Cook on a Whim: Cream of Mushroom Soup

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Cream of mushroom soup with torn bread croutons and buttery roasted mushrooms. Photo by Anita Parris Soule. Courtesy Cook on a Whim.

I know mushrooms are a polarizing topic; people usually either love them or hate them.

I’ve loved mushrooms as long as I’ve been old enough to eat them. Like, really loved them. My favorite pizza was and still is mushroom. Just cheese and LOTS of mushrooms. I try sneaking mushrooms into just about everything. In fact, the only time I didn’t love mushrooms was when I was pregnant with my son. Thankfully, once those first trimester hormones passed, I was back to my old mushroom-loving ways.

Hands down, cream of mushroom soup is my favorite way to cook and consume mushrooms. I even had a soft spot for the old red-and-white can when I was little, but I always begged my dad or grandma for the homemade version, and often was lucky enough to get it.

When I was a little girl, my dad and I would go on “mushroom hunts” through the woods near and on our farm. He had a little mushroom guide and a deep knowledge of mushroom varieties. He’d get so excited when we’d stumble upon some, telling me what kind they were and what we could make with them. Or he’d tell me the dangers of others and why we couldn’t pick that variety. Eventually, we’d find our way home with a bag full of various fungi and I’d beg him to make cream of mushroom soup. Never quite the same, but always delicious. My favorite then and now.

I’m not as knowledgeable on the various mushroom varieties, and don’t find myself foraging very often. I do have my very own guide now, that my sweet husband bought for me after I told him about the mushroom adventures of my youth, so I’ll have to get out “hunting” when it’s mushroom season again.

Lucky for me, the variety of mushrooms available at most grocery stores and certain farmers markets is vast, and this soup can be made with any combination of them. Whatever you choose will be perfect, so get creative.

This soup is rich, creamy and comforting, but not overly thick (as some “cream of” soups can be). Also, some mushroom soup recipes are ridiculously skimpy with their mushroom proportions, and the end result is really disappointing. While my amount might seem excessive, I promise it’s worth it. This is serious mushroom soup; I’m not messin’ around.

I still love topping it with my childhood favorite of crumbled saltines or oyster crackers. But for something more substantial and dinnertime-appropriate, I like to serve it with grilled cheeses (for dunking, of course!), made with either fontina or Gruyère cheese. These two cheeses pair really nicely with mushrooms and thyme.

My latest obsession: torn bread croutons and buttery roasted mushrooms. It is the best combination. I’ve been roasting mushrooms for YEARS, but never thought to add them to this.

No matter what you serve it with, you’ll be happy. It’s the perfect fall or winter meal, kind of like a big, warm hug for your tummy. Yum, yum, yum …

 

Cream of Mushroom Soup with Torn Croutons and Buttery Roasted Mushrooms

Ingredients

For the torn bread croutons:

1 loaf of hearty white or French bread, torn into rough, bite-size pieces

1 stick of butter

Handful of thyme, sage, rosemary (any combination of these)

Salt and pepper to taste

For the roasted mushrooms:

1 pound wild mushrooms (I prefer oyster mushrooms and small shiitakes)

1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) salted butter

Handful of hearty herbs (I prefer sage, thyme and/or rosemary)

Salt and pepper

For the soup:

48 ounces of mushrooms (any variety and combination), cleaned, stems removed and reserved, caps sliced

1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

8 sprigs fresh thyme (remove leaves from 4 sprigs and finely chop; reserve the other 4 sprigs for your stock)

1 bay leaf

4 cups chicken or vegetable stock

1 cup water

1 cup Marsala or dry white wine

2 cups heavy cream

2 cups half-and-half

1/4 cup flour

4 tablespoons butter

Salt and pepper

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon white pepper

Instructions

For the croutons:

Add butter and herbs to a large skillet, preferably cast iron. Cook over medium-high heat until butter is brown and herbs are beginning to crisp. Add bread chunks to skillet and toss to coat as evenly as you can in the butter and herb mixture. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and a good grinding of black pepper if desired.

At this point, you can turn the heat down a bit and continue cooking, stirring often, until bread is crisp all over but still with a bit of chew on the inside. Or, for some hands-off cooking time, you can spread the mixture evenly onto a large baking tray and place in a 300-degree oven for about 20 to 30 minutes.

Allow to cool to room temp while you prepare the soup. Or, once cool, store in an airtight container until ready to serve.

For the roasted mushrooms:

Place mushrooms, herbs and butter onto a large, rimmed baking tray. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in a 400-degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes until mushrooms are browned and crisp. They will shrink a TON (see my photos). Remove from oven and let sit at room temperature while you prepare the soup.

For the soup:

Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a saucepan and add mushroom stems. Cook for a few minutes until stems begin to brown. Add stock, 1 cup of water and 4 sprigs of thyme. Bring to a boil and let simmer while you prepare the mushrooms.

In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt 2 tablespoons butter and add onion and a good pinch of kosher salt. Cook over medium heat until onion softens and begins to brown. Add sliced mushrooms, garlic, chopped thyme, bay leaf, salt and pepper and cayenne and white peppers. (At this point you might think I’m crazy, but just trust me! The mushrooms cook down quite a lot during the next few steps.)

Stir, then cover with a tightly fitting lid for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, stir again, replace lid and cook for another 5 minutes. At this point your mushrooms will be very soft and have quite a bit of liquid.

Remove the lid and continue cooking over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Add wine and cook, again, until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add the final tablespoon of butter. Once melted, add flour and stir for a minute or so until you can’t see the white of the flour anymore and the mushroom mixture becomes thick and pasty.

Strain the mushroom/chicken stock directly into the soup pot containing the mushrooms and cook for 15 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring and scraping the bottom occasionally.

After 15 minutes, you will have a thick, almost gravy-like consistency. Add cream and half-and-half. Stir to combine and heat through, but make sure not to boil. Taste for salt and pepper, adjusting as needed.

Serve in big bowls topped with torn bread croutons and roasted mushrooms. Enjoy!

Notes

  • I know all you ever hear is “don’t wash your mushrooms!” but I’m here to tell you it makes no difference if you’re going to cook them. Rather than sitting and brushing off 48 ounces of mushrooms, I toss them in a colander and give them a good rinse.
  • The cayenne and white peppers add such a nice warmth and interest to the soup, but if spice isn’t your thing, feel free to leave them out.
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