Sunday, September 23, 2012

Creamy Double-Mushroom Soup

It is now really, truly, unequivocally fall. My mental switch came with the conclusion of Labor Day weekend, but crossing the autumnal equinox gives me full license to dive into all things fall. Since Labor Day I've enjoyed a pumpkin cream cheese muffin, pumpkin scone, pumpkin custard, went to a sampling of Oktoberfest beers, and made and bottled Apple Crisp Ale, so I'm clearly ready to embrace all the wonderful flavors fall has to offer. Aside from pumpkin and apple-related products, I love spending fall and winter diving into big bowls of warm soups and stews, so I thought I'd share my first new soup of the fall season, Creamy Double-Mushroom. I'll readily admit this soup isn't much to look at, but it's imbued with tremendous savoriness and earthy flavor that makes it less-than-stunning appearance just an afterthought. It's thick and rich enough to be a light meal with a side salad and piece of crusty bread, but makes for a hearty fall supper when accompanied by a grilled cheese or panini. Part of my motivation to make soups is the allowance it gives me to make fancy grilled cheese to accompany them and. This soup was no exception, a perfect earthy complement to the sweet apples, sharp Dijon mustard, and nutty Swiss that composed my grilled cheese. If you're ready to jump in an embrace fall, try starting with this comforting soup - it'll make you only too happy to start to snuggle up for the fall and winter to come.

Creamy Double-Mushroom Soup
adpated from The Fresh and Green Table by Susie Middleton
serves 4

1/2 ounce dried porcini or shiitake mushrooms
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus 1 teaspoon
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 pounds cremini or baby bella mushrooms (not stemmed), 4 small mushrooms reserved for garnish and the remainder cut into thick slices
Kosher salt
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary, plus an extra pinch
Freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup dry sherry
1/2 teaspoon sherry vinegar
1/4 cup heavy cream or half-and-half
Fresh parsley or chive leaves (optional)
Crostini for serving (optional)

1. In a medium saucepan, bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add the porcini mushrooms, remove the pan from heat, and let soak for 30 minutes. Line a mesh strainer with a double layer of cheesecloth and put it over a bowl. Strain the porcini, squeezing the porcini in the cheesecloth to wring out as much liquid as possible; reserve the liquid. Discard the cheesecloth and finely chopped the porcini. Measure the liquid in the bowl and add as much water as necessary to make 2 cups. Add 4 cups water for a total of 6 cups liquid.

2. In a large Dutch oven or other wide 6-quart soup pot, heat the 3 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the thickly sliced cremini mushrooms and 1 teaspoon salt. Stir well, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cremini have released some liquid and the liquid is simmering, 6 to 8 minutes. Uncover, raise the heat to medium-high, and continue to cook (more liquid will be released), stirring occasionally, until all the liquid has evaporated and the pan is dry, 12 to 15 minutes. Add the tablespoon of the olive oil to the mushrooms and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until most of the mushrooms have darkened and shrunk and many of them are turning an orangey brown on one side, another 7 to 9 minutes. (Don't allow the bottom of the pan to blacken).

3. Add the garlic, 2 teaspoons rosemary, 1/2 teaspoons salt and several grinds of pepper and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the dry sherry and cook until it is almost completely reduced (this will happen quickly). Add the finely chopped porcini and the mushroom-soaking liquid, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let the soup cook for 15 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, cut the reserved cremini mushrooms into thin sliced. In a small (8-inch) nonstick skillet, heat the remaining 1 teaspoon butter with the remaining 1 teaspoons olive over over medium heat. Add the sliced mushrooms, a pinch of salt, and the pinch of rosemary and cook, turning with tongs when necessary, until the slices are nicely browned on both sides (they will have shrunk), 4 to 5 minutes.

5. In a blender, puree the soup in three batches, filling the jar only about halfway and taking care to distribute the solids and liquids evenly. Partially cover the lid with a folded dish towel (leaving a vent uncovered to let out steam) to prevent hot soup from splashing you. In a large mixing bowl, combine the three batches and then return the soup to the (rinsed) pot. Add the sherry vinegar and cream and whisk until well blended. Taste the soup and season with more salt and pepper (if desired). (It's best to taste the soup for seasoning when it's hot, as the flavors will more pronounced. So if you're serving it right away, go ahead and reheat it gently on the stove before doing a final seasoning. If you're not serving right away, microwave a small portion for just a few seconds to test the seasoning).

6. Divide the soup evenly amount four shallow bowls. Garnish each with a few sauteed cremini slices and a fresh parsley or chive leave or two for color (if using) and serve with crostini on the side (if desired).

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