Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Shroom Soup

Until I was, say, 30 or so, I ate a lot of Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup (aka "CrofMush").  Not by itself - it was used in the upper Midwest where I grew up as a kind of culinary mucilage to glue together the other ingredients in the infamous local hot dishes.  Chicken and rice, corned beef and noodles, tuna and bread crumbs, green beans and fried onions - all these and more benefited from the addition of an undiluted can of CrofMush.  Then I tasted Pepperidge Farm's mushroom soup and realized it could be a stand-alone food.

Pepperidge Farm no longer makes soup, alas, so these days I have to look elsewhere when I want mushroom soup for lunch or as the first course of dinner.  If I'm really in a hurry I use Imagine Portobello Mushroom soup, but I prefer to take my time and make my own from scratch.

Cream Optional Mushroom Soup

cooking oil spray (like Pam)
1/2 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
8 oz cremini (brown) mushrooms, sliced
2 teaspoons brandy (or balsamic vinegar, if you prefer)
2 cups beef stock or bouillon
salt and pepper to taste

Spray a large non-stick saute or fry pan with the oil and place it on medium-high heat.  Add the chopped onion and sliced mushrooms; season lightly with salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms have given up their excess moisture and the onions are just starting to brown.  Turn down the heat and continue to cook until the mushrooms and onions are turning golden.  Add the brandy and cook for another five minutes or so, stirring more frequently.

Add some of the stock to the pan and deglaze the bottom.  If you have room, add the rest of the stock; otherwise, pour the onion and mushroom mixture into a large saucepan and add the remaining stock.  Heat on medium high to a simmer.

Remove from heat and use an immersion blender to puree, being careful not to splash the hot liquid.  Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

If you would like this to be a cream soup, add a little milk, plain soy milk, or low-fat unflavored yogurt at this point and return to the heat until the soup starts to steam.  Serve immediately.   Makes 2 lunch or 4 appetizer-sized servings.

Variations: You can also use portabella or reconstituted dry wild mushrooms in this recipe.  If you use portabellas, the gills will make the soup quite dark; if this bothers you, remove and discard the gills before cooking.  I also like to serve this soup with just a sprinkle of crispy fried onions as a garnish.

"To dream of mushrooms denotes fleeting happiness, to dream you are gathering them, fickleness in a lover or consort." ~Richard Folkard in Plant Lore (1884)

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