It feels like “real” winter has finally arrived here in southeast Wisconsin. The thermometer is now regularly dipping into the single (and negative!) digits and the snow is here to stay. Mara recently posted a story about Fun Ways to Stay Active This Winter with outside activities. But once you come in from the cold and snow you need to warm up. And one fabulous way to do that is with a hearty bowl of soup. January just happens to be National Soup Month so we think it’s a perfect time to to give you a taste of some of our favorites.
This Cream of Mushroom soup recipe is my grown up version of a childhood favorite, Campbell’s Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup. I’m sure I ate dozens and dozens of bowls when I was young and for me it was a definite comfort food. When served with a grilled tomato and cheese sandwich it was the ultimate feel good meal. There was a certain ‘kitchen chemistry’ involved; the water to milk ratio had to be just right in order for the soup to be creamy but not too creamy. I admit I was always curious as to how they managed to make the mushroom pieces perfectly cube shaped. I can remember posing this question to my mother and her reply was usually something along the lines of, “Only you would wonder such a thing, Jessica!”
I still buy a can now and again to satisfy my nostalgia but nothing beats a bowl of homemade soup. For this recipe you’ll probably spend more time chopping vegetables than anything else but it’s worth the effort in the end. The use of Vermouth to simmer the mushroom and vegetable mix helps add a little bit of acidity and deepens the flavors. It cooks down enough so you don’t end up with an alcohol taste but a beautiful complement to the richness of the mushrooms. White mushrooms are used here but you could also use half white and half baby portobello. I prefer shallots for this soup but you can use a mild onion such as yellow, cippoline or leek. Try to avoid white or red as these more pungent varieties can sometimes overpower your flavors. When making any soup, simmer rather than boil so you don’t end up with a burned layer on the bottom of the pot.
Cream of Mushroom Soup
1 pound (16 ozs) chopped white mushrooms
1/4 cup each carrot, celery and shallot (or onion) diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup dry Vermouth
1 tsp. dried thyme
2 tsp. chopped fresh parsley
4 cups chicken stock
1 1/4 cup whole milk or heavy cream, depending on desired richness
1/2-1 tsp. salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 tsp. cornstarch
1/4 cup cold water
Heavy bottomed stockpot
Immersion (stick) blender
Melt butter in stock pot on medium heat. Add Vermouth and stir until combined.
Add shallot (or onion) garlic, celery, carrots and mushrooms to the butter/vermouth mixture and simmer on low/medium heat. Stir frequently until the liquid is almost completely reduced. This should take about 15 minutes or so.
Next, add the chicken stock, parsley, thyme and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a steady simmer. Reduce heat then blend with immersion blender. I like to blend until the soup is almost smooth but with some larger pieces remaining for texture.
After blending, add the milk or cream. Do not blend after the milk/cream is added or you will have very foamy soup!
Taste and then adjust seasonings – adding the pepper, and then more thyme or salt to your preference.
The soup will be slightly thin but you can thicken for a creamier feel. Thoroughly mix 2 heaping teaspoons of cornstarch in 1/4 cup of cold water. Add half of mixture to soup and bring back up to a simmer. Soup will thicken as the heat increases. If soup is still too thin to your liking add the remainder of the cornstarch mixture.
Serve alone or with a sprinkle of fresh parsley, a swirl of sour cream or soup croutons.
Makes about six one cup servings.