Notice I said creamy mushroom soup, not cream of mushroom soup…I was looking through some old cookbooks recently and noticed a lot of recipes that called for a can of cream of mushroom or cream of chicken, cream of celery, cream of potato soup…who would have known there would be such a market.
Personally, when I am going to enjoy a creamy soup or creamy sauce, I would rather make it myself, that way I know what is really going into it, instead of guessing what is in a can. And, it is actually pretty easy. I adapted a recipe from Chef Brian Luscher’s of The Grape. His uses quite a bit more butter and cream, and it is divine, but if you can make this one early in the day and allow it to simmer the flavors will deepen and develop into an incredibly rich soup with robust earthy flavors.
We served this Christmas Eve with an Arista 2006 Longbow Pinot Noir from the Russian River area of Sonoma. A dense, earthy wine with black fruit and forest floor aromas leading to black cherry, blackberry and plum with a smokey, spice finish. Some California Pinot Noirs are too fruit forward for my palate; Arista makes balanced Pinot Noirs that incorporate both flavors of the fruit with the earthiness of the land, and set in a stunning atmosphere of Japanese Gardens overlooking vineyards.
Creamy Mushroom Soup
5 tablespoons butter
1 16 oz package sliced button mushrooms
8 oz assorted mushrooms (cremini, Portobello, oyster…whatever you like and can find), cleaned and sliced
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 dried bay leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme/or 1 tablespoon dried
1/2 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon each salt and pepper + additional to adjust taste
1/2 cup Sherry
2 tablespoons flour
16 oz good chicken stock, like Cento broth
2 cups half and half (you could use fat free half and half to really save calories, but it won’t be as think…you could also throw the diet to the wind and use cream)
Chopped parsley or fresh thyme for garnish
In a large Dutch oven or soup pot add butter over medium heat. Once melted add onion, celery and garlic and cook until slightly softened. Add mushrooms, bay, thyme, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes and salt and pepper and cook until mushrooms are softened and slightly browned. Add Sherry and cook until almost completely reduced. Sprinkle flour over the soup, and whisk to incorporate and allow it to cook into the soup for a bit. This will help thicken the soup. Some recipes call for making a roux and adding, or adding significantly more flour. If you allow the soup to reduce it will thicken just fine with just this touch of flour. Add stock and bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and stir in half and half. Working in batches puree the soup to the texture you prefer. I like soups with texture, so I leave it slightly chunky; it can be pureed until completely smooth though. Keep the soup on a low simmer until ready to serve. Garnish with parsley or chopped fresh thyme leaves.