Friday, January 6, 2012

Easy Mushroom Soup

   This is the time of year when I find myself in big time soup mode. The weather is cold up here in Sonoma and when the wind blows in from the neighbor's vineyard, I crave a fire in the grate and soup on the stove. I love any sort of homemade soups. Maybe that's because my mom's idea of homemade soup was mixing up several cans of soup into one pot for something "original." I was never sure what was in what we were eating, and being a naturally paranoid child, I usually pushed the soup away. I'm sorry but I don't want to eat a big bowl of something thick and orange called "cheddar soup."

   Both of my grandmothers were excellent cooks and they specialized in clear, shimmering broths and consomme. Delicious, but personally I like a soup that grabs me by the collar, slams me back against the kitchen wall and tells me it's going to warm me up by good!  Traditionally those soups contain stuff like smoked pork hocks and bacon and beef bone, or big, thick chunks of chicken. But what about those that don't eat meat, or don't feel like eating meat? Nothing says I'm warm like a lovely cup of wild mushroom soup. Earthy, flavorful and easy to make.

   My mother, the woman who hates almost everything edible, and makes the "Mikey Likes It"  kid look like a gourmand, is a tough customer when it comes to holiday meals. Over the years since I've taken over cooking the family feasts, I've tried a lot of things I thought might please her. Salads with grilled pears, (she hates pears, who knew?) Salads with shrimp (no luck.) Salads with clementines (doesn't like 'em.) Salads with apples and raisins (she hates raisins.) Salads with nuts (she hates nuts). I was at my wits' (and cookbook's) end. I had heard her talk recently about really, really liking mushrooms. In fact she'd told me once  that she could make and entire entree of mushrooms (mom's not a big meat eater.) That was when I realized I had the answer all along. Soup. Wild mushroom soup. Vegetarian soup.

   I decided that Mushroom soup would be the first course at Christmas dinner, served in little shooter cups (okay espresso cups.) It would be just a taste and not too filling. It turns out that some Italian cousins had sent me dried porcini mushrooms that they'd picked on their land. I decided I'd use some of them. Mushrooms were on sale at the market. I certainly couldn't pass that up. Plus my guanciale  (Roman bacon) was ready, and for the meat eaters, a bit of that diced on top was just the ticket.

   The soup has a vegan base bound to please everyone, and can easily be made ahead, and being vegan was cheap, cheap, cheap to fix.  I'd been making this soup for years, why hadn't I thought of this sooner!? So wild mushroom soup made it on the menu. This easy soup makes up in no time and most likely you already have everything needed to make it right now.

Mushroom Soup:

Here's What You Need:

2 leeks ( only the white part sliced thinly)
2 medium sized yukon gold potatoes peeled and chopped
1  medium carrot peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 large onion chopped
2 shallots chopped
A few sprigs of fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup of white wine
3 cups of water
1 package  (about 8 oz) of fresh sliced mushrooms
10 sage leaves
3 cups of water
1 cup of dried porcini mushroms
3 Tbs of olive oil (or for the non vegan version 3 Tbs of unsalted butter)
A dash of Sherry wine
salt and pepper to taste

Here's What To Do:

Put the dried porcini mushrooms in 2 cups of very hot water and set them aside to soak for about 20 minutes or so.

In a large soup pot heat the olive oil or butter.
When the oil is hot or the butter (if you're using that) is melte, toss in the leeks, the onion, the shallot, the carrot, the celery, the thyme sprigs.
Saute all of these until they're soft.
Then add in the regular mushrooms, saute them until they start to soften.
Add in the soaked and softened porcini mushrooms. Keep the soaking liquid for later use.     When the mushrooms are all softened, add in 1/4 cup of white wine, 3 cups of water and the chopped potatoes. (if you are not going vegetarian, chicken broth can be used instead of water.)
Bring everything to a boil and then turn it down and simmer for about 40 minutes or until the potatoes have softened.
Remove the bay leaf.

Using an immersion blender or a food processor or blender, puree the soup mixture.
Add in the porcini soaking liquid a bit at a time to thin it to the desired thickness. I usually wind up using about a cup of the soaking liquid as I like a thicker soup.
Add a dash of Sherry wine to taste
Add salt and pepper to taste

Here's the Garnish:

A bit of guanciale (roman bacon or regular bacon)
A handful of sage leaves
4 oz of chanterelle mushrooms
sour cream
1 Tbs of butter

Here's How to Make the Garnish:
(Vegetarian or Vegan)

Heat 1 Tbs of olive oil or butter in a small skillet (not cast iron as it messes up mushrooms.)
When the oil or butter is hot, add in the chopped Chanterelle mushrooms
Quickly fry the chopped chanterelles and set them aside to drain.
Now add the whole sage leaves and fry them quickly until they're crispy. Set them aside to drain

Non Vegetarian Version

Heat a small skillet (not cast iron as it messes up mushrooms.)
When the skillet is hot, toss in the finely chopped guanciale or bacon.
Cook the chopped bacon until it crisps up.
Set it asiude to drain on a paper towel.
In some of the remaining bacon grease, quickly fry the chopped chanterelles and set them aside to drain.
Now add the whole sage leaves and fry them quickly until they're crispy. Set them aside to drain

Putting it together:

Pour the soup into small espresso cups.
Top each cup with some chopped Chanterelles, 1 fried sage leaf, a dab of sour cream and a tiny bit of bacon (if you're using it.)

Serve it up.

   This recipe makes plenty of soup, easily filling 8 small cups and leaving plenty left over for a nice warming bowl or two for  the next day. It was a huge hit with the family, and counting my picky mom who cleaned her plate or cup or whatever, I knew I had a success on my hands. In fact I loved the soup so much I made it again for Alan's Big New Years Eve Birthday Feast.

    The year 2012 is off to a roaring start (Mayan Calendar asid.) The Colors of Indian Cooking got a surprise mention in the New York Times Diners Journal  as What We're Reading Jan 4th 2012!  They made my New Year so far. Coming up next, a treat from Thiruvananthapuram when Mr. X  returns from India bringing us Kokum! Follow along on Twitter @kathygori


  1. Oo, the perfect kind of soup for my new non-meat diet. =)

  2. Yum Kathy! I love love love mushroom soup!! Great post.

  3. The flavor must be incredible. And I love the idea of using little espresso cups!

  4. Yum!
    Fresh peas & mushrooms are in season here in Nepal so we are having 'pea & mushroom' curry every other day. In Indian cuisine the mushroom caps are 'quartered' not sliced. The first time I made 'pea & mushroom' curry for my family I sliced the mushrooms as we would in the US. My family gave me some really 'odd' looks. LOL



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