, oyster, and cremini, because the best nearby grocer had to put a bunch of mushrooms on special due to inclement weather. I was delighted to relieve them of their problem mushrooms.
Sautée the chopped 'shrooms in extra virgin olive oil. You'll want to season them well--I used sage salt again. Once they've given up their water, stir frequently so they don't burn. When the pan is dry, add them to the soup. Let the flavors mingle for 30 minutes or so, then adjust the seasoning and serve.
Simple, wasn't it? Why they couldn't have served something like this is beyond my understanding.
Next, it's snowing and the roads haven't been plowed. The refrigerator is looking bare, but the root cellar has some things to offer. Let's make another soup.