Creamy, rich mushroom soup, a dish that is so simple, yet so refined. This version, from chef Anthony Bourdain provides maximum flavor with not a great deal of effort. The rich velvety texture of this soup doesn’t come from cream, it comes from the butter that the mushrooms are sautéed in. I used two of the most readily available mushroom varieties, white “button” mushrooms and creminis. If you were not aware, creminis are referred to as portabellos when they grow to full maturity. To up the mushroom quotient, add some reconstituted dried mushrooms, I used chanterelles. Not too many, I started with about a quarter of a cup dried, you don’t want to overwhelm the soup.
We live about an hour from the mushroom capital of the world, close enough for mushrooms to be sold as a local product at our farmers market. Kennett Square in Chester County Pennsylvania is home to farms that produces over a million pounds of mushrooms a week. Kennett Square did not become the mushroom capital for reasons of climate or soil conditions but for reasons of ingenuity. Enterprising and frugal Quaker farmers in the late nineteenth century were looking for ways to use the wasted space under the elevated benches where they grew flowers. They imported spawn from Europe, created the right growing environment and a successful industry was born.
Whenever possible I prefer to purchase whole loose mushrooms. Inspect mushrooms carefully, they should feel damp, not moist. Try to avoid mushrooms that are badly bruised or broken. Many sources say that you shouldn’t rinse mushrooms because they soak up water but the folks at Cooks Illustrated have proven that wrong. They found that after a quick rinse of a six ounce container of mushrooms they gained only a quarter ounce of water. The key is to rinse, not soak and dry immediately. Cooks Illustrated also suggests that if you store mushrooms it should be in a partially open zipper bag. This maximizes air circulation without letting the mushrooms dry out.
Begin the recipe by melting butter in a medium sized pan, I prefer my Le Crueset 5 quart Dutch oven for any soup I make. Add the sliced onions and cook until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Next add the mushrooms and allow the vegetables to sweat, that is, to soften without taking on any color. The mushrooms will exude their liquid and cook down considerably. If you want, add 1/4 cup of dried mushrooms that have been reconstituted in warm water for about 20 minutes. Stir in the chicken stock (vegetable if you prefer a vegetarian dish) and a small bouquet garni of a few sprigs of parsley and some fresh thyme. Bring the pot to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about an hour. Although it wasn’t in the original recipe, I added a small piece of Parmesan rind to add to the umami quality of the soup.
After an hour, discard the piece of Parmesan rind if using, and the herbs. Allow the soup to cool for about 15 minutes then transfer the soup to the blender in batches, being careful to keep the lid on tight; blend until smooth. Return the soup to the pot, season with salt and pepper, reheat and add sherry. One last word of admonition, do not use cooking sherry. It is sherry with salt and other additives to prolong it’s shelf life. Look for a dry sherry to compliment the flavors in this recipe. Saute a few mushrooms slices to garnish the soup and maybe a small sprig of thyme.
Triple Mushroom Soup
Serves four, can easily be doubled
- 6 T butter
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- 12 ounces mushrooms (I used half button and half crimini)
- ¼c dried mushrooms (shiitake, chanterelles etc.) reconstituted in warm water for about 20 minutes and well drained, optional
- 4 cups chicken stock
- Several sprigs of parsley
- 1 sprig of fresh thyme
- 2 ounces sherry
- salt and pepper
Over medium heat, melt two tablespoons of the butter in a saucepan. Toss in the onion and cook until soft but not browned.
Toss in the remaining butter and then add the mushrooms. Cook for 8 minutes.
Pour in the chicken stock, add the herbs and rind (if using), and bring to a boil. When bubbling, reduce to a simmer and cook for an hour.
Pour soup into a blender (you might need to do this in stages), and process until smooth. Return to the saucepan and bring to a simmer. Pour in the sherry, and season with salt and pepper. Garnish with sauteed mushroom slices and a sprig of thyme.