I love almost everything about Mushroom Soup, except one glaring thing—the color. The color displeases me so much that it almost deterred me from this post. How in heavens name was I going to get mouthwatering photos of a soup the color of beach sand?
Also, I didn’t want to make just another Cream of Mushroom Soup, as good as that can be, because, well, you already have a good recipe for that, right? So I searched far and wide for inspiration. I went to Seattle, then to Connecticut, then to Mexico, and finally to London. My dedication to you knows no limits. And I expanded my Mushroom Soup horizons in the process.
Several good ideas came from Northwest food maven, Debra Daniels-Zeller of Food Connects. In her Winter Mushroom Soup with Hazelnut-Lemon Gremolata, she adds flavor depth with a dried mushroom broth, color and acidity with tomato paste, color and sweetness with yams and carrots, heat with hot chiles, and creaminess with coconut milk. Then she punches the whole thing up—POW—with a Hazelnut and Mustard Greens Gremolata. This is not your Grandmother’s Cream of Mushroom Soup.
Hannah Kaminsky of Connecticut-based BitterSweet came up with the novel idea of adding salty-acidity with a copious amount of sauerkraut juice. Her Mushroom, Cabbage & Sauerkraut Soup is also chunky with mushrooms, potatoes, and cabbage. The addition of fennel seeds, caraway seeds, and celery seeds give it an old-fashioned, farmhouse-supper feel. She too uses tomato paste to enliven the color of the soup.
Jamie Oliver touts a rather standard Cream of Mushroom Soup, but amps the flavor considerably by including dried porcini mushrooms and the water used to hydrate them. Additional elements that lift his rendition to the holy-cow-gotta-have-it category are the use of lemon zest, lemon juice, and mascarpone. Mushroom and lemon are a pairing made in heaven, and I especially like the way he adds the lemon elements as garnishes, so that the heady aroma is released as the diner swirls them into the soup.
Another thing I got from the unflappable Mr. Oliver is a visually effective way to present a creamy mushroom soup. He tops his version with crostini, sautéed mushrooms, lemon zest and juice, and mascarpone. So long beach sand!
Armed with a plethora of good ideas, I grabbed a pen and sketched a profile for my soup. It would be a hearty, early spring soup with a full measure of wild mushroom flavor and a healthy dose of colorful complementary veggies, such as cabbage, broccoli raab, carrots, and celery.
It would have a chewy grain component, perhaps barley, farro, or kamut. There would be an acidic element to punch up the earthiness of the mushrooms, perhaps lemon, tomato, or even vinegar. There would be a contrasting creamy element that remained separate until just before the soup was eaten.
The soup base would be deeply flavored and beautifully colored with hydrated dried mushrooms and caramelized onions. There would of course be a full measure of garlic. And depending on the flavor of the soup base as it developed, there might be the optional addition of Madeira, Marsala, Sherry, or cognac.
This unusual mushroom soup is packed with flavor, texture, and even color. If there’s a secret to the marvelous flavor, it’s the bright dimension that tomatoes add to the earthiness of the mushrooms.
2 ounces dried porcini mushrooms
6 cups boiling water
1 pound fresh shiitake, chanterelle, portabella, or oyster mushrooms, ends trimmed, sliced lengthwise
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 cups chopped onion
2 cups chopped leeks, cleaned and chopped
2 jalapeno chiles, stemmed, seeded, ribbed, and minced, optional
4 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced
¼ cup Madeira, Marsala, dry Sherry, or cognac, optional
2 cups roughly chopped carrots
2 cups chopped celery
mushroom broth from above
8 cups vegetable stock, possibly more
14½ ounce can diced tomatoes with juice
2 cups cooked kamut or farro
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons cold water
fine sea salt, to taste
freshly grated black pepper, to taste
½ pound fresh wild mushrooms
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup minced parsley
¼ cup minced green onion
2 cloves minced garlic
- Put the dried mushrooms into a medium mixing bowl and cover with the boiling water. Let hydrate for at least 30 minutes. Drain the water through a triple-mesh sieve and reserve, along with the mushrooms.
- In a large soup pot, melt the butter and sauté the onions, leeks, and jalapenos until softened but not browned. Add the garlic, and sauté for a few minutes more.
- If you opt for an addition of Madeira, Marsala, Sherry, or cognac, add it now, and reduce almost completely.
- Add the hydrated and fresh mushrooms and sauté until the fresh mushrooms begin to lose their juice, about 5 minutes.
- Add carrots, celery, reserved mushroom liquid, 6 cups of vegetable stock, and tomatoes with juice.
- Simmer until the carrots and celery are tender-crisp, about 3 minutes.
- Dissolve the cornstarch in cold water and add to the simmering soup. Stir slowly as the soup thickens slightly.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve hot.
Makes about 12 cups.
The many layers of intertwining flavors really come through in this complex creamy mushroom soup. You can opt for a lot of texture (blender only), some texture (blender and single mesh sieve, or silky cream (blender and triple-mesh sieve).
If you want to make then entire batch of soup creamy, omit the farro and cornstarch thickener from the chunky recipe.
above soup, minus the farro and cornstarch thickener if desired
2 cups cream
fine sea salt, to taste
freshly grated black pepper, to taste
- After making the chunky-style soup, let it cool somewhat and then, using a blender, liquefy in batches.
- Either leave the soup with quite a bit of texture or force it through a single-mesh or triple-mesh sieve.
- Bring the soup to a simmer, stir in the cream, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Makes about 10-12 cups.
Cookin’ with Gas (inspiration from around the web)
- A kind of Love Affair: Mexican Mushroom Soup
- Almond Corner: Cream of Mushroom Soup with Parsley Foam and Crispy Oat Flake Ball
- BitterSweet: Mushroom, Cabbage & Sauerkraut Soup
- Exquisite Niche: Taj Style Wild Mushroom Cappuccino
- Food Connections: Winter Mushroom Soup with Hazelnut-Lemon Gremolata
- Good Taste is the Worst Vice: Omakase at Macku
- Jamie Oliver: The Real Mushroom Soup
- Lisa’s Kitchen: Curried White Bean and Mushroom Soup with Butternut Squash and Kale
- Picture-Perfect Meals: Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup
- Scandi Foodie: Wild Mushroom Soup
- Soup Chick: Indian Mushroom Soup
- Sweet & Crumbly: Snowed-In, Rained-In Mushroom Soup
- The Beehive Blog: Wild Mushroom Soup with Parmesan Toast
- We Heart Food: Latin Tomato and Mushroom Soup