Secrets to the best wild mushroom soup.

Cloudy days were calling for some comfort foods and wild mushroom soup was the perfect solution.  The market still had some hedgehog mushrooms and I easily rounded up some criminni and shitake’s and the shimeji looked so cute and small.  I still had some dried morels and pine mushrooms that only needed a simple rehydrate with some hot stock.

photo 1

I like to use a brown chicken and duck stock as my base but the secret to a rich seductive mushroom broth is caramelizing the onions.  I start with the white parts of the leek and fry over medium high heat and give them a good browning.  The flavour of fried leeks reminds me of crispy onion rings and lends a great complexity to the base flavours.  I then add regular white onions and continue to caramelize.  The bottom of the pan will also get quite dark and this is important when you deglaze with brandy.  While the onions are caramelizing add your mushroom trimmings and extra mushrooms your not going to sauté for your presentation.

photo 3The pot should get quite fragrant and once the mushrooms have reduced in size, deglaze the pan with brandy (you can also use sherry).  Once you have scrapped all the color and flavour off the bottom of the pan, add your stock.  Add enough stock so its double the volume of the mushroom onion mixture and simmer away for a good 60-90 minutes.

photo 2Another secret to a great soup is how you season it.  Many cooks only use salt and pepper but to develop layers you need to consider acidity, sugar, and savouriness.  To emphasize the earthiness of the mushrooms I used a balsamic vinegar to tweak the acidity and boost the richness, I used some soy sauce for its savoury salty angle, and I used a touch of maple syrup to balance out the mid palate.  You never want to taste your seasoning ingredients, use them to lift and enhance the flavours in your soup or sauce, I guarantee it will increase the complexity in your dish.

Try different vinegars or citrus juices for acidity, soya sauce, tamari, and mustards for savouriness, and different sugars like honey, maple syrup, and cane or brown sugar to give the liquid some weight and depth.  This doesn’t mean you skimp on the salt and pepper, they are vital and the biggest issue I see with soups and sauces is a lack of salt.  Most people season unconsciously as if it was just for their own single serving, but when your making a batch of soup for 4-6 servings, you must remember to season proportionately and that is where most dishes fall short.

When the broth tastes to your liking, strain it off and keep it warm till your ready to serve.

photo 1[1]

Prepare the rest of your mushrooms with garlic chips and small diced carrots.  Once I picked out the mushrooms from my collection that I liked the size of, I added them to hot pan with a touch of oil and healthy dose of butter and some fresh sage leaves.  The goal here is to get some nice color to the mushrooms so they take on a nutty flavour from the butter.  Don’t forget to season with salt and pepper and once they have enough colour turn them out on to some paper towel to absorb any extra butter.

photo 3[1]Now its as simple as portioning out your sautéed mushrooms and ladling your hot broth over top.  You could add some finely sliced green onion or parsley for garnish to give it a hint of freshness but I enjoyed mine as is and it was the perfect rememdy for this cloudy day.  Hope you enjoy it too.


Part Two

Pureed Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup.

Follow the same procedures as above but instead of straining off the broth, puree the batch.   I like to use a hand emulsion blender, you can use a blender, but please be careful as hot liquids like to expand when its rapidly agitated in a closed container.

Once blended add your cream, I used half and half and only needed about a cup for about six to seven servings, you don’t need much cream to impart a rich silky texture.  Check your seasoning and keep warm.  I would add the fried mushrooms and garlic as a garnish to the creamed soup as well for additional flavour and texture.  Today I went with some blue cheese croutons made from Upper Bench Winery in Naramata and soft pungency from the cheese was perfect with the rich earthiness of the mushroom soup.


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