Hunting and Gathering

I embarked on my first Morel Mushroom hunting expedition today, but had no luck.  Every time I thought I had found the world’s most habitable mushroom environment (creekside, slight slope, dead log, winking squirrel), my leaf-poking stick turned up nothing but scattering insects. As I made my way back up the muddy trail to the car, dragging my stick beside me (cue disappointing Charlie Brown music), I just couldn’t seem to get mushrooms off my mind.  So, just like any hungry, impatient American, I drove toWendy’sWhole Foods and picked up a pound of fresh, mixed mushrooms and headed home to make mushroom soup!

Classic Cream of Mushroom Soup

Classic Cream of Mushroom Soup:

2 Tbsp. butter

3 medium shallots (about the size of plums), OR 1 small yellow onion, small dice

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

1 pound mixed mushrooms of any variety, sliced

1/3 C. good quality brandy, dry sherry, or dry white wine

4 C. chicken, mushroom, or vegetable broth (1 box)

1 tsp. sherry vinegar (or other good quality vinegar)

3/4 C. cream or half and half

S & P

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium-low heat.  Saute the shallots until just beginning to brown, 2-3 minutes.  Add the garlic and saute another 1-2 minutes, stirring regularly.  Add all of the mushrooms and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper. Continue to stir often until the mushrooms begin to release their water.  Once the mushrooms’ liquid begins to accumulate in the bottom of the pan, increase the heat to medium-high. Continue to cook and stir until almost all of the liquid has evaporated.  The mushrooms will cook down drastically to about two cups worth. Once the mixture is dry enough that some of the bits begin to stick to the bottom of the pan, you are ready to deglaze with your alcohol. Pour in your brandy, sherry, or wine and stir to release the sticky bits on the bottom of the pan. Let the alcohol evaporate – it will only take about 30 seconds. Add your broth and bring the soup to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Simmer the soup for 20-25 minutes and then turn off the heat. Add the teaspoon of vinegar and stir well. Let the soup cool slightly (10-15 minutes) and then slowly add the cream while stirring. Taste for salt and pepper. You will almost certainly need to add both.

You can serve the soup immediately, or cool and serve later. I think that many soups taste best eaten the second day.

I garnished my soup with a little smoked paprika, which is lovely for many things.  Fresh herbs (maybe chives or chervil) would also make a wonderful addition. If you want to get fancy, serve it with goat cheese toasts.

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